Too True to be Alive. The Veristic Image of the Corpse and Contemporary Sculpture

Tomislav Vignjević


The hyperrealist sculptor John de Andrea once said in an interview that he wanted to create such realistic sculptures that they would seem as if they were breathing. In such a way the ancient myth of Pygmalion, who creates a sculpture that comes to life, is re-enacted. This "Pygmalion effect" contains both the magic of the transformation of sculpture into a living being, and the artistic technique that establishes the simulacrum as a transgressive artistic creation, as written by Victor I. Stoichita. Yet in contrast to this desire for the enlivening of the dead matter of the sculpture, there is an image of an explicit dead body. Despite its hyperrealist mimetic precision, the sculpture in this case can not "be revived" since it is a depiction of a dead person. The group of contemporary sculptures created by Ron Mueck (Dead Dad), the Irwin group (The Corps of Art), Gavin Turk (Death of Che), Paul Thek (Death of a Hippie) and Maurizio Cattelan (Now) in a unique way visualises the desire for highly realistic images, which can actually appear as living, even though the fact remains in all cases that these are images of dead corpses. Their primary intention is to bring to the fore the traumatic confrontations with corpses and are undoubtedly typical for contemporary art. According to Foster, images of corpses come as a result of artists' dissatisfaction with the postmodern image or text, its illusion and superficial simulacrum of reality, given that it is precisely the real that is returned in this form of the corpse, which was marginalized in the poststructuralist version of postmodernism, but makes a reappearance here in its traumatic form. The paper intends to more thoroughly define the form, reason and meaning embodied by these sculptures, and place them in the context of contemporary rejection of any type of confrontation with death, which is, according to Philippe Ariès, characteristic of our time.

Parole chiave

hyper-realism; dead body; contemporary sculpture; real

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2531-9876/6934


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