Anish Kapoor, Svayambhu, 2007

Created in 2007 by the London-based artist, Anish Kapoor, the work Svayambhu takes it’s name from the Sanskrit word meaning self-generated or auto generated. The piece itself is a large piece of red wax laid on a track that moved through 5 different rooms at the Haus der Kunst in Munich. As the wax slowly moved from room to room it left behind it a trail of wax, both on the floor and on the doorways it passes through.

This red trail is reminiscent of blood and calls to attention global conflict, more specifically persecution of those of the Jewish faith, a common theme in Kapoor’s works. The work relates to Bennett’s thoughts on moral principles.[1] Although in the piece the damage is being done by inorganic bodies both by the wax, in the case of the Haus der Kunst walls and floors, and to the wax, in the way in which the wax is worn down by the process of sliding across and through the space it is representative of the damage done to the organic bodies of those affected by conflict.

The piece was especially poignant in this space since the museum was opened as the first monumental propaganda building of the Third Reich and when it opened its doors to the public in 1937 its first exhibit was a show of Nazi-sanctioned art. The piece was later installed in several other museums throughout Europe including the Royal Academy in London. 

Overall the piece speaks to a multiplicity of meaning. Kapoor’s use of an auto-generated machine to depict human suffering voices both the past generations of violence but also toward the generations to come that will surely suffer similar is humanity remains on the same track. 


Link to Anish Kappor's website:

[1] For more on Bennett’s ideas on moral principles read her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things which was published by Duke University in 2010.