The Golden Calf
Plastic road safety barriers, vinyl wrap
300 x 400 x 500 cm
photo credit: Mark Pokorny
Photo by Neil Hobbs
Alex Seton is a Sydney-based artist best known for his use of marble carving.Throughout his practice he has used the techniques and languages of classical statuary and monument, playing with, inverting and exaggerating them to create works that reflect on the contemporary world. Recent work has used this lens to engage directly with contemporary political issues, such as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, and questions of conflict and nationhood.
In 2017,his work Refuge was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India) following his solo exhibition The Journey at Galerie Paris Beijing (France). He has had numerous solo exhibitions, including at Newcastle Art Gallery; McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery and Linden Centre for Contemporary Art; Australian War Memorial; Tweed Regional Gallery; and Hazelhurst Regional Gallery.
In 2015,Seton was awarded a Grand Jury prize at the Fondation François Schneider‘Contemporary Talents’ competition. He was the Inaugural Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence, Margaret Olley Art Centre, Tweed River Art Gallery, Murwillumbah,in 2014; and in 2012 participated in the prestigious Art OMI residency program in New York. In 2014 his work Someone died trying to have a life like mine was included in the Adelaide Biennial.
The Golden Calf consists of large plastic barriers of the kind used in road safety contexts, stacked in a cross-hatched pattern, and crowned with a single gold-leafed barrier. The work serve as an effigy to a world ever-more intent on throwing up walls between us, both in terms of nation-states and cultural divisions.
Installed at Commonwealth Place on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, the work temporarily disrupts the line of sight between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, placing a physical barrier between these two institutions, between which so much money, power and ideology flows.
The Golden Calf represents a revisiting and expansion of Seton’s previous work with barriers, created in 2007 in response to the APEC summit and post-9/11 world. Revisited some 10 years on, the work asks us to consider how far we’ve come in that time, and if anything has changed.
In the age of Trump’s border wall, seemingly endless rebuilding of our cities in the name of progress, and changing modes of access and visibility within these cities, the barrier remains a potent symbol of our age.