Gagging Order

Woodcut rotation print
2011
Edition of 5

In December 2010, artist Elgin Rust asked me to respond to her Masters installation titled Redress1-Un-Dressed, Advocate Alice Presents: R v JR 2010. I was presented with a haunting construction of objects, images and sound recordings. Her project sought to investigate the processes of ‘judicial and aesthetic redress to offer fresh perspectives on the victim within the criminal justice system.’ The fictional characters, Advocate Alice and Detective Little Prince (clear references to the childrens stories by Lewis Carol and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) narrate the installation for the final case hearing in Rust’s thesis. The concluding evocation is one of the space being an open-ended site with the judgement pending.

I was immediately taken with the allegorical language in the exhibition and agreed to participate in a ‘concluding’ exhibition held at the AVA (Association for Visual Arts) in Cape Town from 18 April to 13 May 2011. The exhibition was titled Judgement, Uitspraak 2011 Case No. 001/05/2008 and included works by 14 participating artists.

The invited responses were understood to form a judgement, that is an ‘opinion, estimate, notion or conclusion’ in response to Rust’s installation. My response was a woodcut print titled Gagging Order.

Gagging Order explores the subtle power relations between parties within the legal system. Sometimes imposed as a form of protection for witnesses or to prevent partiality within the legal system, the gag order is nevertheless an act of silencing. I found the mute masks in Rust’s exhibition space particularly evocative of this. Their placement on chairs or on the prow of a ship of courtroom furniture simultaneously referenced the world of child’s play while evoking a more sinister caricature of the confrontation implicit in a legal battle between two parties.

The pair of masks depicted in this print were isolated somewhat from the main installation. Rust’s use of lighting in their section of the exhibition was quite dramatic and long shadows were cast on the walls around them. Two seemingly banal paper maché faces suddenly took on a theatrical evocation of hidden elements evoking a sense of confrontation and power relation between prosecutor and witness.

The entire project and its other carnations are archived here.

  • Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.
    Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.

    Elgin Rust

  • Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.
    Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.

    Elgin Rust

  • Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.
    Detail of trial installation, R v JR 2010.

    Elgin Rust