Sydney Biennale artists Hadley+Maxwell are ‘busting’ open the Powerhouse Museum Collection…

Hadley Howes pictured behind the bust of Queen Victoria, while the hands of  Maxwell Stephens  are shown applying cine foil to the bust. Image: Powerhouse Museum
Hadley Howes pictured behind the bust of Queen Victoria, while the hands of Maxwell Stephens are shown applying cinefoil to the bust. Image: Powerhouse Museum

Canadian artists Hadley+Maxwell are set to be onsite in the PHM Turbine Hall on Tuesday 11 March 2014 to take an impression of our marble bust of Queen Victoria (90/960 – from the Grace Bros Building Façade, c.1880-90, maker unknown). What’s bound to leave an impression is the way they are reverse-casting the marble bust with a black foil material called Cinefoil.

More traditional methods of casting makes use of wax or wooden moulds that are capable of holding a material in place until it sets into the sculpted design; certainly led and bronze sculpture is created this way. Cinefoil is a material normally used in theatre for lighting manipulation as a way to quickly create light blocking techniques such as barndoors or flags. Here, Biennale artists Hadley+Maxwell have reappropriated the material to take impressions of existing sculptures around Sydney. This type of physical rendering, or reverse-casting, is a way of tracing our cultural history through our material remnants. Their process is similar to taking a rubbing at a historical site as a way to transpose the historical object.

Maxwell Stephens  shown applying cinefoil to the Queen Victoria bust in the Powerhouse Museum Image: Powerhouse
Maxwell Stephens shown applying cinefoil to the Queen Victoria bust in the Powerhouse Museum Image: Powerhouse Museum.

Done here in a 3D manner, Hadley+Maxwell aim to keep the original essence of a sculptural object. By removing that essence from its intended station or repository, they also aim to re-imagine it and its purpose. They are particularly interested in the animated parts of the sculpture (hands, arms, expressions) and symbols of power associated with the figure (wreaths, sceptres, books, and crowns) to re-create timelines and re-present them in new and innovative ways.

Their proposal for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine what you Desire is titled Manners, Habits and Other Received Ideas and will be on display at Carriageworks from 21 March – 9 June 2014.

Written by Deborah Turnbull, Assistant Curator

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