Michael Landy’s “Saints Alive”

Michael Landy's Saints Alive exhibition at the National GalleryPic fromThe Guardian

I recently saw Michael Landy’s Saints Alive exhibition at the National Gallery. I haven’t been that excited about a National Gallery exhibition for quite some time. At one point I was politely asked to move away from one of the kinetic sculptures to enable it to reset. I was that excited. 

The piece features a series of large scale kinetic models of saints that moved in ways that reflected the religious/macabre narrative of each of their lives. Featured saints included: Saint Catherine of Alexandra,  Saint Jerome, Saint Lucy, Michael the Archangel, Saint Peter Martyr, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thomas, Saint Apollonia and Saint Lawrence. All of which did to themselves, or had done to them, terrible torturous things in the name of religious fanaticism. Saint Apollonia, for instance, had her teeth beaten out and Saint Lucy plucked out her own eyes.

Landy’s appropriation of the Christian saints and their stories does more than just revive these forgotten narratives, once so important to Western culture, and present them before an audience to whom they will be unfamiliar. He also encourages us to question the actual meaning of these curious tales, superficially charming and amusing, but grim and shocking in reality – Wiggins, C. (2013) Michael Landy: Saints Alive. National Gallery Company, London. Yale Distributed Press. p.34

Michael Landy2Pic from The Standard 

Each sculpture was operated by a curious viewer, either by foot pedal or handle. Once activated, the towering sculptures shuddered into life. Made of a constellation of old sewing machine, bicycle and other machinery parts they whirled and chugged into gear, clicking and swaying in motion. Others, launched into tremendous action, rocking and bashing into on another. The effect was startling; a spectacle in an otherwise reverently subdued gallery space.

I found it exciting as I have been thinking and reading about automata and kinetic sculptures in relation to how I might design the exhibition of the cycle wear garments.

A detail of the Multi-Saint
Pic from The Guardian

This Guardian film gives a sense of the visual and sonic scale and presence of the sculptures.



 

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