Islam, Racism, Imperialism - David Garner At Cynon Valley Museum

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 31 January 2008
a birdcage with a large stuffed crow in it and a stuffed dove standing on the top

Remembering Jim Crow. © David Garner

Exhibition Preview - Whatever they say I am, that’s what I’m not. David Garner at Cynon Valley Museum & Gallery, Wales until March 15 2008.

Welsh artist David Garner’s new touring show, Whatever they say I am, that’s what I’m not, deals with western assumptions and attitudes towards Islam and the way Muslims have been demonised in the west.

Currently debuting at the Cynon Valley Museum & Gallery, Aberdare, Wales, the exhibition presents a series of sculptural installations that target, Islamaphobia and the wider issues of racism and how it is linked to imperialism and war.

a lectern with an open book upon it which has nails hammered into it

Typecast. © David Garner

In Poppycock he uses a British soldier’s helmet – a relic of the war in Afghanistan – together with dried Middle Eastern poppies to comment on the way the invasion of Afghanistan has led to an increase in the amount of opium produced in the country.

Another piece, Unwanted Decoration, incorporates a genuine Iraq medal, which the artist bought on eBay, to reference the disillusionment of British soldiers with the conflict. The medal is attached to a long symbolic red ribbon, which snakes chaotically around the gallery.

The old American Jim Crow racist segregation laws are evoked via an excrement covered stuffed crow in a birdcage with a stuffed dove sitting on top. Here Garner is drawing parallels between the dehumanising racism against blacks and some of the current attitudes towards Muslims, whilst also referencing American rhetoric about democracy and freedom.

a camouflaged helmet with dried poppies placed on it

Poppycock. © David Garner

The most striking, and possibly most contorversial piece in the exhibition, is an accurate life size replica of the sign on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and it’s motto Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Brings Freedom). The intention of the artist here is to evoke the uneasy feeling that racism, in all its guises, can reoccur at any time.

Another piece, Typecast, features an open dictionary with groups of nails hammered into the pages leaving only the words, ‘Muslim’ and ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ on view in a comment on how Muslim identity has been besieged and how the war on terror has undermined civil rights.

Very much a political artist, David Garner was born in Ebbw Vale in 1958 and now lives in Argoed, Gwent. He studied at Newport and Cardiff College of Art and the Royal College of Art.

His work, which in the past has dealt with subjects like asylum seeking and the plight of South Wales’ mining communities, has been shown throughout the UK.

This is an exhibition preview - if you have been to see the show, why not let us know what you think?

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