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Cui Bono installed at Bremen Rathaus. Photo ©Indra Khanna 2017

Cui Bono
2017, 295 x 393 x 113cm
Wooden carcass with mixed media
Boats    Finance & Trade

Originally installed at Rathaus Bremen, Germany, as part of the exhibition The Blind Spot : Bremen and Art in the Colonial Era. The installation in the Town Hall’s upper gallery was an invitation to grapple with Bremen’s maritime commercial and colonial history.

In this UNESCO World Heritage Site one of the antique model ships was brought down and replace with my 4 meter long ship. Cui Bono is latin for 'who benefits?' - a question asked in a legal or police investigation when trying to discover who has a motive for a crime. The motive may be hidden and the guilty person may be not who it first appears to be.

The piece refers to the wealth that maritime trade brought to Bremen’s merchants, which became dependant on cotton and tobacco produced by slave labour in the Americas. The search for wealth, violent conquest and a desire for safety are factors that for centuries have driven the global movement of people. I bend history back onto itself, alluding to the links between past and present. The violence of the colonial period ripples down and repeats in the global present.

Imitation gold coloured materials such as brass, undercuts the use of real gold as a visual symbol of power and wealth, as used in the adjacent Güldenkammer, intended to awe. The desire for gold is the motive for trade.

The boat includes motifs relating to the city's Anti/Colonial Monument, it's 'key' badge and history as part of the Hanseatic League, German notgeld emergency money of WW1, references to baroque 'slave' figures, the Bremen tobacco and cotton trade, amongst other things. I aim to create attractive work that engages people, and then surprise them with a disturbing element.  I hope they start to question what the work is about – what is really going on beneath the surface.

Click here to see film of installation at Bremen Rathaus (3.15 mins)


All images © Hew Locke & ArtImage unless otherwise indicated