Amidst the hallowed halls of the Artis Moderna Gallery, a particularly peculiar statue catches the wandering eye—a hyper-realistic marble mannequin with a vintage 1950s television for a head.
Dubbed “The Watcher,” this sculpture tells a tale of technological existential crises and temporal nonsense. Its meticulously carved body oozes with muscular minute details and flowing stone drapery, harkening back to those happy ancient times when sculptors were still permitted to depict the human form. Where a serene face should have gazed upon the gallery’s patrons, a boxy, antiquated TV set sits in its stead. With its dials, antennas, and dead screen, the TV head seems to challenge all who meet its gaze, transmitting only one channel in its signal: “What is time, but a human construct flowing like so much particulate stone?”
Legend has it that the sculpture sprang from the disturbed dreams of a reclusive genius known only as “Vitruvius,” a noted sculptor of Roman antiquities and moonlighting TV repairman. Created during one hundred sleepless nights below the catacombs, “The Watcher” stands as his treaty on modern society’s slavish addiction to all things digital and mass media. The silent and lifeless old tube, imposing itself upon human DNA, acts here as a feverish metaphor, warning that we sculpt ourselves in the image of our creations.
In between sips of wine and uncertain glances, the gallery patrons stand mesmerised before “The Watcher’s” imposing figure. Some see within it a grave marker, declaring humanity more machine now than man, a little better than sculpted stone. Still more interpret its mixed media as a cause for celebration, the past and present conjoined inside a Trinitron twist.
Yet “The Watcher’s” true appeal lies cocooned inside its mystery. What does its stare signify? The secrets buried behind that dead channel screen flicker just beyond our comprehension, never fully tuning in, as we compose still-lives from art and technology that scatter, over time, into so much dust.0