Julian Schnabel, 1986
The prolific sculptor and writer Jimmie Durham left the United States in 1987, moving first to Mexico and then to Europe. Of his youth in a Native American community, he recalls: “Because I showed talent, I was trained to make things we used in ceremonies and also things to sell to tourists. So on the one hand I was participating in important parts of our culture, and on the other, I was participating in our degradation.” Here, Durham combines traditional materials (like linen) and supposedly “authentic” ones (like animal hide) with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), an industrial material used to make, among other things, water and sewer lines; this piece of pipe carries the brand name Apache. The sculpture looks almost utilitarian, yet any functionality remains mysterious—the open ends of the PVC pipe hinting at the capacity for or evacuation of content. This work thus simulates the ambiguity, indeed absurdity, of an ethnographic object extracted from its original context and isolated for display.