Film lamp and reflector on marble statue
For Tra Monti, curated by Adrienne Drake, Athéna Panni, and Maria Rosaria Rinaldi.
Why Read The Classics? was a work made around a damaged classical statue in a public garden in Rome. A flight of stone steps leads past ancient ruins up to palms and orange trees, in a garden which, though beautiful, is rather used and neglected. Near the top of the stairway stands the marble figure of a young woman, on a pedestal in an alcove in the wall. Like so many statues in Rome, the head of the figure is missing.
Behind the space of the figure’s head we positioned a golden disc, of the kind used to reflect light onto the faces of actors and models. Opposite the figure we installed a powerful film and television lamp, so its beam of light reflected from the disc to create an aura or halo.
Visitors to the garden found their gaze drawn by the dazzling light to the iconic vision of a mythical woman. Yet the lamp and electric cables that produced the light anchored the scene firmly in the moment.
In Why Read the Classics? three conceptions of femininity converge: the classical goddess, the Christian Madonna, and the contemporary film star. Depending on the viewer’s position, their co-existence in the present may focus the mind on issues around the representation of gender, or contemplation of the wider ideological mechanisms of belief.
Why Read the Classics? refers to a book of the same title by the great writer Italo Calvino, who answers his own question with characteristic erudition, insight and wit.