Past Inspired Sculpture 8

Prehistory and public art

frequently entangle.

Monumental forms

referencing deep

time of places,

expressions of

hoped for

futures,  accrete.

 

Menhirs of Peace

On a coastal headland,

aggregation of ancient sites

Trilathon Inspired

Evoking trialothonic brutalisms of Stonehenge dreams

Glacian Menhirs

Gathering granite, megalithic family forms

Modern Megaliths

Pierced, broken and reassembled

Time Depth

Providing glimpses of distant futures.

 


Menhirs for Peace is by Galician Sculptor Manolo Paz.

It can be found in A Coruña, Galicia and is located in the landscape around  The Tower of Hercules World Heritage Site.

It is situated on a headland, with ancient rock art on the outcropping bedrock, which has been washed by waves and sea spray for millennia.

Tower of Hercules

 

For other examples of Past Inspired Sculpture please see:

Past Inspired Sculpture 7

Past Inspired Sculpture 6

Past Inspired Sculpture 5

Past Inspired Sculpture 4

Past Inspired Sculpture 3

Past Inspired Sculpture 2

Past Inspired Sculpture 1

Advertisements

Contemporary Prehistories – the Santiago Pilgrimage

Inexorably, flowing lines led me to the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC).

As I explored the CGAC collection, synapses sensitized to entanglements with a deeper past, I encountered a few pieces by artists who are clearly informed by their relationship to the ‘archaeological’ which I hope you may find of interest:

Paisaxe con ósoPaisaxe con óso by Galician photographer Manuel Vilariño

In the tryptich by Manuel Vilariño, the landscape with bones is a series of pipe joints and a human femur.  Understated tone and texture make it at first difficult to immediately distinguish the artefactual from the skeletal. Yet the unique qualities of bone, emphasized by the composition, evoke a subconscious understanding that something is wrong in the landscape : fragmentary and disjointed  : something of our humanity is present amongst the detritus of industry which we bear witness to.

Atrabilarios I, II, IIIAtrabilarios IIAtrabilarios I, II, III by Columbian sculptor Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo’s powerfully haunting piece presences a series of ghost like shoes.  A vellum is stitched, in an operation to seal women’s shoes : captured in an organic vitrine.  A state of being, leaving them out of focus, unresolved, trapped in the timelessness of the gallery.

Estudio para De CapoEstudio para Da Capo

by Francesc Torres

Power Contested

 Power Contested (Three Graces In Unstable Equilibrium)

by Francesc Torres

The pieces by Francesc Torres have incorporated a Venus figurine (a c 25 – 30 thousand years old ‘art’ form).  Not just any Venus figurine, however, as it would appear to be (so distinctive as many are) representations of the Willendorf figurine from Austria.  In one piece, Estudio para Da Capo, the image is drawn on text printed : text printed twice so one set is partially superimposed over the other (palimpsest like !) but having rotated the paper first, one set of text appears upside down and running right to left (confounding our attempts to read meanings).  In the other piece, Power Contested (Three Graces In Unstable Equilibrium), three Bronze replicas cluster together (evoking Neoclassical summonings of the daughters of gods) upon a racing tyre.  Ancient forms, seemingly stable, a deep rooted source of inspiration and appropriation of the female form.  Yet resting on high speed modernity, vulnerable to falling…

*                                                                    *                                                                   *

The pieces I have highlighted in the CGAC collection variously engaged with the archaeological (the human bone within Vilariño’s piece, the shoes within the pieces by Salcedo) or explicitly evoked prehistoric remains in their work (the Venus Figurines appropriated by Torres).

But the expression, contemporary prehistories, could as much relate a particular kind of experience of visiting a gallery space (when undertaken without referring to catalogues or labels).  The mediation of meanings (either intended or unintended) through these materialisations has much in kind with (as a prehistorian) the first encounter with an object from the distant past.  There is no other voice of testimony, no text to read, it is a raw, exposed state of response ‘to the things themselves’.  We then reflect from other frames of reference, from our experience, from our knowledge, and develop a sense of, an understanding, an interpretation of…. …. …. …. …. …. …..?

What such gallery pieces express is an ongoing dialogue which partially reveals, not a text which delivers authoritative meaning.

Perhaps contemporary prehistories are practices by which we remember the forgotten, by presencing in ways which do not privilege text, and are contingent and open to dialogue and reflection.

Such pieces perhaps challenge the authority of those who would choose we forget.

The conversation with the past should not be forgotten.

———————————————————————————————————————–
I have highlighted the pieces by Manuel Vilariño, Doris Salcedo and Francesc Torres but there were also several other works by artists in CGAC whose relationship to the ‘archaeological’ is perhaps better known, this included an aerial photographic piece by Andreas Gursky ‘Thebes, West’ and an installation by Mark Dion ‘Boxes of the Paleontologist’. 
Only when I returned from the Santiago Pilgrimage did I try and find out more about Doris Salcedo’s sculpture and was not surprised to learn that there is a powerful ‘back story‘ to the piece and of the practices of Salcedo more broadly.  In Andreas Huyssen’s excellent essay on Doris Salcedo’s piece ‘Unland: The Orphan’s Tunic’ he evocatively describes her works as Memory Sculpture. To be found in ‘Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory’.
Equally the work of  Francesc Torres, from Barcelona, has a deeply political dimension around memory and forgetting.  Another project he was involved in comprised a photographic piece responding to the exhumation of a mass grave with a forensic anthropology team at Villamayor de los Montes and was entitled ‘Dark Is the Room Where We Sleep‘. 
A good account of the changing inter-relationships between artists and the prehistoric can be found in ‘Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory’ by Lucy R Lippard
 

