Dominique Blain is known for her work that expresses human distress and adversity. In her multifaceted artistic practice, she skillfully evokes and revives historical events, in such a way that she cuts to the heart of various political issues to denounce the looting and destruction of heritage objects.
Integrated into the immersive games section, this large-scale installation, recently acquired thanks to a donation from Erik Deslandres, transports the visitor to First-World-War Italy. It is inspired by the 1917 book by Ugo Ojetti, titled I monumenti italiani e la guerra (Italian monuments and the war). It presents constructions made from wood, sandbags and even hanging mattresses used to shelter sculptures and monuments from the bombings. Throughout the book, the author juxtaposes photographs (taken in Venice, Milan and Florence) of these artworks before and after being covered by the makeshift structures. His hope was to sensitize the public to the potential destruction of cultural heritage in times of war. Blain’s installation somewhat builds on Ojetti’s work: taking images from the book, she strikes visitors’ imaginations, while drawing their attention to a type of devastation that sadly persists today. She sees it as a gesture of hope and faith in humanity: “Be it to protect a religious icon or work of art, [saving heritage pieces] was an act of resistance that took courage, pride and determination.”1
Untitled/Protection plunges us into the heart of the battlefield in a trench made from hundreds of sandbags. On the central wall of the installation hang 11 photographs from Ojetti’s book, accentuated by golden frames that symbolically transform them into works of art. In manipulating the constraints of space and time, the artist creates here an environment that invites us to meditate on the destruction of heritage, past and present.
Dominique Blain (born in 1957), Untitled/Protection, 1989, gelatin silver prints on polymeric film mounted on canvas, gilt frames, burlap bags. MMFA, gift of Erik Deslandres
1Excerpt from the artistic approach for the work written by Dominique Blain.