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The magic of titles

Posted April. 05, 2023 07:51,   

Updated April. 05, 2023 07:51


The meaning is sometimes determined by the title. One example is the works of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan on display at the Leeum Museum of Art. The works ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ stand out, particularly among them.

One piece is a photo of a person buried in sand praying with only the hands out, titled ‘Mother.’ This is the artist filming a man's performance art at the 1999 Venice Biennale. At that time, he invited a Muslim Sufi monk from India to go under the sand and pray with only his hands out for two hours. Although it was a Sufi penance that had nothing to do with mother, the artist named it “Mother.” The other work, which shows only the soles of a person lying down, is titled “Father.” The soiled soles belong to the artist, not the father, but the artist gave them such a title.

We interpret the artworks according to their titles. It is as if titles govern people. Without a title, looking at these works and associating them with mother and father is not easy. The artist gives a title, shows hands and feet, and “forces the audience to conjure up their own story.” In other words, it is a type of postmodern play with the way meaning is created. However, no matter how playful it may be, the artist might have thought of his mother and father when giving such a title. His mother, who died when he was twenty-two, was a cleaner, and his father a truck driver. So, one piece could be a homage work for his mother, who was a deeply religious Catholic, and the other could be a work made in mourning for his father, who had to live a life of toil. If so, play is mixed with seriousness.

It does not stay at the personal level. The playful work makes us choke up with tears. Looking back at the exhausting lives of our mothers and fathers, which are implied and evoked by the soil-stained soles, makes us want to pray for them like the hands in the photograph. That is what the titles do, the magic.