For the past 30 years, the British-Guyanese artist Hew Locke (*1959 in Edinburgh, Scotland) has explored themes relating to race, colonialism and globalization. For the exhibition The Blind Spot: Bremen, Colonialism and Art at the Kunsthalle Bremen
(5 August 19 November 2017), he has created a spectacular and provocative intervention in the historic town hall of the Hanseatic City of Bremen. His work Cui Bono replaces one of the large-scale ship models hanging from the ceiling of the town halls main gallery. His ship sculpture makes reference to the trading and shipping history of Bremen as well as to current issues relating to migration and flight.
In his works, award-winning artist Hew Locke (Paul Hamlyn Award and East International Award 2000) combines references to high and pop culture, questioning established identities, symbols and ways of remembering. He uses playful irony to shed light on serious topics both past and present, revealing inherent drama and contradictions. Ships, which also possess symbolic power for the Hanseatic City of Bremen, have been a constant theme throughout his work, referring both to historic trade relationships and to the current migration of people.
Cui Bono (2017) by Hew Locke in the Upper Gallery at the Bremen Town Hall
For Bremen, Hew Locke has created a monumental, richly decorated ship which replaces one of the historic model ships hanging from the ceiling of the upper gallery in Bremens Town Hall for the duration of the exhibition The Blind Spot: Bremen, Colonialism and Art.
During his visit to Bremen in November 2016, the artist was inspired by the architecture of the Town Halls upper gallery, and especially by the historic model ships and Heinrich Vogelers design of the so-called Güldenkammer (Golden Chamber). His installation echoes its aesthetic and rich Art Nouveau ornamentation. Like its historic counterparts, the so-called warships or ships of the line that accompanied Hanseatic fleets in the Middle Ages, Lockes ship refers to the wealth that maritime trade brought to Bremens merchants. The search for wealth, violent conquest and a desire for safety are factors that for centuries have driven the global movement of people.
Cui Bono is a question asked in a legal or police investigation when trying to discover who has a motive for a crime. The motive may be hidden and the guilty person may be not who it first appears to be. The criminal may be the person who gains financially, but who has successfully diverted attention onto others, explains Hew Locke. The violence of the colonial period ripples down and repeats in the global present. What are the pushes and pulls in Africa and the Middle East which fuel our current refugee crisis - Cui Bono?
The installation Cui Bono in the Town Halls upper gallery is a post-colonial incentive to grapple with Bremens maritime commercial and colonial history. In light of the governing coalitions petition to develop a memorial concept for Bremens colonial past, it demonstrates to the world that the discussion of Bremens colonial heritage is being addressed right in the heart of the city, at the Town Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Born in 1959 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Locke lived in Georgetown, Guyana from 1966 to 1980, after which he returned to the United Kingdom to study at the Royal College of Art. His work is represented in major international collections, including the Government Art Collection, Tate, the National Trust, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum and the Henry Moore Institute (all in the United Kingdom), and at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York and Perez Art Museum in Miami.