LIANE LANG – FONDLING GERMANICUS

A sculpture of a man is shown facing us before a dark background. Striking a classical pose, with a subtly suggested curve running from his right foot through his left hip to his right shoulder, the figure seems to exude an inner repose. The only distraction the sculptor has added is a cloth draped dramatically over his left arm. But even this element has been compensated for. The position of the right hand, which the man contemplatively holds about ten centimetres in front of his chin, restores the balance of the composition.

Nothing seems capable of disturbing his inner peace.
Were it not, that is, for the two, evidently female, arms that are wrapped about the torso from behind. One of these hands covers his genitals, the other strokes his chest. Their surface clearly shows that they could not be made out of yellowed plaster like the statue, and one cannot avoid the impression that there must be someone standing behind the sculpture. The impression makes one very aware of the combination of a statue with a living person; this in turn develops a symbiosis of the ancient and the modern which might be understood as an appropriation of classical symbolism. And indeed Germanicus stands in the Royal Academy in London, where for the last few years the artist Liane Lang has been using plaster casts to create new works from copies of ancient works of sculpture. One might almost imagine that the arms wrapped about the sculpture are her own, and the photograph a moment in which she tenderly embraces Germanicus.

However, wondering who the two arms belong to poses the question of where the rest of her body is hidden. Her head could easily be obscured by the large male chest, but where are her hips, and where her feet? The edge of the statue’s plinth can clearly be seen between its legs - but not the feet of its devoted admirer.
The embrace seems to hang in mid-air. It is as if the artist had wanted somehow to complement the resting statue without disturbing his rest; as if she wanted to become part of the sculpture by mirroring the position of its two plaster arms.

Perhaps it is this that reveals what the floating limbs are really made of – latex casts that have been made and added by the artist. For the classical sculpture is appropriated not through a physical embrace, but rather symbolically, by the act of photographing it - which is in fact Lang’s real profession. The symbiotic relation between the plaster cast and the latex sculpture is elaborated in the field of the photograph; and it is there that it is completed.


Written by Johan Holten, curator Heidelberger Kunstverein
Translated by Nathaniel McBride

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