Moving in and out of history
The fate and the future of the Royal Cast
Collection, Copenhagen
By Henrik Holm
Ph.d., Curato...
What casts do: they perform “stylized repetition of
acts” / “stylization of the body” = creates the idea of
gender and ide...
Bio-Politics
”We worship man, our
invention…”

Evolution of art, spirit, freedom, and mankind
Once a happy performance…

Plaster cast of the ”Apollon Belvedere”
and ”The Parnassus” by Anton Raphael Mengs,
1761
Nazism and antiquity

Stills from Leni Riefenstahls movie
”Olympia” and from her book
”Beauty in Olympic Battles”
”Towards a Newer Laocoon”

Barnett
Newman:
Onement 1,
1948
…. turning into an ”unhappy” one
Cecil B. DeMille directing a scene form ”Cleopatra”
(1934)

Van Gogh drawing
ca. 1880
1966: Moving out of History
Returning in post-modernist times

The Renaissance gallery now, and a prospect of the future housing
Museums in crisis
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•

Irrelevant
Authoritative
Uncomfortable
No change
No creativity
No marks left
Less Mon...
A solution: participatory strategies
”gipSMK”
on Facebook and YouTube
(”gips” is plaster in Danish, ”SMK” is the abbreviation of
Statens Museum for Kunst (Nati...
Moving in and out of history
The fate and the future of the Royal Cast
Collection, Copenhagen
By Henrik Holm
Ph.d., Curato...
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
Moving in and out of history COURTAULD
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Moving in and out of history COURTAULD

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(Kun engelsk version, 2012)
Lecture given at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London in 2012 on the past, present and future of the royal cast collection based on the theory of performativity studies (J. L. Austin, J. Derrida, J. Butler). The lecture traces the history of a collection once considered a good, even necessecary performance in the eighteenth century, turning into an unwanted one during the twentieth century. In the presentation a future for the collection as a place for remembering that we forget, repress and want to get rid in history and memory, and as an experimential place for performing the loss and possible futures of sculpture and history, by focussing on co-creation and participatory projects for museums, is proposed.

