Dedicated to MY GRANDMA SZE MUI LEE
Created by KENNETH TIN-KIN HUNG
The exhibition consists of a 5 mins HD 1080p30 video and seven 40X72 inches digital prints on canvas.
“In G.O.D. We Trust” remixes the political and economical hardships Barrack Obama has to overcome within various religious contexts. In the series the 44th US president keeps reincarnating into seven various prophets, spiritual leaders and deities in order to heal the world, including Jesus Christ, Buddha, Elegua, Lady of Guadalupe, Krishna, Mohammad and Abraham. The series uses the pillar belief, remix the important stories and substitute the key elements of the religious texts with current political and economical climate. Rather than idolizing Obama, “In G.O.D. We Trust” examines the hope and changes the popular 44th US president promises to deliver and the obstacle along the way.
The title of the series appropriate the US national motto, but with a twist. “In G.O.D. We Trust” the word “GOD” is an abbreviation of “Global Obama Devotion”. Contrary to the artist previous works that criticize the manipulation of religions in politics, “In GOD We Trust” starts from the religious’ teaching and reinterpret the moral values with current affair. The result is a spiritual journey that even Atheist cannot deny it.
Every piece of graphical element contains meanings. The series is divided into seven major different scenarios, which include:
Based on “Stations of the Cross” or the “The Passion”, President Barack Obama as Jesus Christ the savior, dragging a huge dollar sign with a ball and chain money bomb attached to his arm and walking on Islamic tiles pattern. Behind him Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner attempts to stop the falling dominos with logos of Citigroup, AIG, Lehman Brothers and Freddie Mac. Meanwhile Lawrence Summers, the Director of National Economic Council is pushing a shopping cart with a box of “Ben Bernanke Credit Crunch” cereals while a downward stock index arrow is hitting his buttocks. Behind him is a strong hand squeezing money with a falling Jenga. On top of the collapsing Jenga is a falling house constructed with dollar bills, with a re-interpret Star Spangled Banner Flag as an Eye of Providence prison. The backdrop is a foreclosure sign with logos of Wamu, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch.
At the lower left corner Attorney General Eric Holder and Senior Advisor David Axelrod dress as characters from American Gothic, a painting by Grant Wood from 1930’s that initially caused protests in Iowa- one of the most important swing states in 2008 presidential election. In their hands is a “Recession Special” poster and another “Credit Crunch” cereal box.
In the background Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, dresses as the iconic WWII We Can Do It! poster by graphic artist J. Howard Miller, is holding a pink Chanel ‘Ligne Cambon’ handbag which the cross Chanel logo re-interpret as Credit Crunch. Next to her Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Tom Daschle, Head of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel are traveling on the Air Force One, flying over a nuclear reactor oozing out money.
In the center background sits Vice President Joe “the Amtrak” Biden, Obama campaign logo with wind turbine in it, a Bear symbolizes the stock market and the Flying Spaghetti Monster with a bag of cash.
Obama as Siddhartha Gautama dealing with global warming and renewable energy. The scene is loosely based on Shakyamuni’s first sermon at Deer Park, Northern India. Obama is holding a solar panel in his hand, set in motion the Wheel of Life (Bhavacakra) with an Earth inside it.
Divided into two panels, the left panel represents the renewable energy and the right panel represents the oil and coal industry. Elements in the “Clean” side include Stephen Chu as Vajrapani– the protector and guide of the Buddha using the wind turbine to fend off CO2, a Polar Bear with a bicycle on the cloud, a Shinto shrine and a Free Tibet flag. On the “Dark” side are Dick Cheney driving a Patriotic Hummer trying to attack Obama, polluted coal and nuclear plant, burning oil rigs and drills, gas pump on top of US military coffin, a deer with gas mask and a bird drench in black oil.
Obama being a re-construct Yoruba Orisha Trickster God Elegua/ Eshu, wearing a half red and half black Uncle Sam hat with number 3 on it. His left hand is holding a gigantic condom; his right hand is holding a waterborne disease filter device Lifestraw and a PermaNet mosquito net, both manufactured by Swiss company Vestergaard Frandsen. On his chest hang an Elegua altar with the 75,000 year old Nassarius shell beads from Blombos Cave, South Africa, as the eyes and mouth. The surrounding is filled with numerous HIV viruses and malaria infested mosquitoes.
He is combating malaria, aids epidemic and civil wars while trying to balance himself on a blood diamond at the center of a crossroad. On the crossroad lie the following elements: “Brown Brown”- a cocaine/ gun powder mixture and child soldiers with AK-47, Somali pirates; burning oil field; Zimbabwe $250 million dollar bill and three eggs with Robert Mugabe wanted poster; microloan organization KIVA logo; a lion, elephant and a rhino crying blood tear with a selling price sign of illegal poaching; Sudan IDP refugee camp; illustration of a African kid holding a Louis Vuitton bag from Simple Living; A kid inside a mosquito net from NothingButNets.net; a circa 1858 racist cartoon titles “The Man Who Won The Elephant At The Raffle” regarding General Godfrey Weitzel in New Orleans; A U.S. poster circa 1897 “The War in the Soudan.” depicting British and Mahdist armies in battle, produced to advertise a Barnum & Bailey circus show titled “The Mahdi, or, For the Victoria Cross.”
The background is composed of traditional Ghana Kente pattern and Kenya tribal pattern.
Obama as Our Lady of Guadalupe dealing with Mexico/US border issues including drug trafficking violence and illegal immigrant policy. He is holding a green bong that assembles the appearance of a gun. Behind him are Minuteman Project fundraising coins and fictitious North American Currency Union Amero coins. Next to him is a Day of the Dead skull musician standing on a huge Marijuana bud on top of $207 Millions cash seized from Zhenli Ye Gon’s house in Mexico City. Obama is standing on an American flag, protected by fences, border patrol camera towers, a “Mary Jane” National Park logo and a Minuteman with a Day of the Dead Sugar Skull mask. In front of the fence erects the Tijuana San Diego border death monument, a protest against Operation Guardian that caused over 3,000 Mexicans death.
In the Mexico side, Felipe Calderón disguised as Juan Diego wearing a Zapatista hat. Although he is kneeling down, he is holding a gas nozzle pointing towards Obama and wearing a logo of PEMEX. Behind him the leader of Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán dressed as “Narcos Libre” holding a M4-Carbine, standing on top of a huge pile of cocaine packages.
The desert background contains the following elements: “Weed’mas” trees, oil drills, border patrol mobile watchtower units, truck filled with packaged drugs, human skeletons, the Dramatic Prairie Dog and a flyer says “America is a Continent, Not a Country” on a cactus.
Based on chapter 11 of the Sanskrit Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, Obama reincarnate as Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu and depicts his Vishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna (an American Eagle) on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Obama’s numerous arms attempts to catch all the nuclear missiles from the world, including Ghauri nuclear missile from Pakistan, Agni III missile from India, Taepodong missile from North Korea, R-36/ SS-9 SCARP missile from Russia, Minuteman III from U.S.A., Trident II from UK, M45 SLBM from France and Dongfeng missile from China. He is wearing a button of United Nation IAEA, a Aids ribbon and the new redesign radioactive warning signs. Mutated fishes with three eyes and frog legs attack him.
With the beautiful scenery of the conflicted Kashmir region (Chitta Katha Lake in Shonter Valley of Azad Kashmir, Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh Monastery India) as backdrop, Obama takes all the nuclear weapons, then turn the Odharma wheel.
On the ground some barrel are spilling radioactive waste and a lamb born with five legs are standing in the toxic green spill. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is holding a oil lamp with Vladimir Putin as the Genie giant. Other elements include a found protest portrait of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with George W Bush, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from Iran and Benazir Bhutto’s shrine, Kim Jong Il, Ryugyong Hotel from North Korea with a huge Camel Spider climbing it and Taj Mahal and Fat Man gravity bomb.
Based on the Islamic story Isra and Mi’raj (Night Journey) from Qu’ran chapter 17, Obama as Muhammad is resting in Kaaba in Mecca with his body appropriate from Siyar-i Nabî. When the archangel Gabriel comes to him, and brings him the winged steed Hillary Clinton Buraq that wears the Iranian Pahlavi crown jewels and an Islam US flag. Together they travel from Mecca to Jerusalem and back. He is holding a “VETO” rubber stamp with United Nations logo on it.
During the journey they fly through different regions in the Middle East. Passed by elements include Bush Monkey dodging a shoe behind a podium with the name “Muhammad” in traditional Thuluth calligraphy by Ottoman calligrapher Hattat Aziz Efendi. Behind him is a Saddam Hussein/ Arafat marble memorial from Palestine, a White House logo with the Black Stone on top and the Burning Man. Next to it is a Hamas militant shooting a bazooka, Edward Said, United States of Islam dollar bill, Sling Shot boy character from the Under Siege PC game, protesters from Saudi Arabia and Palestine and a Peace Sign that the fingers got cut off, the Hira cave and a MeccaDonald’s sign.
When they arrive at Jerusalem they are greeted by Mickey Mouse George J. Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East. Being blocked by the Israel West Bank Barrier, which raises an Israel/ US hybrid Flag and have a “Caution Palestine” sign appropriating the illegal immigrant sign in US Southern border, a Yankees logo with a M-16 rifle on its wall and Banksy graffiti at the far back. The Dome of the Rock is heavily guarded by Israel IDF D9 “Teddy Bear” Armoured Bulldozers, Merkava Tanks and F16 fighter jets shooting GBU-28 “Bunker Buster”. Godfrey of Bouillon from the First Crusades is standing in the corner witnessing the whole thing.
All of this is happening with a backdrop composed of a Sefer Torah on the left and Qu’ran on the right.
After Mohammad got destroyed by Israel, Obama appeared as Abraham wearing the Obi-Wan Kenobi costume from Star Wars. His beard is appropriated from Michelangelo‘s “Creation of the Sun and Moon” at Sistine Chapel. He is attempting to slam the basketball hoop. The backboard of the basketball board is a world map, being supported by “Tower of Babel”, a painting by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder. St John Coltrane and the Flying Spaghetti Monster sit next to the tower with the new Freedom Tower behind them.
In front of the basketball hoop is the Western Wall in Temple Mount that have lots of surveillance camera installed. On the wailng wall consists of three murals- cartoon from Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper, showing Obama painting the White House black, Danish Jyllands-Posten controversial Muhammad cartoon and its internet counter response. Inside the wall stands selected details of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, a Sefer Torah, pies of skull from Apotheosis of War by Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin, Russian icon of Moses with Burning Bush, Adam and Eve painting playing guitar and tambourine, “Diamond Skull” by Damien Hirst on top of Jeff Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” sculpture, Banksy’s graffiti pigeon wearing a bulletproof vest, Shalom Salem Peace sign and the Ten Commandments stones. Outside the wall Hanukkah menorah as the gate blocking a protesting dove, Black Moses wearing a US peace sign head, WAR IS OVER poster by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a Hamas grandma holding a rocket launcher. The background contains a big 3d rendering of Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At the end Obama takes all the shit that happen, turn them into a basketball with peace sign and jumps over the Western Wall and slam dunk in the styles of Michael Jordan, and the peace basketball turns into doves flying out from the basketball net.