Eleven artists were invited to create an image in a box, in response to the eleven tracks which I have written for the ‘US’ album. The criteria for the choices made were fourfold, that the work should have relationship to the feelings and content of the music, that the artists should come from different parts of the world, that both sexes should be well represented and that less well-known work should be given equal prominence.
A considerable time was spent on research although the final invitations went out to several artists who work I already knew quite well. One of the tracks was left off the record, but we have included the corresponding piece that Yayoi Kusama created. It is a powerful piece of work and has been used to illustrate the overall concept of the album ‘US’.
– Peter Gabriel
Yayoi Kusama | Japan
US (The Return to Eternity)
Mixed media 1000mm x 720mm x 160mm
The Return to Eternity means that the thing repeats itself forever. The symbolic expression which is fundamental to the philosophy of Nietzsch who states an absolute affirmative to existence… The Return to Eternity. To continue throughout all eternity within time. The character which is immortal and surpasses time.
My sculpture represents the above.
I made the work with just 4 units this time, though as a matter of fact, my concept would be much clearer if the sculpture is composed of about 300 units, which would be a grand sight.
David Mach | Scotland
Come Talk To Me
Collage 1320mm x 1310mm x 120mm
(I was) thinking abut the title ‘Come Talk To Me’ – how you speak to people, how you communicate, how what you say… has changed by the time it comes out of your mouth and gets into the ears, and (how) they misunderstand what you said and you get a different Chinese Whisper thing – I felt that gave me an excuse to use an image of Peter with his mouth open whith that sort of howling thing against a green background.
I picked a postcard because its got a green landscape in it, but not one to have a too pictorial thing, maybe more abstract… than that (where) he is being pulled (and) the image of him is being distorted – again its sort of distortion of language – what are you saying – what the hell is that you want?
Finbar Kelly | Ireland
Love to be Loved
Mixed media 2420mm x 1700mm x 600mm
These are a group of found objects, they contain the essence of their former use while being manipulated into art objects or props. I conceived then to be used; perhaps performed with:
The walking stick, much used in art as symbolism, I also see as functional – something that perhaps could be used as a talisman.
The cloth represents many things; private feelings of sexuality, a shroud, a flag.
The lyrics and music I interpreted in a sort of subliminal way, finding, considerting, and manipulating them over a one week period. Some of the objects refer to the past and memory; those that I make at the moment to the present and perception; theatricality is not their only purpose. They are a group of ‘things’.
Zadok Ben-David | Israel
Blood of Eden
Painted Aluminium 1420mm x 2030mm x 250mm
The spirit of this sad song live in the heart of the creation, the birth of the man and the woman, their separation, the growing distance and the great desire for a reunion. This beautiful metaphor for broken relationship deals with the eternal desire for love. It takes you back to the early mythology of the creation.
My initial response was to relate to the main theme “Man in the woman and the woman in the man…” as it corresponds directly with my recent work. Later, though, I thought it would be too literal, almost an illustration to the song… I chose instead to use the metaphor of the cosmic egg as it seems to reflect the ideas expressed in the song.
The cosmic egg is a mythological symbol of nothingness and wholeness, the very beginning of the universal creation.
Ian Hughes | Scotland
Mixed Media 1400mm x 1220mm x 70mm
I loved the deep bass line, the insidious beat and the driving energy that characterised the song. And yet the lyric were very subtle and appeared to be concerned with the nature of perceived reality, and indeed its very ambiguity.
The outside of The Box is black, like a religious reliquary, and hopefully gives no clue as to what is inside. Upon opening The Box one is confronted with a barrage of colours; this is supposed to suggest the idea of the jazzy music starting up out the void of silence. The religious theme continues inside. Sinners and saints are juxtaposed so that we are unsure who is which. Behind the central portrait of Peter is an infernal last judgement scene. Again the ambiguous nature of reality is explored, for example this portrait of Peter has two ‘3-dimensional’ frogs on it, painted over in such a manner as to ‘disappear’ at a distance.
The light-bulb is black (ironic / useless), and there is of course The Ladder and the snake (actually a lizard).
Nothing is what it seems visually or on interpretation.
