THE DECLINE / EN “The decline” is an artwork of 9 concrete ‘play cards’, measuring up to ten meters high, six meters wide and weighing 63.000 kilos. The artwork displays a life-size house of cards, fabricated out of concrete walls. The customary images on the cards are replaced by historical individuals, world leaders and dictators. In this way the house of cards is a metaphor for the fragile construction of different political, philosophical and religious men- and worldviews. The selected materials and the form of the work refer to the historical and political use of walls as a physical delineation and to the metaphysical use of ideology to portion off and protect the own people against influences from outside. With the chosen pictures and the use of concrete walls the artist reminds us at the human sorrow and pain which are caused by dogma and dictatorship and at the same time, at the immanent necessity for cooperation and reconciliation. “The decline” inquires several aspects of ideology and concepts of Western modernization, including social progress. According to the artist the practical belief in progress has branched out and hardened into ideologies – secular religions which, similar to those religions who were put to the test by the process of modernization, are blind for the weak spots of their own ‘Letters of Credence’. Progress has hereby become a ‘myth’ in the anthropological sense of the word. The process of constructing and steering social progress keeps a naïve promise of satisfaction by completion, just like building a house of cards. It promises to end the wasting concentration, the mandatory dedication and the obsessed thoroughness, instead bringing resignation to the end over a period which will be perceived as an era. That doesn’t mean Herck is suggesting it’s a poor or untrue belief when it comes to myths. On the contrary, successful myths show to be resilient and partially true. He illustrates the myth of progress and modernization as a classifying of the past, real or illusive, in patterns, icons and symbols which amplify the deepest values and ambitions of a culture. Modernization, ideology and decay are in the same way encumbered with meanings we want to live and die for. “The artwork shows us the cards with which cultures found their way thru time”. The title and shape of the artwork both generate the question whether the structure is in development or ready to collapse at any second. They make the spectator aware of the quiescent threat of breakdown while he reflects over the idea of decay as the propelling-force behind the will to continue. In this sense the decay exists continuously: it advances simultaneously with the so far made progress until the point where both converge. The childlike, playful drive to (continue to) build houses of cards shows us similar mechanics to be found in the process of social progress and modernization, in the construction and decay of culture and ideology. It shows us how mankind repeats itself persistently in the same manner throughout time. Men who made a historical difference built a house of cards, a fragile construction which was solely capable to succeed and remain (standing) due to the compelling attention they nourished for it. This building, that what’s so expensive, is now depraved to a delicate and vulnerable structure. It exists by the grace of two hands, as a metaphor for the achievement of the desired mastership and the determination to make life a success. In the end, it poses the admittedly rhetorical question: is humankind essentially only capable to build a house of cards, something what is basically nonstop convoyed by the threat of failure and fiasco? The figures are: Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Queen Victoria, Suleyman, Ramses 2, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlemagne and Jesus Christ Riot / EN There was a huge riot in the city as the mare of the Sint-Truiden tried to cover the Hitler card. It made national news, people started to protest against the mare and in the end she leave the sculpture as it was. You can see a video from the Belgium TV here:
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