Coat Hanger Crucifixion

On 21 July of this year, Edinburgh based sculptor David Mach temporarily installed the first of four ‘Coat Hanger Crucifixions’ outside of St Giles Cathedral.  This sculpture is part of a much larger project culminating at the Edinburgh Art Centre in 2011 and celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  On his website, David says of the King James Bible that it

communicated its message so effectively that its language still resonates through our speech to this day. Today we live in an age of sophisticated mass communication – satellites, computers, and live TV links – and yet we still have wars, famine and bigotry. To me that represents a failure of communication. The King James Bible holds as pertinent a mirror up to our human failings as it did when it was first published 400 years ago. The richness, devastation and pestilence of biblical imagery is as fine a subject as I could wish for to explore the hypocrisies of the contemporary world.

In the image shown above, what we have is a teaser of a much larger project that includes several crucifixions as well as large scale collages of numerous biblical scenes.  If this sculpture is any indication, we certainly have much to look forward to.

Although it is difficult to see, this sculpture is actually made from coat hangers — shaped and moulded to represent the human figure.  The ‘lines’ that stick out from Christ’s body are the curved portion of the hanger, but they have been straightened.  In other coat hanger sculptures, David does not alter the curved part, which gives the sculptures a soft feeling, almost like fur.  But here, the sharp metal points evoke a sense of energy — like dozens of tiny lightning rods — emanating from Christ’s body.  At the same time, the metal lines reference the torture of the passion, as they could alternately be read as thrusting into Christ’s body.

More than anything else about this piece, I am drawn to the coat hangers themselves.  As a choice of material, coat hangers carry interesting metaphorical resonances with the crucifixion.  Perhaps more than any other material, coat hangers draw our attention to the simple fact that Christ hung on the cross.  His body was a human body: subject to gravity and the burden of its own weight.  On his naked body, Christ took upon himself the sin of the world — clothed himself in the darkness he came to redeem — so that those he came to save would be clothed in his righteousness.

David has already exhibited some work this year as part of his King James Bible project, but there will be more exhibits in the coming months.  For more information about where to see his work, and the project in general, visit David’s website.  Due to the particular nature of this project, it is quite possible that you will see more posts about it on Transpositions in the not too distant future.

Image Credits: Fair use is justified because the author is commenting on Mach’s particular sculpture and installation.

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