Mickaël Bethe-Sélassié | Ethiopia
Papier Maché and Acrylics 985mm x 420mm x 500mm
Colour, like music, is a vibration which can effect one’s mood and can change one’s feeling. When creating the sculpture I was inspired by the lyrics and melody of the song.
The sculpture… represents the goddess of love (I felt the music was like a man calling for somebody else), with the figures on the back representing lovers. The front of the box has the shape of a leaf and the inside is the flower/the Goddess. The two couples are coloured and have different faces, this represents their multi-ethnicity. Generally I see human beings as diverse and multi-ethnic, thus the piece is a universal representation of human kind. Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity from which all mankind’s various races evolved. Those first black mothers and fathers are a source of inspiration in my work.
Andy Goldsworthy | England
Washing of the Water
Framed Ciba Chrome Print 1130mm x 1092mm x 45mm
The place I made the piece is where I watch salmon jump in autumn. Although the form should not be seen as a fish it does have some of its qualities.
I stretched the hole in a slit. This gives a feeling of direction and movement – of lifting up and going upstream. Also, as the fish the form has a sexual energy, “let your waters reach me like she reached me tonight”.
I have worked with the depth and darkness within the river – using the restriction of ‘The Box’ – working in a deep hollow in rock that has been worn out by the river. It is only visible and accessible during low water.
For me the song is not about going downstream but an attempt to reach inside – to understand it (and our own) source.
When I talk about the river I am talking about life and the deepness that goes well beyond the water.
As the river rises… it will rise out of the work.
Zush | Evrugo
Digging in the Dirt
Mixed Media 240mm x 630mm x 120mm
I think that the world under the earth is all dirty… it is browns… and you don’t look good, I mean astronauts look all white and shiny and people who go under the earth always look dirty and cold.
(In the song) I… imagined that there is the real world, the world where we live and there is this sub-terranium world, this world under (us)… our mind underworld. That is what I tried to show in my box… That is what I gave earth colour to these people…
… In the words of the song there was a relationship between two people… so I created couples of people saying things to each other… each of them has things coming out of their head… In my work it is something I am very interested in – … when somebody has a feeling, what he thinks comes out… around him, so the thing that they have in their heads is their way of thinking.
Jordan Baseman | USA
Fourteen Black Paintings
Ostrich Egg and Rose Thorns 160mm x 130mm x 130mm
The piece that I built is about ideas of fragility, vulnerability and protection. The lyrical content of the song, which is about a positive thing being generated from a painful thing, informed the work and its conceptual foundations. Peter Gabriel loosely based the song on the Fourteen Black Paintings from the Rothko Chapel in Texas, and I responded to the song in a minimal way, in keeping with the sobriety of Rothko’s work.
I consider music to be an essential part of my daily life.
Bili Bidjocka | Cameroon
Kiss That Frog
Mixed Media 1000mm x 1060mm x 1020mm
My project is a box. And inside you can find two parts: one part is the part of – I call it the part of purity… And one part is impure. Then at the end, maybe the impure becomes pure and the pure becomes impure.
In one part you have a blow-up doll and this… represents for me frigidity… and you can everything for her (and yet) she feels nothing. And in one part you have… an aquarium with water. In this… I will put a frog – with flowers, with earth… for me it is like the country, like life.
I try to make a magic situation. I tried to find the solution… the answer to this question –what will happen with these two parts? I hope my frog will be like a magician and… make this blow-up doll become a princess… And that is the story that I try to tell in my box.
Rebecca Horn | Germany
Mixed Media 750mm x 720mm x 400mm
Secret World: It’s all about a dream, based around railway stations and rail tracks. I could relate to the song since, as a child I was quite lonely, having been sent to boarding schools. I always used to run away to one of my parents, who were either in Milan or Paris. From that period I have these strange memories of train stations and I always used to dream I could go anywhere in the world.
A box, for me, always contains secrets, to be revealed sometimes. The day after I received the song I went to the Berlin Flea Market, I bought a very old suitcase (and worked on it), then the suitcase becomes like a private little museum which can be opened and carried around all over the world. The suitcase contains objects which convey or connote memories. Take the little opera binoculars for example, you may see through them something that is very far away, even though it is in the same box. The violin bow is, for me, a link to my first experiences and memories of music (my father was involved in opera).
Or this strange kind of butterfly like bird, the moment you open the suitcase it starts to move, just like in a dream.