It should be “flogging a dead horse” but since I cast the word of this artwork in stone, I named it STONING A DEAD HORSE. The dead horse is from the Latin equus – ‘horse’ and since Latin is generally considered to be a dead language, equus is indeed a ‘dead horse’. In the outmost northern Alaska, as far north as is humanly possible, there is actually a forsaken little town called Deadhorse. Like my paperwork, it is a subtle white relief on the otherwise flat white snow of the arctic landscape. It is as forgotten as the Latin equus and to try and find some sense of entertainment or human interaction in Deadhorse is very much like ‘stoning a dead horse’.
Making sure irksome ideas and people considered to be dead, remain dead, is often a theme or indulgence in literature. In the Greek tragedy Antigone (Sophocles c. 497 BC – c. 406 BC), a blind seer protests: “Nay, allow the claim of the dead; stab not the fallen; what prowess is it to slay the slain anew?” Poet and literary critic John Dryden (1631-1700) pays tribute to this piece of Greek theatre by using it in the sense of ‘useless labour’: “thrice to slay the slain” (Alexander's Feast – 1697) English poet Edward Young (1681-1765) was equally fascinated by the sense of overkill: “While snarlers strive with proud but fruitless pain – To wound immortals, or to slay the slain.”
Although the meaning of ‘flogging’ has been adjusted to ‘stoning’ in my artwork, the intrinsic meaning is still the same. The pessimist argues that life is futile, a waste of time – ‘stoning a dead horse’ – a village, so remote it defies habitation.