Cadmus figure studies
Plaster, acrylic and polyurethane resin, plywood, 2020
shown here in the context of Sidequests exhibition at Zina Gallery curated by Flaviu Rogojan
This series of sculptural objects were drawn up from a 3D model made for animation purposes that got dissected into pieces and from the virtual character a few body parts made it into the physical world.
The figure and story of Cadmus stands out in particular for the way it represents and depicts violence but also in particular for the way it delineates transformation on numerous levels. How something is going from one state into another while demonstrating the inherent violence of transformation. I discovered this figure in Elfriede Jelinek's dramatic text Wut ("Rage" in english) that was written after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and it’s dealing with the ongoing conflicts where emotions seem to take over most discourses leading to anger and violence. As it often happens in Elfriede Jelinek's texts, she is referencing writings and stories from (mostly) greek mythology. The one about Cadmus in particular is from Ovid's Metamorphoses. This mythic figure slayed the dragon in his quest, and sowed its teeth. Men grew from the teeth and as they came out of the furrows they immediately started killing each other until only a few survived to later found a city. Looking at the story of Cadmus beyond the work of fiction about a dragon slayer, this myth is a story about metamorphoses, mutations and evolution. About passing from one qualitatively different medium into another and the paradox that this transformation reveals. The potentially deadly teeth are now life giving seeds and the dragon teeth offsprings seem to further perpetuate only death.
In gaming terminology, a sidequest is a quest given to the player that has no direct bearing on the main story of the game. The detour often involves handling items otherwise unavailable, objects that escape the main narrative, but may bring benefits to the player. The paths that bring non linear structure to an otherwise linear story, oblige the player to take a closer look at the things inhabiting the fictional world.
Many fantasy quests involve tedious tasks, such as delivering goods, recovering an item, searching for a lost treasure, gathering a number of non-essential things. Far from being a distraction, the stories involving these objects actually enrich the worldbuilding of the game, describing a layered and entangled world where different narratives can coexist.
Looking closer at non-essential objects that escape the grand narratives has historically been the domain of still life paintings. Also called nature morte in French, literally “dead nature”, the careful arrangements of foods, valuables, or personal belongings create visual narratives that demand contemplation, and transform the intimacy of everyday items into stories about the artists' universe.
How do artists today use this rich history and artistic processes of studying objects and perfecting compositions and can still life be a way of framing metaphors for our current situation of a world of dying nature?
photo credits: Pavel Curagau