Over the past two years, We The People has been Danh Vo’s continually unfolding and developing project on a massive scale. It has occupied a team of skilled craftsmen in China in the faithful reconstruction of an actual size replica of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty. Working from the sculptor’s original drawings, more than 200 elements have been beaten and welded from 2.5mm sheets of copper over plaster and metal armature, following the original construction method. As pieces are made, they are shipped off in batches to museums, galleries, biennales and art fairs. The fabrication is nearly complete – only Liberty’s great tablet still left to make, which bears the date July 4th, 1776 and marks the United States’ independence from Great Britain.
Upon completion, We The People is unlikely to ever come together as one, but instead will continue to circumnavigate the globe for long into the future while gradually being acquired into public and private collections worldwide. In this instance perhaps, the parts are greater than the whole. This dismembered Liberty munificently infuses democracy and freedom wherever she is scattered – like a virus. To date, elements of the project have been shown in major public institutions in Kassel, Paris, Barcelona, Shanghai, Chicago, Copenhagen, Bregenz, Shenzhen, Ghent, Bangkok, Porto and New York. This autumn will be the first London showing of Vo’s work when PEER will be exhibiting 24 elements.
The majority of these will be sections from the dais upon which she stands – flat geometric forms of various sizes, reminiscent perhaps of Carl Andre or Donald Judd’s minimalist sculpture. But the inclusion of figurative a elements will inject a Baroque, perhaps surreal disjunction to the installation inviting a more complex reading.
The multiple and powerful resonances of We The People are not lost on Vo, and he is keen to leave them tantalisingly open-ended. There are many ways of interrogating and interpreting the project’s means of production and dissemination as well as the rich potential for symbolic readings of this ‘gift’ from the people of France to the people of America and its legacy. Liberty has famously greeted vessels of arriving immigrants to the US since she was erected in 1886. Her dissected and appropriated doppelganger will greet local, national and international visitors to PEER.
Danh Vo (born 1975 in Vietnam) lives and works in Berlin and New York. Vo has exhibited at major international venues, including: The Renaissance Society and Art Institute of Chicago (2012–13), the New Museum, New York (2012), Kunsthaus Bregenz (2012), National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen (2012, 2010); Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2009), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008). He took part in the Berlin Biennial (2010), The Shanghai Biennial (2012), was winner of the 2012 Hugo Boss Prize with a solo show at the Guggenheim, New York (2013). He is currently participating in the Venice Biennale, and is exhibiting at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, and Kurimanzutto in Mexico. We The People is presented courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.
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