Monday, 29 June 2009

A Ringing Glass (Rilke)

Ken Unsworth’s use of suspended objects has become a signature motif in his long career as a performance, sculpture and instillation artist, but it takes on new significance in relation to death, specifically the recent passing of his wife, whom his latest project A Ringing Glass (Rilke) honours.

From a skeleton hanging upside down to a hospital bed afloat in space to a grand piano exploded into pieces hovering above us – nothing in the series of instillations is earth bound. Suspended in the air, it is uncertain whether the inanimate objects are in the process of rising or falling, and with this quality of transcendence they provide an extensive momento mori, reminding us of the mortality of ourselves and all things.

The various rooms can be seen as different chapters of the life of Elisabeth, who was an accomplished pianist and a driving force in Ken’s career for the 54 years they were married. “After the death of her son from a brain tumour at age 33 Elisabeth set up a fellowship in his name for young medical researchers and she was always happy to be able to talk about him,” the artist said. “I feel the same way about her; she was such an important part of my life and I want to acknowledge and remember that.”
The tribute to Elisabeth’s life extends beyond the four instillations to the lived experience of a decadent event which was hosted by Unsworth to open the exhibition on Cockatoo Island. In a custom built ballroom, 160 guests were invited to dine, dance, watch performances and listen to a posthumous piano recital by Elisabeth, and footage from the night is being screened in the space for the duration of the exhibition.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Oh, yes: a most potent reminder of a wonderful exhibition. Not many things drive me speechless!!

I am glad to hear you giving voice to some of your images. You should try including text more often: it adds to my experience of your blog.