Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden. — Phaedrus
Presenting itself as a morally thought-provoking exhibition, the art works in ‘Snakes in the Grass’ carefully explore the social and religious values that inform our reading and understanding of taboos, transgressions and deceit. The exhibition, featuring a diverse range of artworks spanning over six centuries, aims to investigate complexities surrounding topics relating to morality, ethics and integrity. Actively seeking the blurred line between vice and virtue, the artists in ‘Snakes in the Grass’ not only challenge the viewer’s perception of values (whether they may be personal or collective) but also eagerly provoke conversations and reflections around the fluidity of cultural and societal norms and their evolution over time.
The exhibition’s evocative title ‘Snakes in the Grass’, a phrase first coined by Roman poet Virgil in 37 B.C. in his Eclogues as latet anguis in herba, suggests the presence of hidden dangers or deceptive elements. When Virgil first used the idiom, he used the metaphor of a snake in the grass to describe a treacherous character who betrays the protagonist in his epic masterpiece. Overtime, the idiom became widely used to refer to either a deceptive person or a concealed danger. Equally so, in the Christian tradition, Satan (in the guise of a serpent) instigated the fall of man by tricking Eve into breaking God’s command, thus making the serpent a symbol of temptation, the devil and deceit. Just like the antagonist in Virgil’s Eclogues and the serpent in the Adam and Eve story, the exhibited artworks play with notions of illusion and deceit and may unveil, upon closer look, a hidden danger or intention that might be lurking beyond the surface.
Artists: Tesfaye Urgessa, Anousha Payne, Iiu Susiraja, Justin Liam O'Brien, Rose Nestler, Shona McAndrew, Chris Oh, Jason Herr, Robert Gober, Viktor Mattsson