Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sydney Biennale 2008


My clandestine photo of Cattelan's horse
at the Sydney Biennale 08

"Stendhal Syndrome or Florence Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world" (wikipedia).

It's cool to think that such a cool term exists, I only discovered it after going to Peter Stitchbury's show at Te Tuhi Gallery in Auckland, where the curator explained the name of one of his portraits, Swoon (Stendhal Syndrome). When I saw Maurizio Cattelan's taxidermied horse hanging off the gallery ceiling I was in awe. I could only compare this moment to Michelangelo's David in Florence and watching Diego Maradona in the 1986 and 1990 football world cup. I felt a certain nostalgia as I absorbed Cattelan's work, overwhemed by its immense power and powerlessness. It swayed ever so gently off its leather harness, the perspective slightly surreal as the legs are lengthened, thereby adding other dimensions to the work.

Cannot help but refer to the helplessness that I felt as a viewer with this work, which takes me back to one last thing. Florentines have a term for homesickness, namely nostalgia del cupolone (and I totally get this). Immense beauty in the natural world generates a certain nostalgia, it takes you to a certain other place, which is precisely exemplified in Swoon's frozen gaze.

Diego Maradona in 1986 World Cup
Peter Stitchbury Swoon (Stendhal Syndrome)
2000 acrylic on linen
Private collection

For a full review on Stitchbury at Te Tuhi: http://www.tetuhi.org.nz/exhibitions/exhibitiondetails.php?id=47
Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal in 1986 at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbbsytHDp2o