Les Bourgeois de Calais: Crated and Displaced
For more than five years I have been producing artworks and writing texts related to Rodin’s oeuvre and its relationship to photography. I find his work interesting for several reasons, including the way it bridges the spaces between the romantic and the modern/post-modern, the object and the replica, movement and stasis. World famous during his own lifetime (partly a product of a newly international press) he fell out of favour until the latter part of the 20th century when writers such as Rosalind Krauss took a newfound interest in his work.
In my photography and video works I have long been interested in the dichotomy between people and sculptures. As the human body and its representations are admitted back into contemporary art, I find it interesting to look at the creative, powerful, and defining gaze – at each other and at themselves – of viewers, models, and artworks.
For Les Bourgeois de Calais: Crated and Displaced I shot using a handheld camera on location in Calais, the home of the first cast of this sculpture. Whereas in most of my works the movement comes from the models' inability to remain motionless, in this project the movement came from my own bodies movements as I tried to keep the camera as still as possible.
Talking about sculptures in his book The Dream of the Moving Sculpture (though this quote is perhaps equally pertinent to photographs) Kenneth Gross says, “we recognize in the statue an image of the fate of bodies, a fate elected out of a desire to deny our vulnerable, penetrable, wasting, and dying physical persons, to provide ourselves with idealized stone mirrors” (Gross 17). Gross goes on to itemize the differences between humans and statues, from the latter’s inability to absorb “food, bullets, air, sounds, or signs” to their reluctance to release anything either (“words, blood, excrement, children”)1 . So how then can these inert lumps of bronze become so human? Is it in the way they compete with us for space, unlike paintings that are willing to hang on the periphery awaiting our gaze? Perhaps figurative sculpture, often hollow, commonly made out of materials that can withstand the elements, is the perfect foil for our desires; a surface shell below which we can imagine into being whatever it is we desire or fear.
1 “Statues are comfortably without hidden insides; they void the human body’s scandalous interior life, its hidden spasms, desires, reflexes, motions, and noises…” (Gross p32). Photography does this too. My videos do it as well, though they then begin to break down, revealing some of the scandalous workings of the human body.
Shooting on location in Calais, France with edition 1/12 of Rodin's Les Bourgeois de Calais. Summer 2010
This project has been presented in the following exhibitions:
2012, Adad Hannah: Visitors, Ottawa Art Gallery.
2010, BGL/Pascal Grandmaison/Adad Hannah/Karen Tam, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal.