Standing in the first gallery of the Henry Moore Institute are six sculptures based on Ancient Greek Korai, devotional models of women holding offerings to the Gods. Aleksandra Domanović’s iterations are constructed from a hybrid of modern industrial materials and techniques. Their arms, hands and offerings are modelled or 3D printed in Kevlar, aluminium and polyurethane; cyborg limbs on box-shaped bodies. As you walk amongst them you notice that these limbs can all be removed and stored in the machined foam recesses at the back of their bodies. They are designed to be dismantled, to be transported and exhibited again elsewhere. I am told they are ‘networked works’ optimised to suit the life they have been constructed for.
In their shared features you can begin to read further into the specifics of each form. The hands are replicas of the Belgrade Hand designed by pioneering Serbian scientist Rajko Tomović for amputees returning after World War II. Whereas ‘Pomegranate’ (2017) and ‘Hare’ (2016) clutch offerings which might have been found on the original Greek sculptures, such as fruit and animals, the others are posed with size-six basketballs, the standardised dimensions for women’s basketball competitions.
In amongst these works are six plinth-like stacks of thousands of pages of A4 paper and plastic (2016/17). Each sheet has been printed along its edges, so when piled up an image can be seen. These works exist as easily transferred and saved pdf files until printed and stacked, a technique which addresses sculpture as an increasingly digital medium. In ‘Untitled (The Fly, 1986)’, stills from Jeff Goldblum’s horrific hybridisation are stretched and distorted, further spliced with alternate sheets of clear acetate. In ‘Untitled (Blatter, Platini and Wambach)’ screenshots of FIFA’s Sepp Blatter, who ruled in 2014 that Women’s World Cup matches should be played on artificial pitches, demoting female players in the interests of saving money.
Towering in the central space is ‘Calf Bearer’ (2017), a much larger version of the previous forms based on the Greek sculpture ‘Moschophoros’. Slung across the shoulders of the piece is a 3D-printed bull calf. Here we encounter Domanović’s interest in biological design, as the calf is modelled on bulls which have been modified by scientists through CRISPR gene editing. They do not grow horns, making them less of a risk to other cattle as well as the farmers. There is potential beyond this practical application, the scientists explain: ‘if a rich guy’s daughter wants a unicorn for her birthday, we can do that!’.1
The final room of the exhibition hosts Domanović’s film ‘Turbo Sculpture’ (2010-13). The film tracks occurrence of various Balkan countries erecting public statues to ‘non-national media celebrities’. In Mostar, Bosnia, this is a statue of Bruce Lee; in Žitište, it’s the Serbian version of Rocky Balboa. The works comment on the growing appetite for Western culture in the region in the wake of Communist rule. The monuments were intended to inspire the people of these towns with new populist role models, although some were regularly defaced and eventually removed. The prefix ‘turbo’ hints at modern industrialism, and was first used to describe Turbo-Folk, a hybrid of traditional Balkan and synthesised electronic dance music. ‘Turbo Sculpture’ is composed of still images sourced from the internet, each one layered over the previous as the narrator talks through the sculptures’ histories, creating a generic digital ‘page turning’ effect.
The exhibition as a whole demonstrates Domanović’s ability to create sculpture as hyperlinks or nodes, an intersection of sprawling references and research that draws you down various paths into divergent, and sometimes serendipitous aspects of aesthetics and culture from the past and present.
Aleksandra Domanović: Votives, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 23 March – 11 June 2017.
Simon Boase is an artist and writer based in Leeds.
Image: Installation view of Gallery 1, showing (left to right): ‘Hare’ (2016), ‘Untitled (Blatter, Platini and Wambach)’ (2016), ‘Snowbird’ (2017), ‘Pomegranate’ (2017), ‘Standing man’ (2017), ‘Partridge’ (2017), ‘Gunner’ (2017). Photo credit: Jerry Hardman-Jones.