As a part of the 2012 New Museum Triennial The Ungovernables currently on exhibit is artist Danh Võ’s deconstruction of the Statue of Liberty. WE THE PEOPLE is a gesture of installation using architecture and sculpture as an underpinning for a more unsettled experience. Copper sheets were assembled in an exact replica of the originals weight and scale, placed in sections on the floor in an undetermined state. The panels are hammered using the same technique as the original statue to the same tolerances. Taken from a larger collection of more recognizable pieces the series of parametric copper plates read as though they are part of a contemporary façade or pavilion. The pieces allude formally to modernist sculpture such as the work of Richard Serra, where form and materiality is the subject .

The initial abstraction of the installation gives way to interpretation on the context and value of the gesture. The deconstruction touches upon aspects of formal design, history, and national identity without expressing alliance to any of these qualities. Perhaps the ambiguity is born from Võ’s complex personal past, a child of South Vietnam but raised in Denmark and settled in Germany. The panels could be presented as before final assembly of a reconstructed and renewed Statue. Or Võ’s message can be one of protest to a loss of freedom, an impending disassembly of an ideal. The symbolic gesture, without a guide, adds tension to the presentation, leaving the viewer to assemble the statue and its meaning with their own expectations.

Photos: ©Benoit Pailley


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