John the Battler—Compassion is the first Victim of Fear 2009
The title John the Battler is an Australian word play on John the Baptist. It refers to downtrodden Aussie battlers, salt of the earth workers. The admixture of references makes for a humorous reading of an otherwise tragic occurrence in the biblical narrative. John was said to have been decapitated by Herod at the capricious request of Salome, his head being served to her on a platter. Salome’s demand for John’s head is based on her thwarted desire for him, as in “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (Congreve). I have mounted John’s severed head on a white cube of ice, an ice block that is ironically a lamp capable of exuding light and heat. Beneath his head is a pool of blood made from a shaped piece of red Perspex which gives off a strong sanguine radiance when the lamp is on. John’s head is made of a hatter’s wooden block which has a contemporary hairdo constructed from an old discarded and much abused black haired paint brush surmounted by a smaller white basting brush. His dark complexion could perhaps suggest Southern (USA) Baptist roots and this is enhanced by the groovy pink-templed spectacles. John, like his much esteemed cousin Jesus,would have been a Sephardic or dark skinned Semitic Jew. The elaborate wooden plinth creates an appropriate and respectful platform for the block on which rests the head. On either side of the ice block/lamp are the alternative Red Cross and Red Crescent insignia emphasising a callous disregard for human dignity in the biblical tale and a general lack of compassion for fellow beings. The Red Crescent here refers to the innumerable Jihadi suicide martyrs of contemporary times.
Within the narrative John, like his esteemed cousin had to seek the path of martyrdom to add the final gravitas to their cause. Now perhaps the martyrdom of john relates more to the political policies of economic rationalism. The severed head is kept both cool on a large block of ice and simultaneously hot from the light which illuminates the surroundings and highlights the spreading pool of the martyr’s blood.