Su san Cohn
1 protest / 1 object

25th May – 5th June 2004
Biennale of Sydney

This exhi­bi­tion co-incides with the 2004 Bien­nale of Sydney

1 protest / 1 object is com­posed of two works – I protest and I object. From 1 to I, a sin­gu­lar posi­tion is reit­er­at­ed – 1 as I and I as 1. This sin­gu­lar­i­ty though is com­posed of many; 2232 badges form the three parts of I protest; and 1230 in the two parts of I object. Like protests, these works are events com­posed of hun­dreds of indi­vid­u­als gath­ered togeth­er for one rea­son. Like slo­gans, sin­gle voic­es form a choir where indi­vid­ual inflec­tions res­onate in the over­all timbre.

A dynam­ic between the sin­gu­lar and the mass is con­stant in Susan Cohn’s work. From the unique one-off piece of jew­ellery made specif­i­cal­ly for some­one to pro­duc­tion work of mul­ti­ples, rela­tions between the indi­vid­ual and the col­lec­tive are active­ly engaged with in the pro­duc­tion of mean­ing and iden­ti­ty. In exhi­bi­tions, Cohn works with num­bers, arrange­ments and group­ings where ten­sions between one and many inform both the over­all instal­la­tion and the indi­vid­ual objects. In 1 protest / 1 object, this is worked through the titles from 1 to I, two bod­ies of work com­posed of pan­els upon which are hun­dreds of badges. Each badge is a prod­uct of its loca­tion in a larg­er pic­ture and com­pos­es a whole like a pix­el. Yet it is also sin­gu­lar – its image unique to itself and poignant in its poten­tial as a car­ri­er of mean­ing. This dynam­ic ten­sion is accen­tu­at­ed by the fact that badges have an implic­it sense of dis­per­sion – each will find its way onto a body, leav­ing the whole while still express­ing it.

In I protest, Cohn extends on ideas and con­cerns expressed in Love No War – both the badges and loca­tion are sim­i­lar, how­ev­er here the I’ is intro­duced. In the pre­vi­ous piece, the pho­to­graph was unal­tered – a serendip­i­tous find. Here, Cohn’s hand is present in the graf­fi­ti ques­tions and her focus made clear in the addi­tion of news­pa­per pho­tographs and icon­ic images. She con­tin­ues to work these ideas because war con­tin­ues. The sub­ject of each of the pan­els reit­er­ates ten­sions between sin­gu­lar and col­lec­tive. The same tor­so is man­i­fest­ed in dif­fer­ent states of dis­play; pho­tographs pose indi­vid­u­als – woman / moth­er and sons / child – involved in the col­lec­tive event of war; Uncle Sam’s fin­ger points out We need you’, and graf­fi­ti calls for answers to iden­ti­fy indi­vid­u­als and ques­tions what has led to the trans­for­ma­tion of indi­vid­u­als from women and chil­dren to sui­cide bombers. These are heart-felt – I protest’ – an inten­si­ty so sin­gu­lar yet felt by many.

Oppo­site, a slo­gan, a cry, an objec­tion, a state­ment – I object craft is a hand job’. As with I protest, it is com­posed of indi­vid­u­al­ly made badges, which in turn have mass-pro­duced and hand made com­po­nents. In each pan­el, the slo­gan com­pos­es the indi­vid­ual badges and is com­posed by them. One reads with the slo­gan writ large and each badge becomes unique and sin­gu­lar due to its loca­tion in the over­all com­po­si­tion. The oth­er is com­posed of hun­dreds of badges with the same slo­gan on each and there­fore repeat­ed hun­dreds of times to pro­duce the over­all pan­el. This pro­duces a pat­tern where the irreg­u­lar­i­ty of each hand-made badge is accen­tu­at­ed. The dif­fer­ence between them high­lights again the ten­sion between indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive, sin­gu­lar and mass, I and we in the mak­ing of identities.

The empha­sis on craft here high­lights aspects of mak­ing — the mak­ing of things, of instal­la­tions, of sit­u­a­tions, of iden­ti­ties. Make love, not war’. The jux­ta­po­si­tion between I protest and I object, between a protest and an objec­tion com­posed of hun­dreds of badges is an invi­ta­tion, indeed an inci­ta­tion, from I’ to you, from 1 to many to share in this making.

Suzie Atti­will 2004