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The Mystery of the Body: Berlinde De Bruyckere in dialogue with Lucas Cranach and Pier Paolo Pasolini
A visitor watches the work 'Into One-Another I' by Belgium artist Berlinde De Bruyckere in the Exhibition 'The Mystery of the Body Berlinde De Bruyckere in Dialogue with Lucas Cranach and Pier Paolo Pasonli' in the Museum of Fine Arts Bern, Switzerland. The Exhibiton lasts from October 21 to 12 February 2012. EPA/PETER SCHNEIDER.

BERN.- The Kunstmuseum Bern presents the largest monographic exhibition of works by Berlinde De Bruyckere (b. 1964) hitherto shown in Europe. The Flemish artist creates deceptively real sculptures and touching drawings of human bodies suffering. The presentation brings them into a dialogue with the works of the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach and the Italian film maker Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The human body is one of the most commonly portrayed subjects, and each generation of artists interprets it anew. The exhibition lucidly illustrates Berlinde De Bruyckere's in-depth examination of Lucas Cranach's and Pier Paolo Pasolini's work over the past three years.

New existentialism in contemporary art
We not only find De Bruyckere’s representations of suffering human beings shocking because of their directness but likewise deeply moving. In her existential representations of suffering she unites elements of pain as well as of lust, shame, and grief. The artist evokes a confusion of feelings in us that oscillates between disgust and dismay. In doing so, De Bruyckere underscores the essentially human – namely that we all possess a body. The artist takes a stand in opposition to the event industry and the beauty market. Contrary to the ideal images used in advertising, her sculptures of bodies do not hide their scars and sutures. Instead they highlight the body’s vulnerability. Her works make us conscious of the fact that our bodies are vulnerable and immortal. Awareness for this is rapidly diminishing in a world in which practically every nook and cranny has been infiltrated by the new media. De Bruyckere successfully moves her viewers into feeling real sympathy for her sculptures without pandering to voyeurism.

Putting society under political and critical scrutiny
Lucas Cranach still embedded the theme of suffering in a religious context. His masterly Schmerzensmann (Man of Sorrows) presents the scourged figure of Christ wearing a crown of thorns to arouse our pity and bring us to reflect on religion. Cranach depicts Christ as a man who suffers, not as God, and thereby circumvents ecclesiastical ideology. De Bruyckere adopts the motif of suffering and adapts it to the present. With it she critically questions modern society and thereby takes a political stance in her work. In this way she resembles Pier Paolo Pasolini. For the Italian film maker the human body was not only an arena for staging individuality, sensuousness, as well as insatiable and uncontrollable drives, but also for sexual and violent excessiveness. Pasolini views the body as a focal point in the fight against petty bourgeois social order, in which he not only saw the birth of Fascism but also the foundations of consumer society.

A dialogue transcending media and time
The exhibition presents a transmedia dialogue between sculptures, drawings, paintings, and films. However, the dialogue not only brings together various media but also spans many epochs. The show visually demonstrates how the body has always been a “mystery” in the sense that it can never be comprehended fully. Every one of us is challenged to confront this fact. The exhibition is a collaborative project together with Cornelia Wieg and the Stiftung Moritzburg — Kunstmuseum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt, where it was shown from April 3 to July 3, 2011.

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