The Dream of the Moving Statue

By Kenneth Gross | Go to book overview

2
The Death of Sculpture

It is hard to say what the fantasy of an animated statue can tell us about actual statues, about their stillness, their opacity, their ghostliness. I want to start making sense of such things by teasing out a simple surmise, namely, that the idea of the statue's coming to life may be bound (as cause or effect) to an opposing fantasy; that the statue I see is not merely the product of the artist's imposing of human form on inert matter but is rather the relic of a metamorphosis, like those undergone by Atlas, Niobe, or Lot's wife. What I see in the statue is really a once-living thing whose life has been interrupted; it is a creature stilled, emptied of life, turned to stone or bronze or plaster; captured, thus possibly needing to escape; dead, thus needing resurrection or galvanization; frozen, thus needing the warmth of hands, or the sun—unless, like a troll, the sun is what freezes it. This sense of something "ended" is what can give to the statue its melancholy and spectral character, lend it the curious deathliness of a tableau vivant. Not unlike Roland Barthes's description of the photograph, the statue presents a body or a pose arrested in time, arresting time itself; it marks an absence or a loss through the presence of a thing that is yet irremediably, materially present—though a statue will tend to monumentalize and dehistoricize that arrest, conceal that absence, in a way a photograph does not. 1

In this surmise, the statue represents a stopping point; it represents the reification of something once living and mutable, its death as it were (though admittedly classical and Renaissance statues are often

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The Dream of the Moving Statue
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Dream of the Moving Statue *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • Part One *
  • 1 - Signs of Life: an Introduction *
  • 2 - The Death of Sculpture *
  • 3 - Eating the Statue *
  • Part Two *
  • 4 - Idolomachia *
  • 5 - You May Touch This Statue *
  • 6 - Resisting Pygmalion *
  • Part Three *
  • 7 - Crossings *
  • 8 - The Space between *
  • Part Four 136
  • 9 - Talking with Statues *
  • 10 - The Thing Itself (Which Does Not Move) *
  • Coda: Ordinary Statues 199
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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