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Stuart Brisley + Maya Balcioglu

The Cenotaph Project: Class of Rulers
2 December - 24 December 1987


The Cenotaph is a commonly recognisable symbol; it stands somewhere between the categories of architecture, monument, and sculpture. It represents through tis form as the "empty tomb" all those who died in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, as well as all subsequent wars on behald of this 'nation'. This exhibition and the wider project that it is a part of, examined our assumptions about public sculpture and its role as a vehicle in the power relationship between the rulers and the rest of society. The Cenotaph was an image of stability and order erected in 1919 at a time of great social and political upheaval.

Over a period of two to three years, nine scale models (not exact copies but close interpretations) of Lutyens' Cenotaph were set up in widely differing locations in the U.K. At the time of the exhibition Cenotaphs had been erected in a Gateshead Council flat, at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge, and in the Dean Clough industrial complex in Halifax. Each site provided a particular context and history, shedding new light upon the meaning of the Cenotaph, while the Cenotaph itself informed upon its surroundings. All the Cenotaphs were intentionally identical and unembellished, so that they could absorb and transit meaning in each different location.

The work was initated by Stuart Brisley as a response to his six month residency at London's Imperial War Museum in 1987. The project culminated in a final exhibition for all the Cenotaphs at the Museum.

This exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery was an interim report upon the develoment of the project, bringing together the three seven-foot Cenotaphs so far, and was shown alongside documentary material, reflecting the considerable research that is an important part of the project.

This text is taken from the press release for The Cenotaph Project: Class of Rulers , December 1987.


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