sculpture: a conversation

sculpture: a conversation (three cups) is a super 8 film made in 1988 submitted as my third year art history thesis at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. It was screened as part of the graduation-thesis exhibition at the Victorian College of the Arts Gallery, 1988, and was accompanied by a display of photographs with conversation/text/image snippets that appear in the film. The snippets include conversations I overheard, and text extracted from D. H. Lawrence’s novel, ‘Women in Love’ (1916).

The extracts concern a conversation about sculpture. Loerke, the artist Gudrun has taken an interest in, shows Gudrun and her sister Ursula a photo gravure of a statuette he has made of a naked girl on a horse. Ursula is disturbed by the image. A conversation ensues where Ursula trades observations of the work with Loerke who counters Ursula’s observations, along with Gudrun who angrily rejects them, embarrassed by her sister.

Ursula asks why Loerke made a sculpture of a horse that, ‘is a picture of himself, really’. Loerke answers with derision that this ‘is a Kustwerk, a work of art. It is a work of art, it is a picture of nothing, of absolutely nothing. It has nothing to do with anything but itself, it has no relation with the everyday world of this and the other, there is no connection between them, absolutely none, they are two different and distinct planes of existence, and to translate one into the other is worse that foolish, it is a darkening of all counsel, a making confusion everywhere. Do you see, you must not confuse the relative world of action, with the absolute world of art. That you must not do.’ Furious, Ursula replies, ‘It isn’t a word of it true, of all this harangue you have made me’. ‘The horse is a picture of your own stock stupid brutality, and the girl was a girl you loved and tortured and then ignored.’

While a line between non-representational and representational art is unclear here since Loerke claims that, although the statuette represents a horse, the horse doesn’t represent anything, what was thrilling for me as a sculpture student at the time, was the way a conversation about a sculpture took the place of that sculpture.

Thanks go to Michael Collins, Kate Dawe and Megan for appearing in the film, and Eliza Bram for her voiceover.