With Theater, we are invited to reflect upon the possibilities for exploiting representations of the body for specific purposes. Influenced by Christian philosophy, for the centuries from the Middle Ages until the return of Classicism, bodies were represented, not to be contemplated admiringly, but to inspire compassion in the “spectator.” For it is truly a performance that is being played out here: the sculptor’s image of a dead Christ has been organized, orchestrated, dramatized. Everything – from the body’s wan complexion to the drapes that evoke a stage curtain, via the posture of abandonment to death, and the presence of the stigmata of the passion – expresses the desire by those who commission works of art like this one to organize and manipulate the viewer’s emotions. Paolo Topy takes that strategy to its logical conclusion. He gives his offering the aspect of an ordinary “photo,” a snapshot that any tourist strolling through the place where the sculpture is on display might take. Here, he makes it his own “work” through his critical reading and deconstruction of a phenomenon and his clearly displayed intention to share his own ideas about it. In this case, those ideas would seem to be a critique that is admittedly acerbic, yet amused as well. Technically, he goes for complete neutrality, reducing the photographic act to its simplest expression. Contrary to the proposition underlying this sculpture, he leaves the interpretation of his proposition up to the beholder, offering the possibility to really notice something obvious that now has value as a historic reality. Free of any artifice, the image within the image gains the clarity of the naïve purity of the generations who came to kneel before it. Yet another opportunity to encounter the other.

Yves Peltier

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