28 May 08 - 19 Jul 08
Don't Stop Me Now - the body beyond death
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The artists chosen here work with diverse interpretations of the physical, the spiritual, the artefact, and the ritual.
For centuries artists have been preoccupied with the relationship between life and death, the body being the ultimate bridge uniting the two, it is the medium on which to hang their thoughts of mortality.
After death, the resistance to let go of the body completely, to sustain its connection with life, often leads to an exploration of its preservation. In a spiritual sense Liam Ryan"s triptych explores the phenomenon of sainthood, where a preserved body is a sign of holy intervention. Marco Lanza photographs the immaculately preserved mummified bodies in the crypts of Palermo Cathedral, entombed by the Cappuccini monks. The historical importance of death masks to preserve the unique identity of the body is particularly poignant in the work of Nick Reynolds, made to ensure the injustice of an executed death row prisoner is not forgotten. Even when the body is reduced to ashes, Luca Fusina"s collection of funeral urns can be chosen to reflect the individual personality of the deceased, from titanium steel to delicate Limoges porcelain. In an anthropological sense, the body becomes artefact and curious object of fascination. Boo Saville draws skulls and mummified corpses, and paints shrunken heads from the Natural History Museum. Meanwhile the artefact of a skull procured from a Witch Doctor remains surreally classified as an empty plinth, photographed by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, after the skull in question has been repatriated to its homeland.
The aesthetics of bones and skulls is also strangely beguiling - referring to the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic and Otranto Cathedral in Italy, where human bones have been used for centuries in a vast macabre decorative display. The latter of which has inspired the work of Mario Consiglio, who presents a concentric array of skulls and bones, but this time made from laser-cut wood and foam-rubber. The ceiling roses of James Page on closer inspection are adorned with delicate bone formations.
The skull"s symbolism has always been the strongest representation of memento mori, something to remind you of death in order to remember that you are mortal. The title of the show itself references the song sung by Freddie Mercury, who died from AIDS in the 1980s, which by the end of the decade had resurrected a preoccupation with skull symbolism appearing in many artists" work, especially in graffiti art. Those coming face to face with Robert Gordon McHarg III"s skulls on painted rocks will find the motif subverted with his trademark humour.
In fact death it seems is anything but a leveller, the fantasy funeral of Rudolf Valentino by Nina Fowler, an icon who had thousands file past his open casket, is a world away from the abandoned scene of Joe Walsh"s overdosed junkie, whose fate in the doorway will see many people walk by, but none to stop and acknowledge the passing of life before their eyes.