There, that's it!

I cannot mend it.

curatorial study

In response to the global pandemic, museums, galleries, libraries, and archives around the world have opened their collections and exhibitions to the public through online platforms, rethinking art's role in society where survival is a primary driving force. This exhibition aims to activate thirty digital reproductions of paintings, drawings, prints, objects, music, and photographs in the public domain by many artists from institutional art history and collections of museums, exploring artistic expressions of health and mortality--not to romanticise, but rather, to borrow their contexts to contemporary understanding.

In 1794, the English poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake (1757-1827) illustrated the archetype of reason as a bearded man separating light and darkness with a compass he had set to the Earth. Bearing this architectural tool, reason creates and constrains the universe—designing the world and humanity under universal laws and conventions of society. In the last days of his life, the artist was commissioned for a reproduction of this piece for a sum greater than his previous works, and while bedridden—he threw the tinted copy exclaiming “There, that will do! I cannot mend it.”

 

By re-exhibiting digitized copies of previously-restricted works and sharing their contexts in the online public sphere, these works lend their historicity into immediacy, thereby creating the potential for a new compass. This curatorial study hopes to reflect on the role of institutional art history in the circumstance of present survival by intimating on the statement, "There, that's it! I cannot mend it.” -- an act of service, the acceptance of limitation, and the renouncing of power to a bigger, more capable mender.

John Alexis Balaguer

Hover or click on thumbnail to expand images or read the extended notes. All files are shareable and downloadable. All works featured in this exhibition are intended for Fair Use and are under Universal Public Domain Dedication (Creative Commons Licenses) permitting copy, modification, distribution, and performance of the work even for commercial purposes, without requiring permission. Acknowledgements to the various institutions listed for making these works and their research publicly available. 

Young Man and Skull (Jeune homme à la tête de mort) 

Paul Cézanne

oil on canvas

54.3 x 65.4 cm

ca. 1896–1898

Barnes Foundation Collection

Public Domain

Shape altered

Ancient of Days Setting a Compass to the Earth

William Blake

illustration from Europe a Prophecy

1794

The New York Public Library Collection

Public Domain

Europe, A Prophecy

William Blake

17 plates: colored relief etchings

38 cm

1794

Library of Congress (USA)

Lessing J Rosenwald Collection

Public Domain 

Click to view

Coughs and Sneezes

Richard Massingham

film, 1 m 25 s

1945

Contains public sector information

Licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (UK)

Public Domain