In search of our 'eternal' identity
In the Skeleton Project, I am looking for our 'eternal' identity, the identity that can still tell us something about who we were even after we die. During life, our outer appearance is the most accessible and therefore the most important carrier of our unique identity. We recognize someone by their iris, their face or their unique fingerprint, but that exterior does not give us a view of our interior and the skeleton that literally keeps us standing.
The skeleton as a symbol of death
The relationship we have as human beings with our skeleton is twofold. On the one hand, the skeleton is tangible and close to us: we feel it every day and it gives us the possibility to move. At the same time, the skeleton is the symbol of death, from which we want to stay as far away as possible during life. Therefore, ultimately, our skeleton represents life rather than death. It is this metaphor that I want to literally capture in Skeleton.
The symbol of death by way of a 3D copy
For Skeleton, I had an exact copy of my body made with a high-tech CT scanner. The digital information provided by this scan was then made suitable for reproduction by a 3D printer. In this way I can hold the symbol of my own death in my hands while I am still alive. This three-dimensional copy can be seen as 'the true image', the vera icon.
A modern variant of the mirror portrait
Early Italian painters often used a mirror for their self-portraits, thus creating a Ritratto fallo al specchio or mirror portrait. Because I have a reproduction of my own skeleton at my disposal via a 3D-print, the Skeleton project gives me new possibilities for the self-portrait. The 'reflection' is here - in the absence of an 'image' - part of a 'construction' and thus of someone's position and status and of the recognition of this.
Object and veneration: the relic as self-portrait
In Skeleton / Self-Portrait 20, for instance, I use the phenomenon of the relic, in which the relationship between the object and its veneration is central. Strictly speaking, it is the worshipper who puts the power in the object, because the object itself has no intrinsic value. Skeleton / Self-Portrait 20 is a golden cast of the bone from my right upper arm (the humerus). This cast contains three kilograms of gold, by which I have shifted the value to the object itself. The relationship between viewer and artwork thus becomes part of a 'construction'.
Self-portrait via canonization
In Declaration of Sanctity / Self-Portrait 23, a notarial deed in which I canonize myself provides the context and thus the necessary eloquence. In this work, a mirror portrait 'comes into being' and it is the viewer who must determine where and how identity is added and removed.
Reconstruction by a forensic anthropologist
Besides the above-mentioned 'metaphorical constructions' of identity, scientific forensic research also provides the opportunity for reconstruction. With Skeleton / Self-portrait 21 I wanted to explore the possibilities of a 'forensic reconstruction' and to redefine the concept of self-portrait.
A forensic anthropologist anonymously received a 3D copy of my skull (true image, 'vera icon') and made a reconstruction of my face based on the available scientific documentation on tissue structure, skin thickness and muscle groups. The reconstruction in clay was then cast in bronze, so that it could be presented as Skeleton / Self-Portrait 21. Paradoxically, this is a 'self-portrait' that was not made by the artist himself.