Sculpture on Screen: The Very Impress of the Object

Exhibition, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal.


Until October 2, 2017
This exhibition explores the fascination that classical sculpture has held for large numbers of contemporary filmmakers and artists, a fascination which also reflects an apparent contradiction: why is it that contemporary artists working with moving images are so interested in the absolute immobility embodied in classical sculpture? How can one interpret this intriguing seduction? Seven international artists were invited to exhibit works on this theme. Produced in different parts of Europe, these works guide us through several museums, from the Louvre to the Capitoline Museums, from Paris to Rome, further afield in Athens, and including stops in Berlin, Munich and London.
In London, in 1855, a speaker was giving a lecture about the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Already able to show his audience impressive photographic slides of the sculpture over the Western Portal, the speaker suggested that the image was so truthful that it might be “the very impress of the object”. The notion that the object which is photographed literally leaves its impression on the film is an illusion, and yet the films in this exhibition get so close to sculpture that we almost feel its impress. Classical sculpture is no longer part of our curriculum and seems increasingly remote. And yet it is notably present in the work of contemporary artists, especially in film, and through film they bring it alive.
Sculpture’s very stillness, and its silence, seem to provoke the artist into using the moving image. These pieces explore the ways in which antique sculpture – whether complete or fragmented, on display or in the reserves, unique or in reproduction – is interesting for artists and can still evoke questions about art and power. Their works invite us to spend time with still objects, getting to know them better