Slaughter of the Innocents
The sinister and the malign are directly represented in Bessie Harvey's Slaughter of the Innocents. The pyramidal shape of Slaughter is created by a stack of human bodies, piled up and impaled, or seeming speared, by a central obelisk. A scene of apparent ritual sacrifice confronts the viewer: a scene made all too vivid by the blood-drenched yellow obelisk piercing the stack of pitch-black bodies. In fact, multiple contexts of human viciousness are reprised by this work. For example, the exploitation of slave labor (the innumerable bodies expended to build civilizations like our own or, indeed, to build monuments like the Pyramids), the myriad victims of ritual sacrifice generated by archaic religions, the genocidal fury of mobs and tyrants, the rationalized massacres of holy-war and of "just-war" statecraft, and finally the most ordinary human brutality, manifested in feuding, in scapegoating, in countless persecutions: all slaughters are represented here.