Wangechi Mutu b. 1972
Cutting (2004)

Cutting (2004) really came out of an intense frustration; I was in a moment when I found myself geographically out of my comfort zone. I had left Kenya and had moved from New York to San Antonio, Texas, for an artist residency at Artpace. It was the middle of the Bush era, and I remember looking at Texas and thinking, “This is the source of a lot of these issues that are coming out of this leadership.” After a few weeks of research and thinking, “Why am I here, how do I inspire myself in a place that gives me nightmares?” I decided that this issue was universal. The lack of humanity, this refusal to address issues through diplomacy, through regarding the problem, rather than just jumping into war without thinking or pausing. I thought: What is it about me that could possibly be like this issue? Instead of pointing the finger, how about I decide to be the perpetrator? When I enacted this cutting piece I was thinking about Rwanda, about women’s work and the connection and confusion between the weapon and the farmer’s tool, especially in Africa and Rwanda, where there were hardly any guns used — mainly machetes, knives, pangas and clubs. It was such a personal massacre and was so close to home, and I wondered what would turn people to do this kind of thing? It said to me: First, this kind of thing could happen anywhere. Secondly, it is easy for you to want to be in the position of the killer, of the persecutor. Cutting came easy for me. I was trying to cut a pile of wood and the sun was setting and so we were tackling this issue of time and light and sound. I was getting very tired and exhausted, and the image I captured for cutting, which was a six-minute piece, was the very end, where the pure exhaustion had gotten me and my knife got caught in a piece of wood. What happens for me in collage is I am able to separate myself and sort of mediate through the process of thinking about these issues that are important to me — issues of beauty, violence, politics, spirituality, etc.