Category: Objects

Meaningful Forgeries: Some Remarks on ‘Executioner’s Masks’

Two ‘executioner’s masks’ housed in the collection of the pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936) have recently been exposed as historiographical forgeries manufactured by the nineteenth-century imaginary. Previously these objects were believed to have covered the face of the executioner during capital punishment, either to disguise his identity or to protect him from the ‘evil eye’ of the dead convict. In an article for History Today, Alison Kinney argued that such notions do not match with early modern written and visual documentation but rather with Victorian ‘gothic’ sensibilities. In fact, the masks seem to have complied with a very modern penal reform agenda that removed executions from the public. Still today in the United States contemporary executioners wear ‘reinvented’ covers to avoid identification.

Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Ice Watch’

On 11 December 2018, Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing invited London’s art public to participate in their Climate Action. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing” requests the large panel on the façade of the Tate Modern, which introduces the installation Ice Watch. In front of the industrial building Eliasson and Rosing positioned 24 blocks of ice in the style of ancient stone circles. These blocks were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord in Greenland, after their detachment from the ice layer.

Tracey Emin’s Tent

In her artistic oeuvre, the British artist Tracey Emin explores existential issues, such as female sexuality and the sexually coded body, as well as the use of handicraft techniques such as sewing and weaving. Sewing, or more accurately appliquéing pieces of fabric onto an existing object, namely a tent, is the focus of Emin’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995). The work is considered a turning-point in the Young British Artist’s career. The piece, also known as “The Tent” or “My Tent”, later entered the Charles Saatchi collection, but was destroyed in a warehouse fire in 2004.

“Bilderfahrzeug” and “Bilder Omnibus” – a manuscript by Aby Warburg from 1906

In 1906 Aby Warburg writes about the inherent reproducibility and mobility of images in the early Renaissance, naming tapestries as a link between the fresco and the prints: „The adaptable tapestry stands between high art and printing, whose products, as a vehicle of images [Bilderfahrzeug], have usurped its position on the walls of the bourgeois home.”

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