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Also illuminating and also at ease with reinventing icons, Joshua Webb's first solo offering at Galerie Dusseldorf is equally enigmatic.
New Violence continues from recent incursions into dystopian visions at Artrage and PICA and recently showed, though in a slightly different form, in Prague. As the excellent catalogue essay suggests, Webb's work is heavily influenced by the cinematic vision. It's also very neo-dassical in its
Webb knows his art history and his re-working of Gericault's The Raft of Medusa is excellent. this time the raft is a vehicle for The Diplomat, a UN soldier, and the Trojan Horse, another citing of his classically influenced plinth.
On Webb's raft, hope and dismay cancel each other out, bringing only a new false hope. The raft points towards a video of a red curtain, constantly morphing shape, which hovers over destroyed landscapes. Like the survivors on Gericault's raft, the UN soldier on Webb's raft is driven delusional by thirst and desire, this time drifting hopelessly on a sea of oil, and the rescue on the horizon becomes only an elusive semblance of our collective imagination.
New Dawn, the high-definition video of the red curtain that the soldier looks out at, is a seductive piece which never quite takes shape.
On the other side of this projection New Violence, a digital print which looks at the world like a watercolour, hangs over a donkey's head - well, not a real head but a Styrofoam carving.
Webb's use of symbolism can be overtly didactic; the bowser pump and oil barrels (which the raft floats on) give away no secrets as to his position on the Iraq war, but his extroverted use of these and the technical efficiency with which he plays with open-ended scenarios ultimately ask some serious questions about our priorities and goals.
Joshua Webb : New Violence : Galerie Düsseldorf 29 June - 27 July 2008
New Violence 2008 Installation
New Violence 2008 Digital print on archival paper 1000 x 1520 mm ed. 5