From the Latin, damnatio memoriae describes an act of erasure from the historical record reserved for those who have brought dishonor to the Roman State. Employed as the most stringent punishment for treason, damnatio memoriae physically razes all traces of an individual from society, typically through the destruction a statue’s physiognomy or the abrasion of inscribed monuments. Throughout the past two decades, Sassolino has developed a body of work that examines the relationship between industrial machines and humanist impulses where viewers are meant to question how an sculpture’s kinetic function aesthetically and conceptually allegorizes human experiences and cultural conditions.
Standing over 3.3 meters tall and composed of milled stainless steel, damnatio memoriae’s diamond sander rotates at a rate of 2900 rpm methodically transforming a marble statue’s idealized physiology into a cloud of nebulous dust. Over the course of the exhibition, the sculpture’s physical permanence is slowly dematerialized, reducing the object’s existence to memory. Fabricated based on a historical original, the torso’s status as a copy further complicates the truth-value of extant historical narratives. If Alois Riegl’s seminal text “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Origin” (1903) posits a monument’s signal purpose as maintaining human culture “alive and present in the human consciousness,” Sassolino’s damnatio memoriae questions the value of history in the contemporary imaginary. Moreover, Sassolino’s signature visual vocabulary makes Minimalism’s embedded anthropomorphic qualities explicit, pushing industrial material the point of failure and mining the nuanced strata of contemporary relationships and collective histories. Damnatio memoriae furthers Sassolino interest in visceral encounters that reconsider collective memory and call into question the criteria that demonstrate our humanity.
Damnatio Memoriae by Arcangelo Sassolino
Galerie Rolando Anselmi, Berlin
Through December 15