Reminiscent of the remains of buildings once excavated and partially reassembled, Paola Siri Renard’s sculptures erect (once again) before us, spread out on the floor, suspended from the ceiling or anchored to the wall, beckoning viewers to confront them. The hybrid union between these architectural ruins and the steel elements supporting them like braces mending a bone fracture yields almost cyborg-like pieces. They are like remains of columns, frontispieces, cornices, and ornamental friezes becoming protective structures for human and animal bodies. These works suggest such defensive or restorative envelopes as carapaces, rib cages, membranes, splints, and armours, thus depicting human and animal bodies in a hollowed-out form. Relics that have become extensions of the body and its movements, the sculptures are intended as augmented beings and new means of defence in the face of the control of bodies in society – their regulation, their normalisation. These remains of monuments, which once exerted power over certain bodies, are henceforth destined to be activated by the audience, creating their own narrative vis-à-vis works that bear witness to both a past or potential activity.
Exhibited together for the first time, Confessional with a view 2022 and (dazzling) garderobe 2023 are made up of pieces sculpted by hand in acrylic plaster giving the illusion of cut stone and held at a distance from one another by steel structures. The sculpted fragments are based on architectural ornaments, details that Paola Siri Renard has extracted from monuments and re-appropriated, and that, once assembled, look as much like archaeological ruins as bones. These fictitious archaeological relics seem to have had a primary function, namely embellishment. Here, we find some of the plant motifs and curves characteristic of Art Nouveau. They show the traces of a decorative intention and a human activity from a bygone era, a sumptuousness that has become vulnerable. By stabbing steel pins through them – thereby making them mobile – the artist imposes a new order on the sculptures, appropriating their former histories and introducing new ones. With this device, the sculptures can be transformed from one exhibition space to another – in the same way as a malleable syntax that opens up a multitude of possible meanings.