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Pavlov's Ax

47 x 88 x 68 cm


exhibition venue:
European Ceramic Work Centre, 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands 1999

Pavlov's Ax


A by-product of Millennium Macaroni Sequel was left-over clay noodle cut-offs, which I connected into a playful worm-like squiggle. During the firing, the shape slumped, changing somewhat. Parallel to the organic noodle, I produced a larger than life-size ax, which was cast and fired in earthenware, and left unglazed. The ax represented our human tendency, our primal inclination for aggression and violence, supposedly in the name of survival, for reacting to situations with fear in the most primitive of ways. By stressing its own vulnerability, its own breakability, ceramic was obviously the most appropriate material for this ax, suggesting everyone loses at some point, the victim and the aggressor/victor. When the noodle came out of the oven, seemingly deformed, while holding the ax in my hand, I laid the ax between the “legs” of the slumped noodle, where it nestled in such perfect, almost erotic harmony that I had no choice but to leave it there as a new completed work. In this unsuspecting moment, a  poetic image emerged portraying some complexities of our survival instinct and most basic conditioned responses, which I immediately, named “Pavlov’s Ax”, which has since been begging to ask, where is the dividing line between pleasure, pain and torture.

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