Statue cast from bullet lead, Caen stone plinth
For East International, selected by Roy Arden and Peter Doig
King Edward VI School, Norwich, England
Jerusalem was a unique sculptural work positioned on the playing field of the
King Edward VI School by the River Wensum. The sculpture was a life-sized figure
of a military cadet based on a Norwich schoolboy, standing to attention and bearing
an SA80 assault rifle. We paid a local artisan to cast the figure using lead
from spent bullets which we gathered from the shooting galleries of the National
Rifle Association. Casting this figure may have suggested a relation between
the process of education and that of moulding; using lead referred to the toy
soldiers of another age, and related base metal to the intangible ideals of duty
The figure was displayed on a plinth of stone from Caen in Normandy, and inscribed by the monumental mason of Norwich Cathedral with the single word, Jerusalem. As the raw material of cathedrals and castles since the Norman conquest, Caen stone has long been imbued with symbolic authority from the feudal period in English history, when the power of Church and State were joined. During the Second World War, Caen was devastated by Allied bombing in the preparation for D-Day and the liberation of France. After the War, the city was rebuilt using the local stone.
Following the French Revolution, William Blake’s hymn ‘Jerusalem’ offered a visionary critique of militarism and empire-building, yet over time it has become a patriotic English anthem. The city of Jerusalem has for thousands of years been a sacred destination to pilgrims of three faiths, both fought over and cherished as a source of spiritual redemption. Set in the peaceful and quintessentially English scene of the public school grounds, the leaden figure of a boy soldier stood facing west in an open space of welltended turf, bounded by mature trees and crowned by the spire of Norwich Cathedral.
Associations between conduct on the playing field and on the battlefield have been given historic importance as enduring values in British national identity. Even today, these values relate to metaphoric connections between fighting for the conquest of evil and the defeat of an enemy.
'Among the oldest visions of man none is more persistent than the hope of returning one day to a half-remembered innocence. In loneliness he reaches back through emblems - an ikon, a statue or a city - seeking in them a new avenue to God, a fragment of his lost divinity.'
Colin Thubron, Jerusalem, London: Heinemann, 1969