METAMORPHOSIS OF A FOLK TALE

THE GOLDEN GOOSE    by   SEAN SHIM-BOYLE

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016 Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016
Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016 Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016
Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

“Humans, like all living beings, have a special power, a power of transformation that is also suitable for things around us, as far as we make up our image of them. …

We are, first of all, a transformative organism more or less complex (according to the animal species) because life is necessarily given and taken, and modified, also between the persons and their environment.”
Paul Valéry, La liberté de l’esprit, 1939

The truth of this kind of statement is questionable; it’s Valéry’s positivistic intelligence of life as one bee house in which humans don’t have primacy that strikes me.

But, first of all, this is a New Year story: January 1, 2017

By Rosanna Albertini       A wall of a Los Angeles art gallery,* a few months ago, asked an artist to liberate his body from the white flatness between floor and ceiling. Nobody knew he had a body! An animal, hidden body. The more the artist opened up and moved out part of the geometrical forest of flat pieces of timber that keeps the wall steadily vertical, the more flexible the structure became, almost opening wings. The wooden surfaces became pieces of skin and bones pierced by nails, crying drops of glue, yellow tears but not like the gold the artist began to search for.

img_0203-2

img_0206-1
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Ovid, and so many artists from the dawn of time, Sean Shim-Boyle made his fingers the magic tool able to unveil and amplify a structure already far from the natural trees she had been, covered with leaves, pushing roots into the ground.
“Scarcely had I swallowed the strange juices that I suddenly felt my heart trembling within me, and my whole being yearned with desire for another element. Unable long to stand against it, I cried aloud: ‘Farewell, O Earth, to which I shall never return!’” This was Glaucous, speeding from the surface of Ovid’s book, Metamorphosis, chapter XIII.

The golden goose as well could scream: ‘Farewell O Wall, let me fly to my artist.’

img_0200-1
img_0193-2
img_0201-1
And the artist changes an inanimate stiffness into a movable variety of organs. Although silent, the wooden limbs develop a language directed to the eyes, pages of a story made with textures, colors and cuts. They push feathers of course, always made of wood, to open our mind to the popular versions of metamorphosis like the ones told by an old aunt near the stove, or by the bed, to children ready to grab the thread of her words and sew it into their dreams. Close your eyes with them, dear reader. Your sense of reality could expand. You might wake up holding a goose with golden feathers like the Brothers Grimm story about Dummling, a simpleton who picked up the precious bird from the roots of a tree and collected the funniest group of thieves around the goose. Trying to steal the golden feathers, the thieves remained glued to the goose in an absurd carousel. Looking at them, the king’s daughter finally laughed and married the Dummling. Same laughter in Italy, where the tale didn’t bring golden feathers, only a fine goose. But magic! As soon as somebody tried to grab her, the beast screamed: ‘Quack Quack, stick to my back!’ Another carousel of stuck people made the sad princess laugh.

img_0186-2

img_0196-2

 

No doubt Sean Shim Boyle felt in his own body a ‘power of transformation.’ Although The Golden Goose was supposed to be covered by something recalling a skin, the artist fell in love with the anatomical story. He gives us the pleasure to look at the inside of this sculpted body, and stop on his arbitrary ligaments. Back to physicality, veins in the panels, windows of connective tissues, spots of aging in flattened surfaces of bark. Changing colors. The signs of natural and artificial making are history and fairy tale at once. The gold is in the mind. His, mine, yours? Frankly, I couldn’t tell. Maybe it’s in the earth.
“A realm without perspective, a realm of sensuality and desire that gathers all into the lips’ uncertain space – uncertain because it straddles interior and exterior, self and other.
A space of fusion, of total osmosis.
A surface that envelops, that caresses the brain and the images that our thoughts produce.”
Giuseppe Penone, Branches of Thought, 2014

It’s a clear day, cold and without wind. Golden leaves are still on the trees in front of my window. I wish we could all laugh and mutate into our favorite imaginary body. Had this been possible we would have already started the journey. Instead, we start the day reading the New York Times.

img_0204-2

 

All the detail photos are by R.A.
*Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles
Italian Folktales, selected and retold by Italo Calvino, Translated by George Martin, Pantheon Books, New York, 1980
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Pantheon Books, New York, 1944

