siemon allen

index > project > artifacts
aids pin, arco, madrid, 2003

guns, arco, madrid, 2003

magazines, arco, madrid, 2003

Bible Stamp
stamp, arco, madrid, 2003

Cards ARCO
cards, arco, madrid, 2003

Cards EF
cards, arco, madrid, 2003

Cards ARCO
cards, arco, madrid, 2003

Cards ARCO
cards, arco, madrid, 2003

ARCO, 2003

Artifacts is an on going series of loosely associated collectables begun with a presentation of five unrelated pieces for the 2003 ARCO art fair in Madrid, Spain.

Each of the ARCO artifacts was accompanied by a short text (reprinted below) that I hoped would give the chosen found object some contextual significance with perhaps a sub-text—a story that was greater than it’s original intended purpose.

I was struck by how in many ways the artifacts operated as appropriated ‘art objects’, that is designed and crafted by other artists and hobbyists. Implicit was the unseen, unnamed author behind each work. For me these were not just found objects, but found art works.

Significantly, it was in the re-framing of these objects where their new content was revealed. I approached the political nature of the objects in a manner that appeared to be detached. My idea was to simply present this group of objects and allow for the rather oblique narrative thread to evolve.

In some ways these works were a continuation of investigations I had begun with my Stamp Collection and Newspapers installations. With these my central interest had been in the collection and display of politically loaded cultural artifacts with a special focus on propaganda. While both the Stamp Collection and the Newspapers were conceived each as singular comprehensive installations, the new body of work from the Artifacts series was looser and less homogenous. That is each of its parts could easily be displayed separately. In this respect this body of work referenced my earlier display case series at the ICA in Johannesburg in 1993. This exhibition included displays containing artifacts from my South African youth including: my Hardy Boys book collection, a pair of Doc Martens shoes, some playing cards from the board-game Clue, model aeroplanes, the first stamp collection and photos of my parents house being renovated.

For the exhibition at ARCO I presented:
1) a collection of 98 non-sports collectors cards called “Enduring Freedom”,
2) a pair of framed model guns (M-16/AK47),
3) a South African, beaded AIDS pin (AIDS Symbol with US flag),
4) two Time magazines, one dating from August 1945 the other from 2002,
5) a rare South African stamp called “The Word of God” issued in 1988.


“The Word of God”
Issued on November 19th, 1987 this South African stamp, titled “The Word of God” was one of four commemorating the Bible Society of South Africa. The stamp shows the name of God in Hebrew and in Greek on a blue background. Originally these stamps were supplied to various post offices in the Republic before the date of issue, but they were subsequently withdrawn in response to objections from the Jewish Community for whom the use of God’s name on a commercial product was considered blasphemous. Despite the Post Offices being instructed to withdraw the stamp, well over 1,500 copies were sold by smaller Post Offices over the counter. The remainder of these stamps are believed to have been officially destroyed in Pretoria. The stamp is extremely rare and despite having a slight crease, is highly collectible.

I purchased these at a small collectibles, antique shop in a suburb of Durban, South Africa. They are hand-made model guns made by an unknown craftsman. They were displayed together and likely constructed as a pair. One represents the Russian-made AK-47 rifle and the other its American counterpart, the M-16.

I bought this pin in Durban, South Africa, at an AIDS clinic where women with AIDS work to produce them. This Zulu beadwork pin is in many respects typical of what has become a common souvenir purchase of visitors to the Durban Beachfront —the site of the World AIDS Conference in 2000. Usually these pins depict the AIDS ribbon and sometimes the South African flag. This one was quite unusual in that it depicted the United States flag. South Africa has the highest AIDS rate in the world with one in four people infected.

While in a thrift store, I found an old set of Time magazines dating from the end of the Second World War (1945). I was particularly drawn to the abstract design of the August 20 issue, which stood apart from the other issues of the magazine from that period, which each featured a portrait of a newsworthy individual. Significantly the magazine details the Japanese surrender and the dawning of the Nuclear Age after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recently I was at the checkout counter in a food store and came across a Time Magazine with Osama Bin Laden on the cover. Although issued 57 years apart, I was struck by how similar the two were in design.

"Enduring Freedom"
I was doing some teaching in Baltimore, Maryland last year and a couple of my students showed me some cards that they had purchased from their local CVS pharmacy. The cards were manufactured by Topps Company, Inc, and they, like the sports-hero cards, are usually collected by kids. Some time later I searched various stores trying to find them again, but it seemed as if they had been sold-out or withdrawn. I eventually found this  set in a small store that specialized in card-collecting in Richmond, Virginia.

from notes by Siemon Allen, 2003

time, in process, richmond, 2007

Magazines (Time)
time, in process, richmond, 2007

time, in process, richmond, 2007

In America
in america, in process, richmond, 2007


In process, 2007

This year I have expanded the artifacts series with a number of additional associative collection pieces. These simple gestures attempt to address complex issues through the examination of various commercial design strategies employed to deliver information.

Time riffs off of the earlier Magazine (2003) piece, this time utilising all the actual Time magazines issued with a crossed out enemy. Retaining the same black, white and red design, the Bin Laden edition is also included but without the X. The project developed out of my inititial interest in the simple gesture of the crossed out Japanese sun. This magazine cover, when compared with all other previous editions, is significantly minimal and modern—an appropriate design guesture for the first week after the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Time can be seen in the 3rd edition of the publication: The Daily Constitutional.

In America consits of two copies of the same Tintin comic—one in English and the other in Arabic.



queen, in process, richmond, 2007

queen, in process, richmond, 2007


In process, 2007

Queen is a side project conceived primarily to keep my mind off of the epic Makeba! project. Basically it involves the soaking of thousands of Machin stamps (British Queen's head stamps named after the sculptor who designed it.) These were all amassed while living in South Africa and begun initially when my grandmother would tear them off of letters at her work place at the Durban Corporation and bring them home to me. There is no particular value in the stamps, but through time they have been printed in 32 dynamic colours.

My interest in the project lies in the fact that each stamp represents a single communication between the United Kingdom and South Africa. Although still in process, it is my aim to present not only the thousands of stamps in numerical order, but also the individual torn off pieces of the envelope.

Newspapers 911
newspapers, fusebox, washington, 2001

Newspapers 911
newspapers (chronicle), lab, ny, 2006


LAB Gallery, New York , 2006

In 2001, I constructed a knee-height display case for a number of newspapers. The piece was a precursor to the Post/Times version of Newspapers. It featured six papers published from different cities on the day of September 11th, 2001.

Because a paper only reflects the news of the previous day, no coverage of the events of 9/11 are shown. Rather these papers present an image of perhaps one of the last moments of the pre-9/11 mind-set. The piece was shown on September 22, 2001 at the inaugural exhibition of Fusebox in Washington.

Last year, I re-worked this piece. This time eight newspapers from the day of September 11th, 2001 are shown. The work was exhibited in Chronicle at the LAB Gallery in New York City in 2006.

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Newspapers 911
newspapers (chronicle), lab, ny, 2006

Queen Machin
machin stamp



ARCO 2003
booth curated by Lauri Firstenberg
Cards (Enduring Freedom)
February 13 - 18, 2003
Fusebox at ARCO, Madrid, Spain


curated by Milena Kalinovska
March 18 - April 29, 2006
G Fine Art, Washington, DC, USA

Newspapers (Chronicle)
three-person w/ Richard Roth & Royce Howes
curated by Richard Roth
March 16 - 25, 1996
LAB Gallery, New York, NY