Object: United Enemies I 2011 by Thomas Schütte
Location: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, NY
The ‘legal object’ United Enemies, which consists of two pairs of bronze statues, is physically displayed in different locations, forming part of various exhibitions and related contexts. I first came across these two sets of statues outside Serpentine Gallery, a November afternoon of 2012: two bronze statues, almost 13 feet high would capture the attention of bystanders at Hyde Park. However, ‘United Enemies’ has been displayed both outdoors [Central Park, New York, Turin (Castello di Rivoli), London (outside Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park), Zurich (Fondation Beyeler), Berlin (Bettina Berggruen Garden Berggruen Museum), Bonn (outside Skulpturenhalle), and indoors, (Modeerna Museet, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm), to name but a few locations.
My current research question examines how and on what basis internal self-determination language and rhetoric is use in intrastate peace agreements. it develops an international legal framework for understanding and assessing the benefits and limitations of the use of such techniques to bring former warring parties to share power within existing states, as a means of establishing peace. Though peace agreements tend to be unpopular legal compromises, often failing within the first five years of their implementation, they are often put forward as a realistic way of rebuilding stable non-genocidal human rights observant states. Former warring parties (enemies), which have either lost the control over a state’s territory, or the monopoly over the means of violence, or their legitimacy to govern, in instances of stalemate, agree to give up fighting in exchange for their participation in the transitional governing of the state, during which, a state’s internal power structures are reconfigured using international legal standards.
Those two sets of human-esque figures fastened to one another with tight rope, barely standing on three pegs, on the verge of collapsing to the ground could be said to personify the central object and purpose of those peace agreements. At the same time, they illustrate their effect on the immediate parties that sign up to such pacts. They (the united enemies) can only stand together, otherwise they would fall apart, still they do seem very grim and dissatisfied, still they seem to be searching for a way out of this ‘sealed with the rope’ alliance. In fact, taking a closer look, their faces are not just annoyed, but also disfigured, as if their joining together has brought about this distortion, one might even say mutation to their own faces. I must admit that every time I tried to visualise the application of self-determination to African peace agreements, I would think of Schütte’s ‘United Enemies 2011’.
More specifically, the use of this legal object can be summarised as follows. The research question is answered through the study of a considerable number of texts of intrastate peace agreements, which are the primary materials used to deduct more generalised conclusions situated within an international legal framework of analysis. In this process, other artefacts, such as images and other visual evidence of the making of the inspected documents can support the research. However, the use of this single object has a different function. It helps in the process of moving from the individual examples to more general findings and observations. Therefore, it constitutes a visual aid in the conceptualisation of the research, and a constant reminder of the key themes of the research. It can also serve as a visual analogy for introducing the research findings to a more general audience, thus assisting with engaging and making dissemination more.
Since, the object is used to visualise the conceptualisation of research findings and to illustrate related conclusions, it goes without saying that it is dependent on the author’s own methodological assumptions and the context of the research it aims to support.