2018, New Generation Festival , Florence, Italy
Steel, glass, ceramic, silk.
Loulou Siem’s focus has been to challenge conventional understandings of value by addressing the macabre fetishisation of ‘things’ in museum display.
The etymology of the word for sword is related to the Old High German word, sweran, to hurt, and root swer, to cut, pierce. The linguistics highlight the materiality of our bodies. We might be a balloon, a piece of paper or maybe a sirloin steak. The difference, however, is the cycle of action and response, the relationship between cut and hurt. In fact, the sword, in it’s attack, also unites the material of body to body, creating new form, new sculpture.
The sculptures exhibited here in A(r)mour, however, are fake relics. Institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum in New York and The Wallace Collection in London distance the viewer from the function of the object by a glass wall and a velvet surface, beautifying and therefore muting it’s very purpose. We have here a negation. In the same way, these mock, ceramic swords, seemingly rusty from old blood and age, if activated would in fact crumble under the pressure of a torso, or the glass of the hand might shatter from the very pressure of the protective gauntlet itself. They never had the opportunity of use, and are active in purpose only through their display. The solid Murano glass hands allude to this as they absorb light and in darkness, their ghost-like presence becomes electric and alive, shrinking the presence of the gauntlet. The objects in this display are converted.
Just as A(r)mour converts the function of objects, the gothic revival pushed for the Romance of the “knight-at-arms, so haggard and so woe-begone”, polishing up old suits essentially playing dress up. Function was almost completely removed, and the focus was on the history of the fashion of weapons and armour. These symbols of the aggressor, become props in theatrical displays of ‘courtly love’, which though chaste, had intentions to arouse the female subject, (perhaps in today’s context, something like going to a strip club?). The intricacies on the sculptures shown here are either inspired by or copied from real pieces in existence. The little hearts with red cloth behind them on the gauntlets, a common motif, the anthropomorphic nature of the swords with screaming heads harking the possibilities of these blades — extensions of the owners very own arm like a paintbrush. These conversations, also, perhaps nod in a contemporary context to the pertinent debates surrounding gun control in America and it’s phallic associations.
The fetishisation of these weapons or death is not exclusive to the West, however. In Amazonian tribes, the shrunken head of the killed person was worn by the killer on special occasions, partly as trophy, but also to absorb the spirit of their enemy as their slave as some kind of currency that they had earned, there seems some kind of intimacy, a union of spirits and body, amour.