A FROG ON THE CROSS

LOOKING FOR JESUS SAINT PETER FINDS A FROG ON THE CROSS

by Rosanna Albertini

In memory of Martin Kippenberger

 

martinkippenbergerfrog

PREMISE: in 2008 one sculpture from the series “Fred the Frog” by Martin Kippenberger  was hung on a wall at the Museum of Modern Art in Bozen (Bolzano, Italy). Church and State, physically represented by clerk and politicians, did everything  in their power to force the museum to remove the artwork. It seems the pope himself, at the time Benedict XVI, supported the request. The president of the Council for South Tirole started a public hunger strike. Refusing to accept any intimidation, The Museum’s curators and director kept the frog where it was to the very end of the exhibition. Journalistic reports sound like wild products of imagination, but the real story was found in a supplementary booklet meant to complete Italo Calvino’s  Folktales.

THIS IS THE TRANSCRIPTION:

Despite his good nature -he liked to laugh and make jokes- one day raining gray drops of water dripping from the hat into his neck and shoulders for the sky cried the same pain of his heart, Martin Kippenberger sculpted a human body with the head of a frog, and nailed it on a cross. It was not Jesus. Hands and feet had only four fingers. The sculpture was a funny portrait of Martin’s moment of sadness. The frog had an egg in one of the hands and a stein of beer in the other.

Saint Peter, who likes to keep himself in touch with the aging of time, and loves to walk up the mountains, discovered Martin’s crucified frog in a museum close to the Dolomites, in Bolzano. His attack of rage was so strong that he almost became as green as the frog. Not because of Martin, Jesus was his problem. Where was he? And why was the human frog holding an egg? Being human, in no way Peter could explain miracles or religious mysteries. “Is the egg going to hatch — he wondered — and release the spirit in the form of a dove? The son is missing, where is the father?”

On the top of such questions, Peter’s permanent empty stomach. For centuries Italian people told their children stories about this fisherman always desperate for lack of food. Although Jesus made miracles to give him something to eat, he often challenged either his intelligence or his moral temper. In Sicily, while walking through the island with the 12 apostles all exhausted, asking for bread, “Pick up a stone”, Jesus suggested. Each stone became a big loaf of bread in the hands of the 11 fellows, but Peter found only a little roll in his hand. His eyes told Jesus it was not enough, and Jesus answered, “Why did you chose such a small stone?” This time Peter carried a big one, but the village they reached in a few hours had a bakery and the miracle was not necessary. Peter threw the stone away and once more did not eat.

Even worse in Friuli: Jesus found a hare in a field, and told Peter to open his bag and put it in. Arriving at a restaurant, Jesus encouraged him to go to the kitchen and cook the hare, which Peter did with great pleasure. The flavor was so attractive that Peter couldn’t resist tasting the liver, thinking that Jesus wouldn’t notice. I won’t tell you the end of the story, you can find it in Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. I assure you it was not without humiliation for Peter. He had to suffer to become a saint.

Jesus in the meantime was hidden with no possibility to be found: back in the cave where he laid after the cross torture, and resuscitated two thousand years ago. This time he had a computer with him, and a calico cat. His beard was shaved and his hair cropped. For the next thousand years he was planning something very difficult to organize. “Poor Peter, he mumbled, you never really understood why I was not kind to you, nor the miracles: father me and the spirit knew from the beginning that humans fail, it’s their nature. We thought my body on the cross was such a terrible image that pity, or compassion, might help them. No way. Father’s mistake when he made me human, or my mistake for I am also my father, I am confused.” “Truth is, because I don’t want to be on the cross anymore, I will destroy all the images of me on the cross. Martin gave me the idea. They can replace me with a saxophone, a giraffe, a sound system, if they still want a cross. Machines are better then ever, not human nature: they kill in the streets, blow themselves up, build cities where hurricanes cannot be stopped, they spend money they do not have, and they eat too much.” Jesus sends an e-mail to father lord. “Remember Martin Kippenberger? He died not long ago. I don’t know where we put him. Can you make sure he is in Paradise?”

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age