Albert Ploeger Kunstmeditaties

(Categorie: Essays)

Mary and Annlee. About Representation and Presence in Visual Art: Summary in English

Who is Mary, the mother of Jesus? Who is she in the bible, in history, who is she for us? How is she represented in pre-modern art, in a Renaissance painting, in a work of Raphael, the Alba-Madonna; what does this painting contribute to present Mary to ourselves, to call Mary to our mind? What is Annlee, the virtual Japanese puppet? What is it, as a walk-on in a comic in Japan; what does she become, when a group of artists in Paris adopts her, how has she fared since she has settled in the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven? How is Annlee represented in postmodern art? How can we present her to ourselves? How can we call Annlee to mind? Who is Mary, what is Annlee? The Mother of God and a virtual puppet, who do they represent? How can they be presented to us, in our culture?

If as a theologian one wants to reflect on these and similar questions on the crossroads of art, religion and everyday life, it is important to do some research concerning the meaning of the terms representation and presence in visual art. In the first part of the article I give my interpretation of these terms. About the meaning of the concept of representation: every art connoisseur, whether Erc Fernie, Crispin Sartwell, Martin Seel etcetera, will agree that it is the depiction (Darstellung) of something. Then, they will give their own interpretation of the notion of depiction. Anyhow, representation is not a term for a personal, subjective interpretation of an artwork, but it is used for intersubjective art research.

Presence I will understand as ‘Calling to Mind – What Visions Does It Evoke?’. So that what an artwork presents for an observer, depends on the meaning a person gives to his experience of the represenyation of the artwork and the expression of or from the work.

In our case: Everywhere and any time Mary is represented, she can be present in the mind of the observer, in the Alba-Madonna as a beautiful woman, and moreover, for a believer, as a symbol of God’s presence. And truly as she is presented here, in the Alba-Madonna, she is becoming flesh and blood to bring us Jesus Christ, the first New Being. So she can be intriguing, inspirng, exemplary, a person to identify with.

This very aspect of identification we recognize in our time when we experience the modern divas, like the English star Madonna. Perhaps we this identification occurs even more easily when we experience virtual images in recent media. We can manipulate virtual images in such a way that they seem to fulfil our deepest longings. But just because, or in spite of these possibilities of manipulation they can possess us as we get obsessed by them.

The virtual puppet Annlee is a representation of a modern Madonna, if she is present in us, in me. Then she becomes a symbol of the search for something to hold on to and for the wish to identify with a television or an internet personality. If we project our longings onto her, she can determine our lives and we can see these longings reflected by her.

Who is Mary, the mother of Jesus? Who she is in the bible, how is she represented in an artwork like the Alba-madonna; what help can such a work offer if we want to call Mary to mind and present Mary to ourselves? If we want to identify with her, want to deal with her way of life, to live for God, with God?

What is Annlee, the virtual Japanese puppet? How does the Parisian group of artists, especially Lily Fleury with her artbook, represent her? We are living in the Information Age, and we are used to substantiate from the virtual reality of the internet. What help can such a work offer us if we want to call Annlee to mind and present Annlee to ourselves? If we want to identify with her, want to deal with her strong postmodern personality?

Mary, the Theotokos… Annlee, a virtual puppet… Who do they represent; why should they, in which way can they, be present in our minds?