Tragedy of the Rainbow Warriors (after Jannis Kounellis and Francois Pienaar)

Chip packets, side table, brass bowl, Lay’s Lightly Salted chips, shelf, mobile phone, charger, plug
311 x 322 x 80cm

A remake of Jannis Kounellis’ Tragedia Civile (1975), inspired by the front page and headline of South African newspaper, The Sunday Independent, on 25 Jun. 1995.

Instead of Kounellis’ gold leaf and coat rack with overcoat and hat, a bowl of Lay’s Lightly Salted is placed on offer in front of a wall covered in flattened chip packets (of the same). On a shelf, a mobile phone is on charge, noisily receiving an almost constant stream of news updates.

Matthew Freemantle, on Tragedy of the Rainbow Warriors:

“Perhaps the crowning piece of the show is another remake, this time a riff on the 'Tragedia Civile' by Jannis Kounellis. Lawrence uses Lay’s crisp packets where Kounellis used gold leaf to festoon a wall signifying the accomplishments of the past. Lawrence replaces the original’s hook, hat and overcoat with a bowl of Lay’s lightly salted crisps lying on the table for consumption, while a mobile phone lies charging on the shelf instead of a paraffin lamp. This self-administering of communion, a modern offering of no substance in an age of cheap imitation and distraction, wonders at the depth of our dubious relationship with conveyors of meaning.

But accomplishment implies some measure of success and finality, and we know how Lawrence feels about those things. His title for the installation, Tragedy of the Rainbow Warriors, mashes up the original with a newspaper headline marking a supposedly seminal moment in recent South African history.  Nelson Mandela, dressed in a Springbok jersey, hands captain Francois Pienaar the 1995 Rugby World Cup trophy. Here is a moment that aimed to tell us something had ended. But was this the end—or the beginning—of anything?

Clearly, Lawrence detects a kind of idiocy in viewing this or any moment as a conclusion or resolution. “We were supposed to feel like something had been solved. We were offered absolution from our sins, cheap closure in a flash. The truth was something a lot less certain.”

Lawrence doesn’t miss this opportunity for another witticism. Noting that we lay our crisps onto our tongues like communion wafers, he nominates a Western brand as our priest. As Apartheid ended and sanctions were lifted, we South Africans were rewarded with a deluge of attractive but empty gifts from the West. The Gods were good to us”