chapter  7
18 Pages

Bodies on the run

In 1953, the British sculptor Henry Moore began work on a piece entitled Warrior with Shield (Figure 7.1). The idea for it, he said, came from finding a pebble on the seashore that reminded him of the stump of a leg, amputated at the hip. First he added the body, leg and one arm, to make a reclining, wounded warrior. Then he added a shield, altering the pose to make a seated figure, with a head that – in his own words – ‘has a blunted and bull-like power but also a dumb animal acceptance and forbearance of pain’ (in James 1966: 250). A year later, under somewhat controversial circumstances, Moore’s Warrior was purchased by the Toronto Art Gallery. Subsequently, in the mid-1980s, an apparently quite unconnected event occurred. A new species of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) was accidentally introduced into Lake St Clair, on the US/Canadian border, by way of bilge water from one or more transoceanic trading ships originating from ports along the Black Sea. The species found the plankton-rich waters of Lake St Clair and the adjoining Lake Erie much to their liking, and multiplied rapidly. Within a few years they had colonised virtually every firm surface in Lake Erie, to a density of up to 70,000 mussels per square metre, and by 1992 they had already spread via Lake Michigan to the Mississippi basin. It was an intervention by the artist Simon Starling, in 2006, that forged a link between these two events. Starling created a full-scale replica of Moore’s Warrior in steel, and then had it submerged in the waters of Lake Ontario. It remained there, on the lake bottom, until early in 2008, when it was raised from the depths. The surface of the figure was encrusted all over with mussels. The work was subsequently exhibited, under the title Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), at Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery of Contemporary Art (Figure 7.2).1