Meet Factory Gallery. Prague. Czech Republic.
Styrofoam, Polyurethane & Plasticine.
500 x 400 x 2700mm (LxWxH)
Art of empire building : BY Alicia Bridges. – The Sunday Times
YOUNG Perth artist Joshua Webb had only a vague knowledge of the Czech Republic when he arrived there early this year.
Having been accepted into an artist-in-residence program at the Meet Factory art gallery in Prague, Webb was eager to further investigate his interest in the changing form of imperialism.
His interest in global politics stems back to his Perth education. He studied visual arts at Curtin University but says making impactful art was sometimes difficult.
"I was really battling with trying to make art about something that was important," he says. "A couple of years after I realised I should be looking at what I am interested in. Generally it is what effects my daily life and these global influences that are ideologically invisible but you feel the weight of it in the increase in the price of food."
Intrigued by the current political situation in the US, Webb recently set his sights on a place at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Travelling overseas to attend art school interviews, he passed through London, Paris, Los Angeles and New York before arriving in the Czech Republic to carry out his residency.
With little knowledge of its history, Webb read extensively about the Czech Republic and its separation from Czechoslovakia after 1992.
However, he says it was the conversations with residents that gave him a true understanding of how life and culture had changed after the rule of communist dictator Joseph Stalin.
"Prague had the world's biggest statue of Stalin, and I went looking for it one day I couldn't find it because it had been blown up," he says. "It's like this empty dead space that looks over the town where Stalin used to watch over the people. It was a beautiful statue but they went and paraded his head around town. (Now) you walk down the streets and it's beautiful but you've got Dior and any other kind of high-end fashion (stores). You end up thinking 'Well you just swapped one system for another system' and I was thinking of this as a kind of 'New Violence' that has been put into Prague."
This notion was the basis of his exhibition of the same name which was exhibited at the Meet Factory.
A combination of both sculpture and video installation, the work expressed Webb's observations of how the change of guard affected the Czech Republic.
As the recipient of the 2008 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, Webb has returned to his Mt Lawley home to expand on the New Violence exhibition, which will run under its original name at Galerie Dusseldorf.
The Perth show will more broadly explore the notion of economic imperialism.
"I wanted to look at the way imperialism spreads from country and the resolve of old empires building up as new empires," he says. "It's not really my place to comment on whether they are better or worse. I'm just interested in how the old way dies off and the new way comes in and how that changes the landscape of the place."
Webb was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and will return to the US in August.