The Sickness Unto Death Pt. V: Head of a Man on a Rod

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The Sickness Unto Death 
A Musically Guided Exploration of Artist's Struggle with Mortality
Curated by Aaron Dupuis



Alberto Giacometti, Head of a Man on a Rod, 1947


"I read somewhere that when you face eternity
 You face it alone
No matter what you thought
Or what you had or you had not
Unless you put yourself in God
But tell me God oh where did you go?"
"The Sickness Unto Death," Typhoon 

Alberto Giacometti's sculptures and portraits exhibit a twisted pride in the reduction of the human form to its most basic and fragile states. The Walking Man series, City Square, and Three Men Walking all feature thin, frail figures, lost in the void of empty space around them. The inclusion of several figures upon a single surface - City Square and Three Men Walking for instance - serves to increase the sense of loneliness rather than detract from it. These shades are lost and self-absorbed, worn down to skeletons by the slow steady passage of time. In the aftermath of WWII, Giacometti's works were a statement about the human condition, that is to say, that humans were broken, selfish, helpless things. Not one of these works, however, seems quite as lonely or hopeless or concerned with eternity as Head of a Man on a Rod. 

A man's cry to the cruel, unfeeling heavens captured in cold, rough bronze, Head of a Man uses negative space to its fullest extent. The man's body has blown away, gone like so much dust in so many gusts of wind, leaving only a rod to support the head. Empty space surrounds the silhouette, engulfing the figure in nothingness. The man is crying into a vacuum, the vacuum. He hopes for a reply. A sign. For purpose. For hope. But he receives nothing in return. Instead his head hovers there for eternity, gazing into the abyss, praying at the top of his lungs that something stares back.

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