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  • {"16":"The Dancer’s made a performance at the National Gallery attracting around a thousand onlookers. \nThey had to give an extra show,\nand I guess they they will never forget the day they met the cast collection and started working with it. \n","5":"The Nazi’s way of embracing antiquity, often using casts of classical sculpture in their propaganda, did not serve the interest in antiquity well.\n","11":"In two-thousand-and-ten Nina Simon published her book ”The Participatory Museum” outlining a possible future for museums to re-gain some of their power by allowing engaged visitors to leave their mark on the institution along with the professionals ,thus creating long-lasting and deep relations to the objects and the institutions preserving them.\nI was very inspired by her work, and I was able to raise the money needed to launch a radical, participatory project at the cast collection.\n","17":"We created a facebook-group where everyone interested could follow the process in detail, and a short documentary film as well, to ensure that the project would not be forgotten too fast.\nPart of the texts on Facebook are in English, and the documentary will be out on YouTube with subtitles in English later this month.\n","6":"After World War Two abstract art came to the fore, and on several occations the influential art critic Clement Greenberg spoke of the need to go ”behind the Alexandrianism” of bourgeoisie art in order to reach a new art, characterized by its ability to refer to its own material, instead of imitating man or nature.\nCasts can not in any way live up to these ideals. \nThey are trapped in the conservatism, that once gave them credibility, and the do everything else than speak of the materials that the classical sculptures were made of. In fact, one reason for loving casts in the eighteenth century was, that the plaster relieved the viewer from relating to the material in itself. Casts were just pure form and as such closer to the idea then the old, coloured antiques.\n","12":"I presented the history of the cast collection to high school students in Art, and to students of contemporary dance, \nand they took to the challenge of choosing and working with the casts with great enthusiasm.\nJust the gesture of letting them decide for themselves what to look for at and what to work with, without any reservations whatsoever on the concepts or reasons for their choises, created a positive and joyous atmosphere around the project, and a true veneration for the sculptures selected.\nLetting them in, and listening to them instead of reading the text of art history on them right from the start, made them come back to me asking many more questions on the sculpture’s significance in art history and archaeology than I had ever experienced an audience do before.\nIt fuelled their creativity to be taken serious.\n","1":"Thank you for inviting me to this conference on Sculpture and Change. \nI’m currently in charge of the Royal Cast Collection in Copenhagen, where more than two thousand white casts are placed in a warehouse originally build to store the goods coming from the ”West Indian Islands”, nowadays named the Virgin Islands, where black slaves produced sugar, rhum, and coffee to be sold on the European market in the eighteenth century..\nIt was a highly a profitable trade to the nation of Denmark, until Sir Hyde Parker and Lord Horatio Nelson destroyed the Royal Danish Navy in a battle that took place just a few miles away from the warehouse in eighteen-o-one.\nI like to refer to the collection as the ”Whites Only”-collection.\nThe reason why I stand here today at this conference is that theRoyal Cast Collection seem to be a good example of sculpture moving in and out of history, according to the changes in what we call ”the Sprit of the Times” or ”Taste”, which is in fact changes in what Foucault termed ”Bio-Power”.\nAs long as the casts served those in power, because they were believed to have an impact on the body and soul of the citizen, they were favoured. When those in power found other means to excercice power on the bodies of the citizen, the casts lost their value.\nFor many reasons casts seem to be more more relying on changes in taste than many other art forms. Their fate has been closely connected to major changes in the ”Spirit of the Times”, as I now intend to show you.\n","18":"So once again, moving the casts was the thing to do.\nBy moving the casts according to the movements of the participants we gained quite som good attention from the public.\nThe Ministry of Culture included the project in a book on Best Practice\nAnd we managed to move easily past all the difficulties of history, as well as surpassing the ways a traditional art museum works.\nFor a moment I thoght we had actually created the art museum of the future.\nWell, we will just have to see about that, won’t we…\n","7":"Alas, a fragile cast collection could not stop Modernity.\nThe problems concerning cast collections soon showed off:\nTraditional sculpture lost status to painting. \nWhen Rosalind Krauss wrote her essay ”Sculpture in the Expanded Field” in nineteen-seventy-nine stating that modernist sculpture was ”the negative condition of the monument” it was already over.\nAntiquity ran out of fashion.\nNeither artists nor the public needed antiquity as a reference point.\nThe artists routinely mocked tradition and drawing from casts, as can be seen in this drawing of Vincent van Gogh, where the bourgeoisie tophap doesen’t fit, and the support of the figure has been moved to indicate an indecent situation.\nCasts were no longer needed, since everybody preferred original artworks. \nIn his infamous nineteen.thirty-nine article The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Walter Benjamin wrote: \n”The mass is a matrix from which all traditional behavior toward works of art issues today in a new form.”\nThough casts are made from matrixes and were mass produced, and cast collections were thought of as being able to shape the masses, casts of sculpture was not the “new form” in which tradition was to be dispersed to the broader public. \nThe movies turned out to be that “new form”. (Cecil B. DeMille: Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert), 1934)\nIf we look upon a cast collection – or art - as an utterance, it is subject to the same conditions as are utterances.\nThey can turn form being wanted into being unwanted, embarrassing, counter-productive, destructive, just being in the way, \nwhich is exactly the way cast collections are considered today.\n","13":"After the choosing sessions we moved the casts to the different schools, so that the students could work in the vicinity of the casts as they prepared for their exams.\n","2":"In order to understand what goes on between a viewer and a cast, I find it relevant to quote the feminist Judith Butler form her book “Gender Trouble, where she concludes that”: “gender is… instituted in an exterior space through the stylized repetition of acts… (and) stylization of the body… “.\nCast collections are nothing but bodies doing stylized repetitions.\nThe casts work in relation the viewer to shape the viewers understanding of gender and on identity.\nThis is important to note, if we want to understand how people react to sculpture.\nWhen I launched a participatory project in the collection allowing students of art and contemporary dance to choose the casts they wanted to work in relation to, it was their understanding of gender and of themselves, that guided their choices, not archaeological or art historical knowledge. \nOur professional knowledge and the way we perform it unfortunately can block the interests of the viewer, and become an obstacle to the creation of a relationship between viewer and artwork. \nBut the artworks can establish relations to viewers regardless of history, bio-politics et cetera, if onley the conditions are right for it. \nI will return to these topics later.\nFirst, a little lesson in history:\n","19":"Thank you for your kind attention.\n","8":"In nineteen-sixty-six the Royal Cast Collection was dismissed from the museum, and send off to meet its fate in an old barn outside the capital.\nNobody wanted copies, traditional sculpture, or antiquity to be the reference points for the experience of art any more. \nThe performance of the cast collection had come to its end. It had lost its value. \nAround four hundred casts were destroyed on the occation.\n","14":"The dancers immediately began rehearsing in front of the casts, \n","3":"In order to explain why a huge cast collection was established in the first place, the first director of the collection, Julius Lange (1838-1896) said, that Non-European civilizations such as the Japanese worship nature, but Europe is Europe because “… we worship Man, our invention and our favourite.”\n","9":"Then, in nineteen- eighty-four, when we were in the middle of the post-modern era, the grand narrative of the cast collection had turned in to a local history about a forgotten teasure which had none of it former glory or power\nBut still the¨collection had a little story to tell about how the original sculptures had been damaged to a degree allowing for the old casts to gain scientific interest because of their good condition.\nThus the collection was rescued by being placed at the old warehouse, and some seventeen years were spend on repairing the damage done, and re-arranging the display according to archeological standards, before the entire staff was sacked due to financial cutbacks.\nSince then the collection have drawn only sporadic attention.\nRight now the idea is to re-vitalize the collection by sending the casts on a new journey to a location on the outskirts of the capital, and have exhibits of contemporary art adjoining it. \nI havent made up my mind on that idea. \n","15":"and the High School Students bagan creating tableaus and movies relating to the casts.\n","4":"He was speaking to a ”Spirit of the Times”, where it was considered to be both conventional and appropriate to address the need for the citizen to be educated through art. \nAs Lange spoke, Darwinism spread the idea that we all come from the Apes, and artists paid more and more attention to non-european art or spiritual values, and socialists were gaining more and more political strength. \nBourgeoisie Society really needed a bullwark againt primitivism, and an huge, encyclopaedic cast collection was created to do just that.\n","10":"Nowadays we could say that the destiny of a cast collection only shows the future of museums as sucth:\nThe audience remaining grow older\nThe Museum’s role to society is diminishing\nfewer and fewer want to pay for culture in a time of financial crisis.\nMuseums are becoming irrelevant.\nThey do not change, \nthey are too authoritative in their way of going about their business, \nthey do not allow for creativity or for the public to put their mark on the displays, \nand they are not at all comfortable places to have social relations developing.\n"}
  • Moving in and out of history COURTAULD

    1. 1. Moving in and out of history The fate and the future of the Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen By Henrik Holm Ph.d., Curator ”West Indian Warehouse” Bio-Power / Bio-Politics: The application and impact of political power on all aspects of human life (Michel Foucault)
    2. 2. What casts do: they perform “stylized repetition of acts” / “stylization of the body” = creates the idea of gender and identity (Judith Butler)
    3. 3. Bio-Politics ”We worship man, our invention…” Evolution of art, spirit, freedom, and mankind
    4. 4. Once a happy performance… Plaster cast of the ”Apollon Belvedere” and ”The Parnassus” by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1761
    5. 5. Nazism and antiquity Stills from Leni Riefenstahls movie ”Olympia” and from her book ”Beauty in Olympic Battles”
    6. 6. ”Towards a Newer Laocoon” Barnett Newman: Onement 1, 1948
    7. 7. …. turning into an ”unhappy” one Cecil B. DeMille directing a scene form ”Cleopatra” (1934) Van Gogh drawing ca. 1880
    8. 8. 1966: Moving out of History
    9. 9. Returning in post-modernist times The Renaissance gallery now, and a prospect of the future housing
    10. 10. Museums in crisis • • • • • • • • • Irrelevant Authoritative Uncomfortable No change No creativity No marks left Less Money Less Impact Less Power
    11. 11. A solution: participatory strategies
    12. 12. ”gipSMK” on Facebook and YouTube (”gips” is plaster in Danish, ”SMK” is the abbreviation of Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery))
    13. 13. Moving in and out of history The fate and the future of the Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen By Henrik Holm Ph.d., Curator ”West Indian Warehouse”

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