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The efficient and lovely Ilaria Boncori, co-organiser of the SCOS conference in 2017 in Rome asked me, as an artist-in-house of the group- to prepare some ideas for the coveted conference bag. The brief was specific, she wanted something that reflected her connection with the Borghese neighborhood (as she grew up there) and the Gallery, and talked about the “flesh” and its dark side. She mentioned the work of Antonio Canova also exhibited at the Galleria Borghese, and his depiction of generous forms, fleshy women and enticing volumes. We also talked about La Dolce Vita, and the notions of hedonism and flesh as exhibited by the great Anita Eckberg. With these images in my head I started the research that took me to the most famous work of Canova: the Sculpture of Pauline Borghese as Venus Victorix.
Paulina Borghese (Née Bonaparte), was actually Napoleon younger sister, and one of the most beautiful women of her time. Cesar Borghese commissioned the sculpture in order to show off his trophy wife, in the way that people exhibits trophy hunting and animals heads. However, it seems she was not only an object, indeed, legend tells that initially the artist wanted to depict her as Diana, the hunting godess, but it was Paulina who insisted on a nude sculpture a la Venus Victorix, hence, merging the “warrior” and the “seductress”, both use the flesh as part of their endeavors: the former, by hurting the flesh; the second, by tempting it. This was a good starting point, as the exhibition of flesh and the commodification of women, as well as the “male gaze” in the depiction of Pauline are topics that have been well discussed in our academic community. A curious coincidence is that the sculpture was so popular that the gallery decided to put it on a rotating platform: in the same way that today we have “roasted chicken” or “lamb kebabs” gyrating morbidly in front of our eyes. The irony is even more poignant because this particular sculpture won the title of “Miss Arte Italiana” reinforcing the beauty pageants as meat markets where the gaze male choose among different contestants. This is particularly problematic in Colombia, where we have beauty pageants for almost everything under the sun: there is not festival or carnival (once again carne) without its “beauty queen”, we have a Miss Colombia, a Miss Coffee, a Miss World Colombia, a Miss Popular Neighborhood, etc. Indeed, part of the violence of drugtrafficking over women is paradoxically expressed in beauty pageants where people were bidding, supporting or sponsoring the female flesh! Beauty pageants became meat markets selling flesh at the best price. See article).
In terms of the drawing, I had to translate a three-dimensional sculpture into 2Dimensions, and also I had to decide on its length. I decided to focus on the torso, which will show the two sides of the flesh or carne. I first drew it from a photograph and refined the lines with a wider brush, and tried to make them match by the arm that extends and connect the two sides of the bag. The master stroke was to think of the back as a “meat cut” graph, using the language of instructional graphics so popular in the French and English education. After all, the beauty front of Paulina Borghese, with its generous “carnes” and inviting smile, only is the facade of a more sinister side: the side of exploitation, the consumption of flesh and the pornographic industry, the manipulation of plastic surgeons of the female body (the dotted lines showing the potential cuts in the name of beauty), and many other dark aspects of the government and disciplining of the body and flesh.
Sketches by Beatriz Acevedo (copyright!!)
As for the initial samples, i worked all by hand, using a red background with a black line (black and red being the colours of Rome) and another option with a white line, emphasizing the purity or marble and the ambiguity of female perception. For the official catalogue I think that it must say something like:
For the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism in Rome 2017 we commissioned our artist-in-residence Beatriz Acevedo to work on a representative design for the coveted SCOS conference bag. The result is part of the collaborative work of the organizers and the artist, and we believe represents well the spirit of the city and the topic of the conference. The sculpture of Antonio Canova of Pauline Borghese (nee Bonaparte) as Venus Victorix represents many of the themes of this conference. Pauline married the influential politician Cesar Borghese who commissioned the sculpture in order to show off his trophy wife, in the way that people exhibits trophy hunting and animals heads. However, it seems she was not only an object: legend has that initially Canova wanted to depict her as Diana, the hunting goddess, but Paulina, allegedly a “popular girl” insisted on a nude sculpture a la Venus Victorix. This symbolic goddess merges the “warrior” and the “seductress” as both use the flesh as part of their endeavors: the former, by hurting the flesh; the second, by tempting it. In this way, the depiction of Pauline Borghese emphasises some of the topics that have been widely explored by the participants of the SCOS community: the exhibition of flesh as another example of the commodification of female body, as well as the “male gaze”. Indeed, a curious coincidence is that the sculpture was so popular, that the Galleria Borghese decided to put it on a rotating platform: not so different to the public spectacle “roasted chicken” or “lamb kebabs”, gyrating morbidly in front of our eyes. The irony continues because this particular sculpture won the title of “Miss Arte Italiana”, reinforcing the darker aspects of the flesh as beauty pageants can be considered as meat markets. For example, the violence of drug trafficking over women in countries like Mexico and Colombia is also expressed in those popular beauty pageants and carnivals, where drug traffickers are bidding, supporting or sponsoring the female flesh! This darker side of the “carne” is illustrated on the other side of the bag, where the torso of Venus Victorix is represented as a “meat cut” graph. Beatriz loves drawing, she is the designer of the fierce Dragon representing SCOS, and in this design she combined drawing with the language of instructional graphics so popular in the French and English education. The beautiful front of Paulina Borghese, with its generous “carnes” and inviting smile, is the facade of a more sinister side: the problems of exploitation and consumption of flesh, the pornographic industry, the manipulation of plastic surgeons of the female body (the dotted lines showing the potential cuts in the name of beauty), and many other dark aspects of the disciplining of the body and flesh. As for the different bags, Beatriz used a red background with a black line (black and red being the colours of Rome) and another option with a white line, emphasizing the purity or marble and the ambiguity of female carne.
One of the inmediate effects of the Peace agreement in Colombia is the possiblity of visiting amazing places banned because of the conflict. The thing is that although Colombia is a huge country, only the area of the mountains … Continue reading