Dear President Biden,
I’m rarely moved to dive into a verbal description of a piece of art, but something featured on Colossal right now has really grabbed me so I’m going to tell you about it.
The piece is by a Berlin artist who goes by Pejac and it is called “The Boss.” I’m including a link to a YouTube video of the piece here. Don’t worry, it’s only a minute and some change long, but after poking around online to find sites where one can zoom in on the details, this seems to be the best option available.
Ok, so while I really, really want you to check out the actual artwork I am going to do my best to describe it with words.
On the technical side, Pejac says that it is a single color (black) hand pulled photopolymer print – limited edition of 40 copies on Korean Kozo (mulberry, tea colored) handmade paper mounted on cotton rag paper. I don’t actually know what a photopolymer print is or have the foggiest idea how to make one, but in case you have a clue, I figured I should include that detail.
With regard to the image itself, remember it is called “The Boss” and then do your best not to conjure images of Bruce Springsteen because it’s definitely not a picture of him. Rather, it’s an incredibly detailed image of a middle- to older-aged White man in profile. He has a full head of hair and is wearing a comfy, but expensive looking suit, very nice lace up shoes, and a rather too-thick black tie. He’s standing toward the left side of the paper, a tiny bit hunched over with his hands in his pockets and looking down in front of himself. This is all kind of ‘ho-hum’ sounding – White boss guy in a nice suit with his hands in his pockets – yawn.
What makes the piece so damn compelling is that the shadow extending out from the man’s shoes is comprised of hundreds of teeny, tiny people. From a distance they look like so many smudgy charcoal bits, but when you zoom up close, you can see that they are little, bitty individual people. Not all of them are arranged inside The Boss’s shadow lines – a few are scattered about outside and I’d like to think that it’s not just to kick up the aesthetic interest.
Part of why I wanted to find a way to get a closer view of the whole thing is that the man’s mouth and eye are shaded so his expression is inscrutable. Well, in the video, the camera does pan up to his head and it’s then possible to see that his eye (only one is facing the viewer) is open and that his mouth seems to be in more of a slight smile than anything else, though it’s still really hard to make out. So, from what I can gather we’ve got this ginormous White Man Boss figure looming over what are presumably his workers with a slight beneficent-ish smile on his face and his hands (at least the one facing the viewer) firmly in his pockets.
When I first saw the piece, I wished that The Boss had his head up looking out into the distance and not down at the tiny workers – like he was nonchalantly looking past them as though they were incidental. Now, though, I actually think it’s more effective that The Boss is gazing down upon his minions. And the fact that he is gazing down at them (eye open, remember) doesn’t at all mitigate the tension and the inherent threat that if he were to move either of his feet six inches, he’d crush 100 people.
An unexpected bonus of seeing the video is that it zooms in on the little people and one gets to see that they all have shadows too and whether they’re facing The Boss or have their backs to him (it’s hard to tell), the effect is that they appear to be kneeling. It’s actually pretty disturbing. I don’t know if the kneeling bit was intentional (I bet it was), but the God/subject bullshit this conjures was quite visceral for me.
May we all be safe.
May we all be willing to organize around workers’ rights and dignity.
May we have the strength to re-imagine and re-configure work power dynamics.
May we no longer accept the larger than life boss figures who have way too much power and control.
p.s., I’m not going to say anything concrete about it, but you should also check out Pejac’s piece entitled “Meadow” here — it’s really something.