Three Exhibitions. Part 1-Saints ALIVE

29 Oct


London is less than an hour away for us, and I love it. Plus Mr B works down there so it made sense to meet him after work and start our anniversary weekend.

I arrived at lunch time on Friday and met up with my brother in Trafalgar Square.  With two huge galleries right there, it would be rude not to pop in.

The first exhibition was Saints Alive by Micheal Landy in the National Gallery. Famous for destroying all his possessions and the Art Bin where artists could throw their failed work. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.


Giant, moving sculptures of self harming saints and huge collages of cut up, re-assembled and mechanised martyrs.

Adding mechanisms and clunky, violent movements to these mini gods gave a very disturbing, nightmarish quality to them.

Doubting St Thomas’ dis-embodied arm violently pokes the headless body of Christ. The fact that it is  you,  the visitor that causes it by deliberately stepping on a pedal is quite resonant.

Seeingis Blieving michael landy

You are able to turn the broken wheel, implement of torture for St Catherine.

As you step on other peddles St Apollonia thrusts pliers into her face and St Jerome beats himself with a rock. It is interesting that it takes an action by us to set them on their self-distructive path. Making the visitor into both voyeur and sadist.

The Collages pack a weird punch. He mixes up the body parts of different saints, disembowels and Re-fills them with cogs, wheels and the tools both of DIY and torture (one and the same thing I suppose).

Adding these man-made articles only serves to re-enforced how non human saints can appear, particularly within art where they are so passive in the face of horror, so unmoved by their predicament and so otherworldly.

It is as though Landy has wanted to dissect them to see what it is that made them work.

What he exposes is not human at all. Not even a hidden halo or a heart with some religious symbol carved in. What we find is not otherworldly, but  a crude and clunky man-made machine, of the sort you could imagine being employed to perform miracles in some Pre-Reformation church.

In fact when you feed money into the donations box St Francis hits himself over the head.

It is a fascinating exhibition that raises questions about humanity, divinity, morality, faith and what part we may have to play in the seeming self destruction of others.

It is an interesting way to spend an hour. Plus it is free!


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