Virus contamination at the museum

Contaminations virales au musée

Photo: courtesy of the artist
“Felix, June 5, 1994”, AA Bronson

Frustrated to be paralyzed and to follow without the end of the news, the artist Adad Hannah has resolved to do the only thing that he masters : art From the 14th of march, it publishes, as well of the stories almost daily on her over Facebook. Her videos Social Distancing Portraits are shot in the streets of Vancouver, keeping five meters distance to the subjects, specified the former Montrealer on its Web site. These ” living pictures, its great brand, show the impact of coronavirus on the daily life of the people.

Art has always reflected the history of humanity, including its darkest moments. That the current pandemic, like previous ones, finds an echo in the creation, is hardly surprising.

The black plague which ravaged in particular the Europe in the middle of the Xiv century — 25 million dead in six years (1347-1352) — has deeply marked the history of the art, discipline if westernized. At this time, between the Middle Ages draws to its end, and the Renaissance in gestation, the iconography takes a penchant for morbid.

Arise when the subject of the lashers, lay that whip by act of penance, and one of the most universal of the dance of death. The religious painting loses its radiance : it goes from the Virgin to the child, the theme of rejoicing, to that of the Pietà, which expresses the pain before the death (of Christ).

In the book painting in Florence and Siena after the black death (1951), the historian of american art, Millard Meiss argues that the plague has forced the interruption of the great works of art. His theory, challenged, argues that the knowledge of Giotto (d. 1337) are then set aside, including those on perspective.

Centuries of dead

The danse macabre made its appearance as a motif in a pictorial in 1424, at the cemetery of the Innocents in Paris. Now destroyed, this first set of frescoes has been followed by others in France and elsewhere.

One of the most remarkable is located in the Haute-Loire, in the gothic church of the abbey of Chaise-Dieu. It was painted in the Fifteenth century three frescoes which remind us all, ” powerful “, bourgeois and people, are equal before death.

The Revelation is another topic (re)become recurrent in the Renaissance. The theorist and printmaker Albrecht Dürer has left us a fortnight of xylographies, made from 1496 to 1498. His most famous, The four horsemen of the Apocalypse, innovates on the level of composition and gives to the Death of the main role, while she does figure that ranked fourth in the biblical text. With Dürer, the engraved picture precedes the text, gaining in autonomy.

The triumph of death, a theme that was self-righteous to condemn the worldly life, is the title of a famous oil by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1562-1563, Museo del Prado), evidence that the threat of a plague still hangs and as far as the flemish painting, 200 years after the black plague.

The golden century of catholic Spain and his painting (the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries) is also inhabited by the terror of the plague. The hospital of Charity in Seville has, with two paintings by Juan de Valdés Leal, an exemplary case of the response of religious morality. It exposes the dangers of vanity by the presence explicit of rotting corpses.

Contaminations virales au musée

Photo: public Domain

“The triumph of death, Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Reconstitution of classical

“In the remarkable city of Florence came the death-dealing pestilence, which, by the operation of the heavenly bodies, or because of our works was iniquitous, had been unleashed on mortals by the just wrath of God, and for our punishment. “

This extract of the Decameron (1350-1353), a literary work by Giovanni Boccaccio, is carried by the schism in the social that arises out of the disease. It puts in scene seven women and three men who flee the plague and the city. Through the fables that they tell, the author launches, a contrario of the time, of virulent attacks against the Church and against the social mores.

The collection of one hundred stories, which has made its author the father of the prose in Italian, has not ceased to inspire artists, century after century, Sandro Botticelli — the four paintings in The history of Nostagio degli Onesti (1483, Museo del Prado) — to… Adad Hannah (The Decameron Retold, 2019).

Known for his reconstructions of classical art, the videographer, the canadian reproduced in tableaux vivants of works of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, inspired by the Decameron. This reappropriation of the tales of Boccaccio, is enriched here of the engagement of Hannah in the community and its participants, required to participate in the design of the decorations and accessories.

The biblical references were also recovered, sometimes in unhealthy intentions. In Napoleon Bonaparte, for example. First masterpiece of the painting of napoleon, Bonaparte visiting the plague-stricken of Jaffa on 11 march 1799 (1804, Musée du Louvre), Antoine-Jean Gros, aimed to change the reputation of the man. Here he is the equal of Christ, which affects a patient, distributes the bread.

And the aids…

Another character that transcends the eras and the roles of : saint Sébastien. The martyr, elevated to the rank of protector of the plague-stricken, reign since the early days of the Renaissance in a look more young, more naked, more aesthete.

In the Twentieth century, it becomes the figure of the erotic male and reached the status of icon in the midst of the crisis of aids, as in the photograph of Saint Sebastian (1987), the French duo Pierre and Gilles.

But the emblem of the fight against aids is the work of the collective, toronto-based General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal), which transforms the LOVE (1966) by Robert Indiana in AIDS (1987). The work-logo, which consists of paintings, posters, sculptures, wallpaper, tip to force the metamorphosis of the free love of the 1960s.

General Idea ceases its activities in 1994 when die quick Zontal and Partz, victims of aids. AA Bronson pays homage to them in a work, revealing, without a filter, rabies, a virus that continues to kill — 25 million deaths since 1981. Felix, June 5, 1994 (1994-1999), Musée des beaux-arts du Canada) was one of the works blow-of-fist of the Biennale de Montréal 2000.

“I took this photograph of Felix a few hours after his death. He had been primed to receive visitors, and his favourite objects were placed around him, showed Bronson in the publication of the Biennial.

Felix was eaten away by the disease, and it was not able to close his eyes : there was not enough flesh on the bones. “Aged 73 years, AA Bronson, he continues to practice his art and lives between Toronto and Berlin.

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