liliana porter juxtaposes incongruous objects, heavy with references to art history, in a witty and formally simple — but masterfully complex — play on the existential conundrum: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
but that’s a scratch on the surface.
liliana porter (b. 1941, argentina) brancusi, 2008 Duraflex photograph 11 x 15 1/4 inches
in this piece, we’re not just looking at a bird contemplating an egg. we’re looking at a photograph of a representation of a bird which is itself looking not at a representation of an egg, but an image of a representation of an egg. true to her roots in the magical realism of literary latin america — josé donoso, gabriel garcía márquez, jorge luis borges — and the conceptual art of the 1970s, porter asks us to consider the nature of “reality,” the veracity of images and how we understand the world.
the tchotchke is so bright-eyed, so seemingly interested, that the silly trinket comes to life… the little bird becomes our surrogate. the simple meaning is that as the little bird reflects on the origin of its existence, we’re asked to spend a moment examining the significance of our own being.
but what the bird/viewer engages with is an image of a representation of an object — a post card reproduction of a sculpture — and not porter’s representation of an egg, but another artist — constantin brancusi’s rendition of the beginning of life. there are so many layers of depiction and appropriation, that you lose track of the “real”… like a room of mirrors casting your image back and forth ad infinitum.
this work reflects a world where images proliferate — where most of what we “know” is mediated. that is to say, our experience of the world comes through other peoples’ interpretations and representations, rather than our own actual experiences. books, photographs, films, facebook, instagram, this blog. think about how much of the art you know, you’ve never actually seen, except in a photograph… particularly inadequate information when it comes to understanding a three dimensional object like sculpture.
now think about how much of the world you actually know through your own senses.
this piece is about how we get the experiences that inform our worldview and the recognition that what we know is merely the shadows on the wall of plato’s cave. most specifically, it’s about the examination of life through art.