No Home in this World Anymore: Dystopian Figures of Isaac Cordal

Rocky economies, wars, injustices and climate change threaten the world we call home. Can art do anything to help us?

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Cement Eclipses, Nantes, France.

When most people think of street art they think of graffiti, painted or stenciled images. Isaac Cordal‘s street art is sculptural. He makes figures from cement, which he calls Cement Eclipses, and deposits them in urban landscapes. Some of the figures are painted, some are not. They often depict businessmen or diplomats in suits with briefcases going about their daily lives. Often, as in the installation entitled Waiting for Climate Change at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, France, the natural world intrudes dramatically on this routine, revealing nature as a primary actor in life. Sometimes Cordal’s figures seem overwhelmed and sometimes they seem to be taking it out on each other.

This moving video is from installations in Málaga, Spain. The complex combinations of humor, irony, despair, even horror, are stunning.

The wonderful thing about Cordal’s art is that it is unexpected. He has installed Cement Eclipses in several cities, always provoking a great deal of attention, even when the characters appear at shoe height. Little people on the sidewalk, attached to buildings or hanging from barrier poles seem so vulnerable. We identify with their powerlessness. Seeing a tiny businessman submerged in a mud puddle brings up all too easily the difficulties of people who have plugged away at work for years, only to be taken down by economic downturns and corporate or national bankruptcy. The metaphor is striking and terrifying. When society fails, it leaves humans unprotected from the natural elements which it formerly insulated them against, including hunger, weather and the need to survive at all costs.

Cement Eclipses, Nantes.
Cement Eclipses, Nantes.

Cordal’s art reveals the desperate nature of the human rat race. Yes, he is critical of capitalism and the European Union, but all forms of government have these failings. More than that, he makes us want to stop and rescue those who are in trouble. Can we save the man about to jump from a building or cut down the man hanging from a pole by the side of the road? What happens if we ignore the suffering of others? These are cautionary images that force us to think about unhappy realities around us so that we can act before real people are hurt. Isaac Cordal’s art has a conscience and invites us to engage our own. It reminds me of an old Woody Guthrie song.

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Cement Eclipses, Nantes. Installation in a rabbit cage.

I ain’t got no home in this world anymore

I ain’t got no home, I’m just a-ramblin’ round
I’m just a wandrin’ worker, I roam from town to town.
The police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.
My brothers and my sisters are stranded on this road
A hot and dusty road that a million feet done trod;
Rich man took my home and drove me from my door
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.
Was a-farmin’ on the share, and always I was poor
My crops I laid into the banker’s store;
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.
Now as I look round, it’s mighty plain to see
The world is such a great and a funny place to be;
The gamblin’ man is rich and the workin’ man is poor
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

–Woody Guthrie

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Cement Eclipses, Nantes. Multiple rabbit cages.

All photographs © gildas_f with CCLicense.

8 thoughts on “No Home in this World Anymore: Dystopian Figures of Isaac Cordal

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      You are welcome! Glad you stopped by and thanks for following.

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