In a remote period of time
A man ascended on the top of a horse, and
Looked towards the sun;
Everything under its shine was his.
In an even more remote period
Someone made a statue.
It wasn’t crafted very well
And its remains aren’t very clear.
However, the figure is very ancient.
Nowadays metal machines parse the sky
Seeking for targets
Showing off sky supremacy.
As gods constantly change their name,
Concepts simply shift of place.
But aren’t the minds wonderfully plastic
And language still obscure?
Empires do not need a name
So doesn’t post-history.
Soon, the word itself will disappear,
And we shall finally live in an endless,
Empire of Everything is an exhibition about power dynamics and its representation throughout the ages. From the most ancient figurine to the state-of-the art fighter plane, power has been displayed in diverse fashions, notably artworks. As the art is also a way to communicate, it does not escape from being manipulated by diverse interests.
The exhibition is focussed on a detail from Donatello’s equestrian statue of Gattamelata, an Italian condottiere of the Renaissance. His portrait has been heavily inspired by the Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue, which features an important overhang of the horse’s leg, a characteristic that Donatello wanted to reproduce, but the technical challenge turned out to be impossible to achieve—too many skills had been lost since the end of the Roman Empire. Instead, the sculptor resolved the problem by installing the horse’s foot on a sort of orb. Pretty invisible from the viewer’s sight—as the statue is installed on an important base—, it still seems to symbolize a certain mastery over the entire world, urbi et orbi.
Emphasizing this detail, the artist draws attention to a mysterious iron ball, echoing both the orb used for the statue and the ideation of a magical item. Next to it, two concrete plates respectively display drawings of a F 35, the US legendary and never used fighter plane produced by Lockheed Martin and of the Lion Man, an intriguing figurine from the Palaeolithic sculpted in mammoth ivory. From the vitrine, emerges a discreet, yet present feeling of a forced, static peace—a suspended moment before fire. War is peace, as peace is war.
Ironically enough, the opening of the exhibition took place on the Veteran’s Day in The Hague. Thus please: imagine the vitrine accompanied by the humming of helicopters and muffled military drums.