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Адель Абдессемед (Adel Abdessemed)

Cri (2013)
Cri (2013)

Taken on June 8, 1972, after the napalm bombing of the village of Trang Bang, a few kilometers from Saigon, a photo of a little girl running down the road—Kim Phuk, then aged nine—came to symbolize the war in Viet- nam. The picture earned a Pulitzer Prize for the photographer, Nick Ut. Adel Abdessemed has used it as the basis for an ivory sculpture, produced in four versions of four different heights corresponding to the height of his four daughters at the time they were made.

The photo of the little Vietnamese girl became “iconic,” a famous image that made the rounds for decades, sometimes exploited for specific ends, sometimes decontextualized and transformed into an anti-war symbol. Abdessemed has extracted the figure of the girl from the media circuit and turned it into a sculpture that not only restores volume to the image but also restores smooth, sleek skin to the horribly burned body. Several pieces of ivory were assembled and then polished to obtain a perfectly smooth surface that nevertheless retains an organic quality insofar as the various parts will turn different shades of color over time and display thin scratches.

Ник Ут. Напалм во Вьетнаме. 1972
Ник Ут. Напалм во Вьетнаме. 1972
Mon Enfant (2014)
Mon Enfant (2014)

The emblematic picture of a Jewish lad taken during the evacuation of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. Sharing the fate of all images whose visual impact turns them into an emblem, this photograph was progressively detached from its original context to become an icon of all childhood betrayed, transcending the uniqueness of the little boy who was photographed by German soldiers (and who was fully identified afterwards). This process is powerful but it also exposes the image to the risk of becoming a mere symbol, replacing the actual event and its complexity with an abstract idea and general values of compassion and pity. Mon Enfant resists such “symbolic evolution” through a resurgence of individuation via the very materiality of the sculpture, where the mimetic fidelity of the photograph gives way to the dense substance of the ivory. The sculpture intercepts the movement that incessantly transforms a child of the past into “my child,” merging an embodiment of the disasters of history into the light features of the ivory.

Варшавское гетто. 1943
Варшавское гетто. 1943

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