Flowing Lines – the Santiago Pilgrimage

A few weeks ago, I found myself traveling to Santiago De Compostela, Galicia.  A journey along lines which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims before me will have made over the centuries.  For most an act of faith, along the Way of St James, leading them to the great cathedral overlooking Praza do Obradoiro.  Faced with limited time, my dilemma was, do I experience the ecclesiastical riches that this World Heritage Site has to offer or do I seek contemporary intersections between heritage, landscape and creativity.

Some cities reveal a creative pulse as you arrive on their outskirts, the first indications of life can often be tagging and stickers, as you travel further in you may encounter murals and other street art, which then blends and blurs with public art in the heart of the city.  In the short time I had spent in Santiago De Compostela there was already enough signs of playful creativity…

Dali's PeekEmbelishmentThus I found myself outside the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC) before it opened, and to fill a few minutes began to explore a park adjacent to it.  I soon encountered a large piece by Basque Sculptor Eduardo Chillida, Porta da Música: it is said there is a peculiar sound when the wind blows against it !

Porta da MúsicaInevitably, I was drawn to the ruins of a building,

Wash House ?which appeared to be a wash house,

Flowingand then I began to weave and flow up hill.

Past another ruined building,

A Number of Ruinsthe floor of which the stone slabs had been inscribed with numerous numbers.

Numerous NumbersWhether these stones were an artistic intervention, interpretative device or integral to the work of Medieval numerologist was not revealed.

As I flowed further up, a succession of devices led the water down the hill,

Chain FlowFlowFlow 2Until I encountered a stone cut hole

possible water cistern, grotto,

entrance to an underworld.

GrottoSo having flowed to the source, I was led downhill by a different path,

autumn leaves nestled in dry flowing meanders.

LinesLeading to the remains of a contemporary stone circle, what ancient rites have taken place here?

Stone CircleBut despite the joy of finding traces of contemporary prehistory,

moth-like I was drawn towards the walls of white beyond, to be immersed in a cemetery.

CemeteryI was looking so hard at what I was meant to see, the emptied recesses, names and numbers variously inscribed, that I nearly missed the continued flow of lines, no longer in water but this time a flow of stone.

These tiny traces, I first spotted adjacent to the entrance, and could follow, in one

Stone Flow 1two

Stone Flow 2three

Stone Flow 3four compartments

Stone Flow 4Before they turned the corner.

Stone Flow 5The stone then flowed along the length of another four tombs.

Occasional traces of embellishment punctuated the flow.

Stone Flow DetailAnd round the corner they continued.

Stone Flow 6Meandering across another recess

Stone Flow 7and splashing to the other side.

Stone Flow 8Stone Flow 9And then they stopped… was there no more….it made no sense, why only on this side…

Eyes frantically danced across the compartments, and rested on a plume of feathers on the other side of the cemetery.

Feather DetailsStone Flow 10And there the line was…

And across the gap broken by steps,

Stone Flow 11a sherd of brown glass, marked another point of departure.

Meandering through another recess.

Stone Flow 12Shells caught in the flow of stone.

Stone Flow 13Round another corner it continued, then stone upon stone it flowed up the wall…

…beneath shiny marble progressed

Marble DetailsFurther embellishment of feathers…

Feather DetailAnd there, in the fourth compartment along the flow ceased….

Stone Flow 14

Why do stones flow through the cemetery?

There is intent.  There is an order of stones in the cemetery.

The stones are small, discretely positioned, but not hidden.  In the higher, longer runs of stone, they have been placed at the very front edge of the compartments.  Perhaps seeking to be spotted, yet precariously living on the edge. In contrast, the lower flows of stone which meander and splash across the gaps, hug the wall closely, nervous of being disturbed by passers.

The evident dislocation and obscuration of some stones by small plants, suggests they originally flowed some time earlier this year, it is clearly in a process of decay, but not totally ruinous.  The traces of feather embellishment have a regularity, which suggests further feathers may have been placed to create an overall pattern or design.

We can imagine how it may have looked when first completed, resplendent ! But even in its full glory, how many have noticed the flow of stone within the cemetery.

We can only speculate as to who may have produced this, perhaps furtively, with no one else aware of their repeated visits to the cemetery: an individual act, contemplative, obsessive, beautiful in intent ?

Or was this created collectively as part of an art work, a publicly made installation ?

Widely known, much celebrated in the city,

and very occasionally revealed to the

flowing pilgrim.

————————————————————————————————————————

I flowed through the Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval.  It was was the site of a 13th century convent, and after years of abandonment and neglect, was converted into a public space in 1995, about the process for which more details can be found here.
The core of the city is a World Heritage Site, Santiago de Compostela (Old Town),  characterised by a rich ecclesiastical architectural and continued cultural heritage traditions of pilgrimage. There is also further World Heritage Site designations of locations associated with the pilgrimage routes, comprising Route of Santiago De Compostela and Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.