Exhibition: Orpheus Twice. With Juliette Blightman, Marcel Broodthaers, Jason Dodge, Félix González-Torres, Rodney Graham, David Maljkovic, Bruce McLean, Katrina Palmer, John Stezaker and Danh Vo (20 Sep — 14 Dec 2013)
An exhibition curated by Vincent Honoré. With Juliette Blightman, Marcel Broodthaers, Jason Dodge, Félix González-Torres, Rodney Graham, David Maljkovic, Bruce McLean, Katrina Palmer, John Stezaker, Danh Vo.
The “ghost of an image” is an expression used by the English artist John Stezaker to describe the process by which images disappear, travel across time, and rematerialize. It’s a suitable subtitle for Orpheus Twice, an exhibition investigating image and absence.
This project was nourished by sources as diverse as the problematic and hotly debated restoration two years ago of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with St. Anne; Laurence Giavarini’s essay on a painting by Nicolas Poussin; and Jakuta Alikavazovic’s recent novel The Blond and the Bunker.
Often in these sources, the mythological couple of Orpheus and Eurydice appears as a metaphor for the act of seeing and creating. The story is well known. At her wedding, while trying to escape from a satyr, Eurydice suffered a fatal snake bite to her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld where his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: on his way back, he must walk in front of her and not look back until they had both reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, but on their way he turned to look at her. She vanished again, this time forever.
Many renditions and interpretations of the myth exist. One of these focuses less on the existential and sentimental aspects of the story than on its metaphorical definition of artistic inspiration. In an essay, from 1955, entitled The Gaze of Orpheus, the French author and theorist Maurice Blanchot writes: “[Eurydice] is the profoundly dark point towards which art, desire, death, and the night all seem to lead”. As often with Blanchot, a classical myth is read through a highly personal vision, leading towards an understanding of the creative act.
He continues: “The work draws whoever devotes himself to it towards the point where it undergoes the ordeal of impossibility: an experience which is precisely nocturnal, which is that of the night”. Blanchot makes an analogy between Orpheus’s gaze, the creative process, and its philosophical interpretation. The path taken by Orpheus from light to dark, and back to light in search of his muse (inspiration) is symbolic of the artist’s journey from reality to the edges of the surreal. The force that enables Orpheus to cross the boundaries and to descend to Eurydice is that of art. Rendering this precise moment when the artist’s control is undermined, when an image (Eurydice) is about to disappear, is the object of the work of art.
…drawn from darkness to light…
re-articulated as a gap
With support from:
And additional support from Hauser and Wirth, London and Lisson Gallery, London