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I conquer claustrophobia
And demand the light

- Björk

About the subject

The premise of art deco and jugendstil were quite simple back in the day: to ornate even the most utilitarian tools, making them works of art (for the right price). During this time, figurines made of ivory and cast iron were quite popular and quite some designs have made it to this day in the form of, most commonly alas, cheaper bronze castings. Danseuse Tribale is inspired by precisely those chryselephantines, particularly by Testris by the remarkable Démetre Chiparus.

While the subject is a 'simple dancer' there is a bit more to the sculpture as meets the eye at first glance. You might see Danseuse Tribale as an update on the chryselephantine subject. The first striking difference are the materials. While having created a bronze and ivory piece certainly had its own appeal, I decided against it because of different reasons:

  • I don't support or endorse the hunt of elephants or any other animal for fur, bones or any other material. To remain congruent, I the sculpture couldn't have ivory in it.
  • A only bronze statue would have felt like making a 2nd class work compared to a chryselephantine, like the other so many reproductions and copies. So the look and finish had to be quite different.
  • Using only one material instead of mixed media had the advantage of having full control of the light reflections and textures, so it seemed obvious to take this approach.

Another big difference between the dancers of the fin de siècle and the Danseuse Tribale tribale, is of course the different beauty standards that the dancers itself are catered to. Danseuse Tribale takes the somewhat radical approach my art normally takes emebellishing long legs, hands and feet on a slender and athletic subject, as opposed to the more classic approach of staying closer to more phyziologiacally correct proportions.

The final, and more subtle, difference are the garments and their origins. The 20th century had a remarkably pronounces taste for exotic cultures, so the influence of those cultures was quite present in phenomena of the so called orientalism and such. These widespread tendency is what we would most probably call cultural appropiation in the 21th century. This way Danseuse Tribale takes a similar apporach to appropriate foreign cultures by taking as inspiration the works of european artists and at the same time, the performances of a contemporary assimiliating cultural stream called _tribal fusion style belly dance _. This stream is famous for its mix of cultures, styles an epochs, as you can see in the works of Kira Habibi Lal and Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice. Danseuse Tribale would have not been possible without Brice's fantastic work.

Why Björk's Crystaline?

Mainly because I really like her work. While Danseuse Tribale was not inspired by Crystaline, I think the version in Bastards with Omar Souleyman expresses to the point the eclectical syncretism that inspired this piece.

A summary for collectors:

danseuse tribale

epoxy clay · acrylics · stoneware
height aprox. 30 cm
2012
available on Etsy