Plâtre ou pas ?
About the installation
The second installation presented in the Atelier Martine Aublet, Plâtre ou pas ? examines the issue of the copy through the art of plaster casting, with particular emphasis on the fields of ethnology and archaeology.
Long consigned to the context of the workshop, plaster casting is an ancient practice which has been used since Antiquity Initially a tool, it has long been discredited as being removed from the original work, which was 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 like ethnographic photography has been re-evaluated as being more than its documentary quality, plaster casts can acquire the status of a separate work of art. Material indications of distant societies and civilisations, plaster casts enable us to obtain a more profound knowledge. The antagonism between authenticity and artificiality is thus no longer at the centre of the debate, confronted as it is by such objects; objects whose documentary value increased when they became the only evidence of an original which has since been lost.
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 14 and 15 November 2012.
The installation contains almost 60 plaster casts of very varied 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; Strangeness 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.