Age-old binaries by Alessia Belsito-Riera
Artist Sam Clague is not sure what compels him to explore oppressive economic and social practices through art, “maybe some inherent morbidity or wounded sense of justice”. As a youth he recalls that he would appal himself daily on the internet with the state of the world, wanting to know why. Inspired by the “coexistence of the strange cohabitation of great beauty and sorrow in our affairs”, he seeks to “convey the paradox”.
Now he presents Under Heaven’s Heel at Toi Pōneke until the 21st of April, choosing the German Peasants War of 1524-25 as a touchstone because it “draws attention to the class antagonisms at the centre of our global capitalist history, an important thing to keep in mind should we hope for a more equitable collective future”.
Clague delves into the origins of our global political landscape, drawing on historical events, artwork, and symbols to dissect the age-old conflict between the powerful and the oppressed. Though looking to the past, he finds it remains relevant today. Injustice, inequality, the tension caused from power, classism, and systemic oppression are some of the subjects he speaks to in Under Heaven’s Heel.
“I have always had a deep interest in the power relations between the ruling classes and their subjects. My journey to understand the predicaments of today have gradually led me further into the history of capitalism”, Clague explains. “Although buried almost half a millennium deep, the events comprising [the German Peasant] war mirror with surprising clarity the inequities of the here and now.”