Michael Landy’s ‘Saints Alive’ exhibit features kinetic religious sculptures that ask viewers to ‘torture’ them.
Stories of saints and their trials to prove themselves Christianly have been forgotten by much of the secular world. In his newest exhibit, Saints Alive, showing at the National Gallery in London, artist Michael Landy seeks to reengage the public with the history of biblical saints, by letting them torture the holy men and women all over again.
Landy, who is the current Artist-in-Residence at the gallery, was given space to create new works inspired by the gallery’s collection. Since it is home to Western European paintings created up to 1900, Landy had to figure out a way to combine his contemporary steampunk aesthetic with the traditional works on display. He was inspired by painting of saints, but modified them into sculptures, built with cogs and wheels, and junk found throughout the country. Landy added an interactive element which let visitors punish the saints as they had been punished in the stories of the Bible. For instance, a statute of Saint Jerome, who supposedly would beat his chest with a rock for penance, comes with a foot pedal which, when pressed, lets the viewer repeat the torture endlessly.
The somewhat macabre and sadistic exhibit also functions as a way to get visitors more interested in the paintings which inspired the sculptures. Says Alexandra Moskalenko, Press Officer for the National Gallery:
Our visitors have been intrigued and inspired by the exhibits, some thinking it both thought-provoking and absorbing. We would hope that our visitors will link Michael Landy’s works with the paintings which inspired him — and enjoy the fact that it is free to see these magnificent paintings at the National Gallery too.
Click on the gallery below to see the artist’s workspace and final sculptures: