December exhibition 2018

The Western Lands

Uri Auerbach


Photo by Ellen Dahl

Photo by Ellen Dahl

Kim has never doubted the possibility of an afterlife or the existence of gods. In fact he intends to become a god, to shoot his way to immortality, to invent his way, to write his way. He has a number of patents: the Carsons spring knife, an extension of the spring blackjack principle; a cartridge in which the case becomes the projectile; an air gun in which air is compressed by a small powder charge; a magnetic gun in which propulsion is effected by compressing a reversed magnetic field.

"Whenever you use this bow I will be there," the Zen archery master tells his students. And he means there quite literally. He lives in his students and thus achieves a measure of immortality. And the immortality of a writer is to be taken literally. Whenever anyone reads his words the writer is there. He lives in his readers. So every time someone neatly guts his opponent with my spring knife or slices off two heads with one swipe of my spring sword, I am there to drink the blood and smell the fresh entrails as they slop out with a divine squishy sound. I am there when the case bullet thuds home-right in the stomach ... what a lovely grunt! And my saga will shine in the eyes of adolescents squinting through gunsmoke. 

Kapow! Kapow! Kapow!

Kim considers that immortality is the only goal worth striving for. He knows that it isn't something you just automatically get for believing some nonsense or other like Christianity or Islam. It is something you have to work and fight for, like everything else in this life or another.

The most arbitrary, precarious, and bureaucratic immortality blueprint was drafted by the ancient Egyptians. First you had to get yourself mummified, and that was very expensive, making immortality a monopoly of the truly rich. Then your continued immortality in the Western Lands was entirely dependent on the continued existence of your mummy. That is why they had their mummies guarded by demons and hid good.


Here is plain G.I. Horus.... He's got enough baraka to survive his first physical death. He won't get far. He's got no mummy, he's got no names, he's got nothing. What happens to a bum like that, a nameless, mummyless asshole? Why, demons will swarm all over him at the first checkpoint. He will be dismembered and thrown into a flaming pit, where his soul will be utterly consumed and destroyed forever. While others, with sound mummies and the right names to drop in the right places, sail through to the Western Lands.


There are of course those who just barely squeeze through. Their mummies are not in a good sound condition. These second-class souls are relegated to third-rate transient hotels just beyond the last checkpoint, where they can smell the charnel-house disposal ovens from their skimpy balconies. "You see that sign?" the bartender snarls.


"Might as well face facts ... my mummy is going downhill. Cheap job to begin with ... gawd, maggots is crawling all over it ... the way that demon guard sniffed at me this morning. . . Transient hotels ... And here you are in your luxury condo, deep in the Western Lands ... you got no security. Some disgruntled former employee sneaks into your tomb and throws acid on your mummy. Or sloshes gasoline all over it and burns the shit out of it. "OH ... someone is fucking with my mummy..."

Mummies are sitting ducks. No matter who you are, what can happen to your mummy is a pharaoh's nightmare: the dreaded mummy bashers and grave robbers, scavengers, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes. Perhaps a mummy's best friend is an Egyptologist: sealed in a glass case, kept at a constant temperature ... but your mummy isn't even safe in a museum. Air-raid sirens, it's the blitz! "For Ra's sake, get us into the vaults," scream the mummies, without a throat, without a tongue.

Anybody buy in on a deal like that should have his mummy examined.



­– William S Burroughs: “The Place of Dead Roads”


This installation is a revision of the work Qoheleth, which was presented in Melbourne in 2017. Its title and concept inspired by William Burroughs’ novel of the same name, in which he describes humanity’s futile quest for immortality. I see the desire for immortality as an expression of certain ideas about identity (stability, continuity over time, historical narratives), and concurrently a refusal to deal with the fact that all these concepts are merely illusions. I am interested in narratives that seek to destabilise, critique and complicate ideas of identity; artists and writers who recognise that the only thing certain is continuous flux and an existence contingent on an ever changing cultural context. 


Image credit: Uri Auerbach: Qoheleth, 2017