Plâtre ou pas ?
About the installation
The second installation presented in the Martine Aublet Workshop, Plâtre ou pas ? examines the issue of copying through the art of plaster casting, with a particular emphasis placed on the fields of ethnology and archaeology.
Long consigned to the workshop, plaster casting is an ancient practice which has been used since Antiquity. Initially a tool, it was long discredited for being far removed from the original work, which was originally considered as the only authentic artistic expression. In the 19th century, its disciplinary field was enlarged: in the face of scientific demand, the production of imprints for the purposes of documentation and dissemination became more widespread.
Today, our view of these copies has changed. Just as ethnographic photography is now considered and valued as more than a mere documentary tool, plaster casts can acquire the status of works of art in their own right. Plaster casts function as the material imprints of distant societies and civilisations and thus help to enrich our knowledge. They acquire a priceless value when they are the sole expressions of a lost original. As such, the antagonism between authenticity and artificiality is no longer at the centre of the debate.
In parallel with the installation, the musée du quai Branly and the musée des Monuments français, the heritage department of the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, are organising a colloquium Plaster casting; historical practices and contemporary views on 14th and 15th November 2012.
The installation contains almost 60 plaster casts of various sizes, from reproductions of tiny objects – decorative items, seals and statuettes – to large bas-reliefs and life-sized sculptures.
The objects are presented in eight display cases according to the following themes: Creating collections: inheritance and accumulation; Colonial sculpture; Replicating objects; Replicating monuments; Plaster casting: the art of illusion; Replicating and exchanging masterpieces; Distributing, studying, preserving; Peculiar objects and curiosities.
Finally, three audiovisual programmes complete the installation: a slide show of photographs relating to artists Paul Ducuing (1867-1949) and Gustave Hierholtz (1887-1956), echoing the plaster casts from the colonial period; a programme dedicated to the photographs of Désiré Charnay and to the plaster casts of the great Mexican sites; extracts from two fiction films, Somewhere by Sofia Coppola and Journey to Italy by Roberto Rossellini in which plaster casting and the taking of imprints are highlighted.