All the King’s Men is the centerpiece of Fiona Hall’s installation work and one of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s most significant acquisitions.
All the King’s Men is the centerpiece of Fiona Hall’s installation work Wrong Way Time that was exhibited in the Australian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Recently acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia, All the King’s Men is one of the gallery’s most significant acquisitions to date. The work is comprised of 20 human-sized heads installed so they are free-hanging. The heads are made from knitted camouflage garments from different militaries of nations currently involved in conflicts in different parts of the world: Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Germany, Estonia, France and Italy. Some of the heads are figurative while others are disfigured with missing or distorted features and include other elements like teeth, bones, horns, dice and glass. “There are materials that are discarded remnants from another life,” Hall says. “The way they are used in each of the heads is very purposefully selected for each piece.” All the King’s Men reflects the current state of play in terms of global conflicts, world finances and the environment. The title for the exhibition comes from the line in the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and references the fact that it’s not the king who goes and fights the battle but the foot soldiers who go on his behalf, with the heads representing these fallen soldiers. All the King’s Men also highlights the complexity of military garments. Many of the patterns are repeated but with different permutations and countries regularly redesign them to keep enemies on their toes. While Hall has used some of these garments in ways that make it difficult to recognise which nation they belong to, it’s often easy to recognise the pattern of your own country. “Many of the patterns are quite abstract and don’t carry much conceptual weight particularly if you don’t know what war they belong to but that reflects the modern nature of conflict,” she says. “If you look at current conflicts, like the one in the Middle East, there are a confusing number of militaries involved.” With very little changing on the world stage since Hall made the work, it is just as relevant today as when it was first exhibited in 2015. “The work is essentially about the endless conflicts that the world seems to perpetually undergo,” she says. “With the state of play that has happened post making the work, things are not changing for the better.” Photo credit: Fiona Hall, All the King’s men, 2014 15, Adelaide, knitted military uniforms, wire, bone, horns, teeth, dice, glass and mixed media, (dimensions variable); Gift of Candy Bennett and Edwina Lehmann, Dr Peter and Sandra Dobson, David and Pam McKee, Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant, John Phillips, and Tracey and Michael Whiting through the Art Gallery of South Australia Contemporary Collectors through the Fiona Hall Appeal 2015-16, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. Photo Clayton Glen.