Only in the heights of extreme physical pain can one feel relief from the constant emotional torture. I reckon that’s the whole point behind study, sport, really loud concerts and really long after-parties … and thank god (we hope) that something might do it! albeit for a very short time. In this spirit, Richard MacDonald creates small, life-sized and colossal sculptures of dancers and acrobats with really quite incredible skill, capturing not exactly something true to life, because metal things can’t be alive for Christ’s sake, but something expressing a profoundly self-destructive human desire.
MacDonald is American. Nevertheless, a retrospective of his sculptures is being shown at Barcelona’s lovely European Museum of Modern Art until June 15th. These figures are presented as a menagerie rather than a choreography; swathed in a pleasing soundtrack (provided, I think, by the institution) they don’t exactly dance together but each poses in its own introspective bubble world of painless pain. MacDonald, a dancer turned sculptor, is clearly fascinated by the pain thing. He brings out the beauty and ugliness of a fat-free body held in frozen elasticity, wiry limbs contorted or stretched to their limits like a torsion bridge strung out to breaking point. And it’s not so much heightened emotion expressed, I reckon, as the refreshing absence of it – the moment of ultimate distraction. Unsettling, I give you, but also kinda sublime.
MacDonald is a successful figure himself, also producing public sculpture. He’s modelled dancers from Britain’s Royal Ballet School and acrobats from the persistently creepy Cirque du Soleil. And you can also see the attraction of it for these performers, too – their dedication to perpetuating the illusion of reaching dynamic perfection congealed in bronze forever by MacDonald’s wily hand.
Of course in real life there are no such fixed states. No permanence at all! Even when you’re dead, you’re still on the move.