In this petite sculpture/video, we see the artist as a thirteen-year-old riding a black pony around a never-ending course of jumps. They are set against the VHS-washed colour palette of a pastoral landscape. The footage has been very carefully edited to show the audience the ‘perfect round’ and is an early example of the artist’s preoccupation with narrative devices and the manipulation of collective memory. This artwork was part of Auburn’s final undergraduate exhibition at The University of Auckland, Elam School of Fine Arts.
I am interested in presenting the tension between truth, memory, fact, fiction and history whilst also acknowledging that there are as many different versions of the truth as the human memory is inconsistent.
Cat Auburn, 2006.
Parallel text accompanying the exhibition of ‘A Round with Cheleken Zorro’:
In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square. That was a great turning point in the history of Bohemia. A fateful moment.
Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with Clementis standing close to him. It was snowing and cold, and Gottwald was bareheaded. Bursting with solicitude, Clementis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald’s head.
The propaganda section made hundreds of thousands of copies of the photograph taken on the balcony where Gottwald, in a fur hat and surrounded by comrades, spoke to the people. On that balcony the history of Communist Bohemia began. Every child knew that photograph, from seeing it on posters and in schoolbooks and museums.
Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald’s head.”
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Harper Perennial Classics. New York:1999. pp. 3-4.
Cat Auburn (2006). ‘A Round with Cheleken Zorro’, film, mediaplayer, plywood. Photo credit: City Art Rooms.