For his contribution to Project 1049, artist Paul Kneale has engaged with the notion of the commissioned object: with a focus on the public sculptures of Gstaad, he asked art writers to produce critiques of particular in situ works, which were then used — via an online platform — to commission new illustrations based on these descriptions. The resultant drawings have been turned back into physical objects, a series of 3D modelled sculptures made of polystyrene and resin, which have been installed near their original versions: a mise-en-abîme of aesthetic interpretation repeated back to itself across genre and discipline.
Below, it is possible to read the anonymous critic’s text that inspired the commissioned drawing:
The ways in which children mimic the hierarchies and class systems of the adult world are oftentimes of amusement to the figures who bear responsibility for their care. And by regarding such behaviour as memetic of adults, it is annexed as inorganic. ‘What an adorable play, a microcosm of the persistent inequities caused by forces beyond us!’ But perhaps the situation is linked to deeper and more complicated psychological dispositions which have already emerged at a young age.
In this sculpture we at first see two serene youths, one playing a woodwind instrument with a noble concentration, the other gazing placidly toward the near horizon, perhaps listening. Their figures are stylised, elongated in a vaguely mannerist way, yet also simplified and modern. No muscle tone is evident beneath their flowing tunic like garments. They are both lanky and formless. They sit separated by height. The figure who plays the flute is seated higher, seemingly in judgement, on a separated pedestal of beige stone, looking intently downward at the flute, its legs hanging over the edge of the platform and crossed at the ankles. There is a sense of poise, but also tension. It holds something back in order to judge downward. Below, the listener dreamily takes in the music. Seated as one might on the grass in a park, with arms out straight behind the hips, holding up the upper body, while its legs are loosely spread open, one bent and raised, one bent and allowed to rest on the ground, both feet coming together, sole of resting leg to the inside arch of the raised one. The position suggests submission, and perhaps even ennui or laziness. One feels the paradox that the act of listening, in its passivity, places the listener as subordinate. The price of pleasure is the subjugation of the ego.
They are ultimately separated from each other. And this psychological distance is reinforced by the cool reduction of the forms. Their tunics conceal most of their bodies, yet we can tell that beneath the fabric, there has been elongation of limbs, and a general abstraction. To what purpose? The artist allows an element of fantasy to enter into their scene just at the same time as the social dialog about the hierarchies created by artistic mastery and the pleasure-sacrifice axis of its enjoyment.