Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Privilege of Priests

Following on from my last post, “Of the Stealing of Women,” I thought it appropriate to introduce a companion piece Johann Dieter Wassmann also built in the spring of 1896. Titled “Privilege of Priests,” the construction again begins with an early 18th century law text, this time open to a case law page entitled, Privilege of Priests. But unlike “Of the Stealing of Women,” he removes it from its context, by a adding an engraving of a small boy bandaged from the same mid-19th century medical text as the bandaged women’s torso in “Of the Stealing of Women.” In doing so, the assemblage immediately and painfully evokes the broken children left behind by the unspoken and widely accepted practice of sexual abuse followed for centuries by the Catholic Church. While Johann could best be described as a lapsed Lutheran, we was adamantly anti-Catholic and more than willing to challenge the hypocrisy of the church in works such as this.

Both of these works are drawn from a suite of 33 similarly shaped pine boxes Johann called “Der Ring des Nibelunge,” so-named after Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”. In Johann’s case, the 33 works are divided into 3 groups, with 11 boxes in each. These groups form perfect rings when installed with their glass front facing inward, so the works uniquely face and interact with one another, rather than outward toward the viewer. Johann purchased three round pine champagne tables in the summer of 1896 on which to display the works, but they were never publicly shown in his lifetime. Remarkably “Der Ring des Nibelunge” still has never been displayed as a complete group in a public institution, but will certainly be proudly on display when MuseumZeitraum Leipzig opens in July 2008.

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