Friday, October 05, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Holland Cotter exalts the "sleeper" exhibit, “Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary” at the Met in NYC. Cotter just short of begs museum goers to give up the modernist, western focused ghost, if only for a second, and, like, totally check out this little exhibit, because, you'll totally get something out of it, I swear. Which is an interesting thought because so much of what marks modern art is its lack of substance, or its theoreticalness, or its opaqueness. And suddenly, seemingly rudimentary, savage works, boring pedagogical fodder (thus the traditionally "sleeper" section of the museum) at least in this article, are suffused with meaning. The meaning being the historical connections between African and European treatments of their dead. Cotter somewhat bemoans the need for Euro connections, but hell, the Met has to get people in there somehow. And then:
The show ends theatrically too, though whether with tragedy or comedy is hard to say. One of the final images [above] is also one of the most startling: a reliquary figure from Congo. Standing six feet tall and made from layers and layers of cloth, including red European blankets, the figure is bulked up to resemble a giant female doll, all but nude, with brick-red skin and a smile of what looks like avid glee on her face.

Who is she? What is she? Several things. She is a portrait of someone who has died and also a receptacle for that person’s mummified body. She is an image of a specific category of ancestor, one recently dead. But she will fully claim status only after she has been buried with the relic she holds.

So she's ultimately a kind of metaphysical object, a body within a body that constitutes a whole only when a) she's dead and b) contained within her depiction. Crazy interesting. No sarcasm here. Cotter wins me over at the end of the piece with, " The lesson: In death, as in life, ambiguity rules." Yes! Ambiguity totally rules!

Keeping Watch Over the Dead [NYT]

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home