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Animals Art Dark Art Disturbing Installations Sculpture

Tenderness for the Dead: Sculptures by Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere - antlers and dead body

The wax sculptures of the Ghent-born artist Berlinde de Bruyckere ask the viewer a question rooted in ethics: What does a subject need to lack in order to be considered a soulless object? They resemble the byproducts of a morgue, a slaughterhouse, or a taxidermist’s table, all of which are thematically linked as platforms of industrialized death. With the wax mimicking skin, muscle, tissue, and hair with astounding accuracy, each human or animal body produces a visceral sense of fear and repulsion that quickly collapses into tenderness and compassion. Like precious, abandoned monuments, they are lain within glass cases or seated on platforms to separate them spatially and mentally from the viewer. They are often missing limbs, heads, or facial features, which further complicates our understandings of their subjectivity in death—but still we find it. For de Bruyckere and her works, consciousness exists throughout the body. “The figure as a whole is a mental state,” she writes. “The presence or absence of a head is irrelevant.”

Berlinde de Bruyckere - headless body

Berlinde de Bruyckere - dead body in glass box

Berlinde de Bruyckere - dead sack sculpture

Berlinde de Bruyckere - torso and legs on stool

Berlinde de Bruyckere - abstract ramp

Berlinde de Bruyckere - antlers

Berlinde de Bruyckere - antlers

Berlinde de Bruyckere - long-haired woman on ledge, sculpture

Berlinde de Bruyckere - dead cow

Berlinde de Bruyckere - slaughterhouse

Images © Berlinde de Bruyckere