THE KING’S TWO BODIES
November 22 – January 13, 2019/20
Opening Reception November 22, 6- 9pm
The King is dead, long live The King! This sentence was first proclaimed for Charles VI’s death and was followed by the ascension to the throne of his son Charles VII. An apparent paradox, the expression is nonetheless pure rhetoric of continuity and the manifestation of (royal and political) permanence. Ernst Kantorowicz, the author of “The King’s Two Bodies” 1957, conceives of the Royal body as double, arguing the existence of both a “natural” and a “social” body. Therefore, if the first one (the monarch's corporeal being) passes on, the second (it’s political and representational one) would subsist through his successor. Things can change, but their essence, their hegemony, remains intact.
The King’s body is MADE OF GLASS, long live The King! The year is 1432, and Charles VI “le Bien-Aimé” (the Beloved) is on his way to becoming Charles VI “le Fou” (the Mad). The king suffers a violent psychotic break, which leads him to believe his own body is entirely made of glass. This is the earliest and best-known case of noblemen and scholars unraveling by way of a fear of their glass-like fragility, a phenomenon nearly epidemic at the time.
The King’s body is MADE OF ICE, long live The King! In Bea Orlandi’s universe, Permanence itself is a King of Ice; one surrounded by zealous subjects striving to keep him below his fatal melting point. In the current context of melting glaciers and arctic floes, the precariousness of ice takes the place of fragile glass in the collective imaginary. Today, ice must be preserved; if not by environmental laws and careful precautions, then by the sticky rules of denial. Western political and economic models seem also to be urgently preserved, but with doubtless, fervent, and obsessive devotion, all backed by a collective and incessant mobilization of forces. Pristine and hard, pure and timeless (if kept in the absence of weather!), ice is a mythical status quo. It is no wonder that pre-fascist and fascist scientists and further, their regimes, embraced a ruling cosmology of ice–the Welteislehre (WEL).
The ICE KING shall melt, long live VALENTIN! Mice are known to get through holes a few times smaller than their size. In French, “passer par un trou de souris,” (to get through a mouse hole) literally means to be exceptionally agile. Mice live underground, in a body of mazes and obscurity, but they are always able to come in and out of more light-bathed worlds. First introduced by Orlandi in her 2018 opera, “The Leather Mouse,” Valentin can trespass the singularity between worlds, bodies, and kingdoms despite cosmic, quantic, social, or biological constraints.
For the KING’S TWO BODIES, Orlandi works with (and within) a claustrophobic set of mirroring worlds. Worlds which aren’t supposed to meet, like those of permanence and impermanence, human and animal, drama and physics, black and white holes. By introducing architectural tunnels (or strettos in the artist’s vocabulary) through space, dimensions, and kingdom. Valentin forensics enables a realm of possibilities where things can be turned upside down, transformed, or erased. Valentin’s murder and the Ice King’s supremacy are neither clues nor conclusions; they are relative, quantic, and dramatic starting points for an overtaking inquiry on the state of things.
Text by Philémon Otth
Bea Orlandi (born in Venice, IT) is an artist, writer, and educator currently based in New York. She earned her MFA in Visual Arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, NJ in 2018. She completed postgraduate studies in art at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. She holds an MA in Architecture from KTH, The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and a BA in Architecture from the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture, Switzerland. In 2015 she received the EVA Bonnier’s prize for art in the public realm. She currently teaches animation at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts.