Robin Rhode: Through the Gate
“Through the Gate” was Robin Rhode’s first exhibition with the White Cube Gallery. This book was produced in conjunction with the exhibition. Britain’s imperial past provided the basis for a number of works in “Through the Gate”. Impis comprises a series of British police riot helmets rendered in coloured glass, which were placed in a “bull’s horn” formation in the centre of the gallery. The Zulu army used this method of encircling the enemy as a tactic against the British army in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, when the Zulu nation won independence from colonial rule. In his sculptural installation, Rhode inverts this, implying that the British have appropriated the strategy that led to their defeat. Likewise, in works such as Ghost Dog, Rhode alludes to pre-colonial artefacts acquired by the British. A companion piece to Impis, this sculpture features a two-headed dog inspired by Kozo, a carved wooden figure found in the Congo in the late nineteenth century and now housed at the British Museum, London. Rhode’s version shows a German Shepherd, a breed he chose for its associations with police brutality in South Africa during apartheid rule as well as referencing those used by Belgian colonisers to control the native population in the Congo. Rhode attempts to exorcise his childhood fear of these animals in Ghost Dog. Dozens of knives pierce the dog’s two-headed body, with one head snapping at the other in an absurd, circular motion. This circular, or reflexive, motion is a motif that Rhode employed throughout the exhibition.