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The material subject of Warrior A Warrior B is two of the most important bronze male nudes that have come down to us from Antiquity. The non-material subject of the video is the condition of vulnerability.
Created in Greece during the mid 400’s BCE, these figures are art-historically significant because between them we bear witness to a loosening of the Archaic approach to representing human form and the emergence of the Classical style (with all of its inherent distortions).
Hazewinkel is alert to the to the historical development of representations of the human figure within the western sculptural tradition. He searches for anomalies in that tradition which he then exploits to reveal the contemporary social relevance of these often misconstrued figures. In this instance, as his lens traces the anatomical precision of veins and arteries emerging from within the bronze epidermis of these figures, he is conscious of their strategic bodily distortions (and contortions) and how this renders them nonconformists to realism or idealism. These figures, like so many Classical male nudes, are both impossible hybrid monsters and creatures of exquisite beauty - to conflate this dualism is to consider them exquisite monsters. This is where the recurrent theme of doubleness in Hazewinkel’s practice comes into focus. Here threads of desire and impossibility twist like a strand of DNA as vulnerability is laid bare (perhaps as much for the beholder as for the video’s subjects).
Much of Hazewinkel’s work that takes ancient figural sculpture as its material subject tends focus on the damage (or injury) done to ancient bodies. The artist has repeatedly returned to this strategy for releasing the contemporary relevance of the broken bodies of Antiquity, which he has described as an experiential, embodied, empathic mutuality. Warriors A and B however call for (and offer) a different strategy. These two figures differ from others that Hazewinkel has worked with in that they are (physically speaking) almost complete, entire, whole.
It is a remarkable fact that after approximately 2500 years on the seabed these two figures remain intact; that is excepting half of Warrior A’s right index finger and their weaponry and shields. It is as if time has slowly and selectively erased their capacity for inflicting injury on others and for defending themselves against that which others might try to inflict upon them.
Warrior A Warrior B was photographed during a period of the figures material analysis and conservation. Typically they stand proudly erect in purpose-built rooms at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria Italy, however these images were made during a period in which the figures lay side by side in provisional structures that resembled hospital gurneys.
The setting in which these images were made was a temporary makeshift laboratory (with triage like qualities) that had been set up in the foyer of Municipal Government’s regional headquarters in Reggio Calabria. Separated from the public by a glass wall, the figures’ examination (and Hazewinkel’s photographic activities) were on public display, giving the whole operation a sense of the intimate being made public, or pornographic, which reminds me of those gruesome surgical programs that stream into living rooms world over. For Hazewinkel the figures’ horizontality and the emergency room qualities of their setting coalesced to imbue these famous heroic figures with a sense of exposed vulnerability. Known as Warrior A and Warrior B (when experienced horizontally) their nomenclature contributes to that sense of vulnerability in that it is not difficult to imagine them as the soldiers of a contemporary conflict, injured and waiting in a field hospital.
Here Hazewinkel’s lens brushes over prone objectified bodies as the historiography of figural distortion hints at a double pulse. I’m not completely convinced that Hazewinkel’s video is successful in releasing a contemporary relevance from these ancient figures but the intent is clear. In drawing one’s own conclusion as to whether he has been successful in his endeavour (or not), it is helpful to know something of the distortion and contortion strategies deployed by ancient sculptors to help usher the beholder into their own inner dimension - which is what ancient figurative sculpture was meant to do.
Antiquity brims (now as it did then) with all manner of chimera. Most often these hybrid entities are mash-ups of woman and beast, or man and beast. It seems that in the past the human and the animal were harder to separate. With the emergence of the Classical male nude we see the birth of a different hybrid, one that enables us to think differently about the bodily presences before us.
Classical male nudes most often represent the torso and limbs with the fully developed musculature of a mature male. In most cases this is incongruously combined with the genitalia of a pre-pubescent boy- it is hard to ignore. They are, in a sense, temporal mash-ups in that they represent physically distinct developmental stages of the male body. They represent adulthood and childhood in a single figure. In this way they conflate age classes into a single body. Considered in this manner these sculptures are not image-objects that describe a frozen moment in a lifetime (in the photographic sense) rather they are image-objects that describe passages of lifespan woven together through the body. Thinking this way about the common conundrum as to why so many Classical male figures have such small penises points toward another of Hazewinkel’s practice themes. Hazewinkel’s creative practice is defined by a melding of photographic and sculptural practices through which he explores the entangled relationship between bodies, materials, and remembering. It is fair to say that in his practice photography and sculpture commingle (physically and conceptually) as evidenced in this video wherein he employs still photographic images as a subtle counterpoint to the temporal movements embodied in the bronze figures.
Another example of anatomical distortion deployed by creators of Classical male nudes is sometimes called the athlete’s girdle. Warrior A and Warrior B are both fine examples of this. The athletes girdle is an imagined (physically impossible) continuous line linking the iliac crest and the inguinal ligament - the meeting of the thigh and the torso. This desire-based aesthetic phenomenon is today a common gym pursuit, but the iliac crest and inguinal ligament cannot meet in the manner of the handsome continuous curving line that it is represented in Classical male nudes.
Perhaps the most dramatic strategies for distorting and contorting the figure to elicit an internal effect are those representing structural impossibility. These are representations of skeletal impossibilities, impossible that is unless the figures has been earlier subjected to the torture chamber. Examining Warrior A closely we can identify that his right forearm faces forward, toward us, while the palm of the adjoining hand faces toward his thigh. Whilst easily overlooked (perhaps because it seems natural) this position requires the smaller of the two bones in the human forearm (the radius) to bend impossibly below the wrist. Another structural distortion occurs in the Warrior A’s left leg which twists away from his body (to our right) and the thigh and calf muscles to not match up, in other words here the knee is dislocated in exquisite monstrosity. When we consider Classical male nudes through the prism of distortion and contortion, we begin to realise that they do not conform to conceptions of realism or idealism, rather (for Hazewinkel at least) they resonate ontologically with a powerful a sense of individualism, which at times suggests past injury.
Some scholars suggest that Warriors A and B were made using casts taken from living models. Others advise that the strategic distortions explained above suggest otherwise. For Hazewinkel however, the later's dismissal of the proposition need not be relevant. He approaches these figures as a maker of objects that represent human form, from his maker’s perspective, whether an object’s becoming involves direct transfer from a living human body or not it is always a hybrid of inner and outer worlds, wherein the scratches, scrapes and ruptures of embodied pasts are enacted again and again in present.
This finds concordance with R. Neer when in writing about Warrior A and Warrior B in his book The Emergence of The Classical Style in Greek Sculpture, he states “There seems to be a felt need that artworks of such magnificence should, somehow, body forth truth. If it was a characteristic of an earlier age to identify this truth with the sensuous manifestation of an Idea, so it is characteristic of current scholarship to define the truth in sculpture as an indexical relation to real bodies, mediated in and through technology. But evidence points to the contrary. Classical sculpture is not more realistic or natural than it’s predecessors in any absolute sense; indeed, it is not clear what absolute realism or naturalism might be. It combines a new and in some ways more thoroughgoing notation of what we, today, are prepared to recognise as the real with an equally new distortion of it.”
Warrior A Warrior B was originally presented at the Australian Centre For Contemporary Art as part of Hazewinkel’s 2014 installation All In Time. See Anthony Gardner’s text The Sleep Of Reason that accompanied the installation here.
See Hazewinkel’s 2013 gelatin silver photograph titled Warrior B here.
Photographic permissions courtesy Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali Soperintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Calabria.