Matthew Benedict at Alexander and Bonin

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Matthew Benedict The Children's Hall 2002-2005 diptych: plastic weaponry, chicken wire, brocade trim, enamel and latex paint on 2 wood panels overall 84" x 98" x 5" [installation view]


No, this isn't something you'll find in an armorial hall or the basement recereation room of that weird guy down the street who never talks to anyone, this is an art installation composed of plastic toys freely available and in fact actively hawked to children everywhere in America.

Think about it.


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The Children's Hall [detail]


I missed Matthew Benedict's recent show at Alexander and Bonin, but I saw this exciting piece on an upper floor yesterday. I've been haunted by the informed imagery of the artist's paintings for years, and Benedict's sculptures continue to provoke the mind and the eye.

"It is true that capital is the cause of every war.

But the guilt of war rests on our shoulders.

It is we proletarians that make the conduct of war possible; it is for us likewise to prevent wars!

Refuse to serve!

Bring up your children so that they may later refuse to render military and war service!

How very many lightly overlook the fact that in one's own home in the family, war is being spontaneously prepared!

And here lies the beginning of all evils, here lies the beginning also of war!

The mother that sings soldier songs to the baby on her lap, prepares for war, yes, she prepares for war!

The father that makes gifts of toy soldiers to his child mobilises the child for the war idea!

The toy soldier is the Judas that you yourself bring into the home, is the betrayal of human life! Remember always this one thing: -

The little helmet made of paper will one day be a steel helmet on the head of a murderer! And if the child has once practised with his air-gun, how natural it is that he should in later years shoot with a rifle!

The little sabre carved of wood will some day become the battle-sword that pierces the body of a human being!

Ye parents that do not wish that your sons should murder the dear sons of other parents, you should remember that the child whom you present with a helmet and sabre and gun, plays his tender soul to death out of his young body.

Those children, however, who are educated in love and solidarity, and are brought up to respect unconditionally the inviolable sanctity of human life, these children will most certainly be unfit for arms and war-service.

We, opponents of military service must finally destroy the halo and the humbug, and tear down the gaudy tinsel of the soldiery, and we must speak out what then still remains to be said:

a professional murderer paid by the state, who is trained in murder schools (called barracks) privileged by the state, in the carrying out of the most gruesome of crimes, the murder of human beings! That is what the children should be told!

Then indeed will the young girl, destined by nature to reproduce and protect life, be disgusted to flirt with the soldiers - her natural enemies - "the pimps of death".

And the boy will later refuse to wear the uniform because he knows: It is a murderer's cloak!

It is with such clearness and precision that you must think and also act, if you wish to nip the evil in the bud! And, should war nevertheless break out, then proceed consistently and unhesitatingly to THE WAR AGAINST WAR!"
ERNST FRIEDRICH End of July, 1924