In the end nobody thought green chairs were grass (The Jehovahs Witnesses get Sick of Waiting),1997


Translation by Catherine Schwerin
of an article in German by Thomas W. Rieger

from Museutopia: Schritte in andere Welten (Museutopia: Steps into other worlds). A documentation published by Michael Fehr and Thomas W. Rieger. Neuer Volkwang Publications in Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum, Hagen: 2003

Jehova

Painting (oil on linen, 167 x 167cm)
In the end nobody thought green chairs were grass
(The Jehovahs Witnesses get Sick of Waiting), 1997
Collection Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum, K 4202
Used with the artist’s permission

p. 143-145

In the art historical context, one would tend to seek comparable motifs and symbols to those depicted in the paintings of Australian artist Cameron Hayes in eschatological representations, in the illustrations of the Revelations of John, or in the Apocalypse Cycle by Dürer, in Leonardo’s visions of the end of the world, or the monster-inhabited altarpieces by Hieronymus Bosch. The cartoon-like beings and creatures sketched en miniature in Hayes “Last Judgement” swarm around a terrestrial globe which drifts in space and at whose centre lies a chrono-mechanism that constantly and incessantly drives the vanitas motif of the hour glass: “The Time is at your Hand”. On the highways and railway tracks that spread their serpentine grip around the planet, the graffiti-smothered “Train of Evolution” hurtles towards a teleological future – whatever it might be – and drags the naked bodies of a doomed humanity with it.

Wooden constructions that signify the local centres in the painting are reminiscent of the Watchtower, the symbol of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – that community of the (only) chosen Christians which the subtitle of the painting designates as being weary of waiting. These “Watchtowers” simultaneously signify the ivory towers of modern civilisation (schools, libraries, churches) and simultaneously metaphorically reveal the fragility and the artificiality of their mode of construction, their ideational framework. This applies to the “Darwin School of Evolutionary Science” just as much as to the affiliated “Dr. Scott’s Hospital”, which may have been founded in memory of the famous American quack and his Medical Devices, but perhaps also in memory of the mad scientist and antagonist to Dr. Frank’nFurter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the “STAY YOUNG Time Slowing Institute” a weary Bart Simpson answers the mail of his eternally young fan club. In their caravan castles, apostles of esoterica and ancient hippies eagerly look forward to a spiritual resurrection in the desert during their annual Burning Man Festival. The Highway to Hell is flanked by a bill poster for the film Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s black adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. The party slogan given in Orwell’s dystopian novel “Who controls the past controls the future!” is in this context transferred to the general principle of “time”. On the ocean, a freighter loaded with wood (the building material for the “Green Chairs”) has just rammed Noah’s Ark.

In amongst all these noisy goings-on, it is impossible to hear the trumpets of the Last Judgement which resound from the door of one of the three fridges that bear faintly shining halos and symbolise the Holy Trinity. Thus it is only fitting that the celestial ladders are burned to warm the prophets who have fronted up for the Last Judgement. And the bumper-bar slogans that are sported by American road cruisers have been blown up to bill-poster proportions and seem to serve as memento mori for a possible interpretation of the entire painting: “If you can read this you’re about to crash!”

 © Cate Kimberley, Catherine Schwerin and Word and Affect, 2012.

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