The Artists book and print “Trajans Column” is based on parallels between Trajans campaign against the Dacians and the invasion of Iraq by the United States.
Andy studied the copy in the Victoria and Albert and found it an extraordinarily rich source of ideas. He was intrigued by the idea that Rome developed an artistic and architectural language that corresponded to its colonial expansionism.
Here he outlines some of the thinking behind the book,”We’re gonna unleash hell”The quote on the first page of the book is from a U.S Marine Sergeant prior to the recent assault on Falluja. It struck me as a particularly apt accompaniment to the narrative on Trajans column, it also reminded me of a quote from the beginning of the film “Gladiator” when the character played by Russell Crowe orders one of his subordinates to “unleash hell” on the ‘Barbarians’ they are trying to ‘pacify’’.
The composition of the main piece in the book obviously derives from the spiralling dynamic of the original. It also alludes to the Stars and stripes (upside down), the outcrop topped with a flag forming the part where the stars would normally be. The outcrop formed by a collograph of pennies alludes to two seminal images of America, the hoisting of the flag at Iwo Jima and the Space landing. The outcrop itself derives from a formal device used in numerous Renaissance paintings, best exemplified by the Bellini Agony in the garden in the National Gallery in London.The replacement of the figures of the conquering Romans and the defeated Dacians with ‘figures’ made of spent matches is an obvious reference to the disposability of military personnel but also sets up questions for the viewer about the reflexive desire to attribute human characteristics onto abstract forms.
Andy Parsons new book ‘Tacitus’ expands on the themes of Trajans column. It takes as its starting point descriptions by the Roman author Tacitus of the various campaigns undertaken in central Europe in the cause of the expansion and protection of the empire. the book picks up on description of events such as the cutting down of forest to provide wood for bridges and castles. The images conjured of the imposition of mans will over nature have particular contemporary resonance and add to the theme of colonial aggression our current very fraught relationship with the natural world.