After remaining silent for more than 100 years, Pauline, a nude marble statue sculpted by Giulio Tadolini (1849–1918) would finally open her eyes to return visitors’ gaze. The beautiful marble statue has stood quietly in the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum since 1942 but not for much longer.
As part of a nationwide series of Museums at Night events, the gallery won a public vote to host internationally renowned artists, Davy and Kristin McGuire.
Using projection, voice and music, the project Starkers would explore the idea of perfection and the female form and animate the gallery space.
Kristin McGuire said: “We had the idea of projecting onto the statue to bring it alive and create an inimitable experience that challenges preconceptions of the gallery and its collections.”
The team needed a high brightness, reliable projector to create the effect on the statue.
The installation ran for one month and combined imagery projected onto the statue and nearby paintings with music and a spoken monologue from Pauline to her night time voyeurs.
The team chose Optoma projectors for the installation. Kristin said: “We use Optoma projectors a lot. They are really versatile, strong, bright and small with good image quality.
“We did not need to map the projection. We simply created the content and used After Effects video software for post production effects. With the statue in place, we exported the video and put this onto a media player so that it would not need a PC or software running in the background.”
Award-winning playwright and dramaturg, Richard Hurford, was commissioned to write Pauline’s monologue to visitors. This cheeky speech was edited to play alongside the video content and played through an external set of speakers.
Employing a mix of projection, sound and narration, the charming but confrontational statue challenged visitors’ perceptions on how they think about figurative sculpture. The installation explored the relationship we hold with sculpture from the perspective of the statue.
Kristin said: “We were really pleased with the effect. The moment we projected onto her face – it sent a shiver down the spine.
“The witty monologue written by Richard Hurford was tongue in cheek. It was well written – evocative and thought provoking, yet funny.”
Jo Burns, Development Manager at Wirral Museums, said: "The Wirral Museums Service was thrilled with the opportunity to work with the McGuires and see our Pauline come to life. She is ever present in the gallery seeing all the changes in our 90 year history.
“The installation challenged long held perceptions about the gallery and used technology to highlight our collection and give it a voice."
The McGuires Creative Studio
Based in Hull, Davy and Kristin McGuire export their work all over the world. Whatever their canvas, from international theatre stages, cinemas and gallery walls, to marble statues, the couple transform the familiar into the fantastical and breathe life into inanimate objects that draw you to dark and delicious destinations.
The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum
The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum is situated in Claughton, Birkenhead, Merseyside and has housed the town's impressive collection of art since 1928.
Williamson Art Gallery & Museum
Slatey Road, Birkenhead
Wirral, CH43 4UE
Tel: 0151 666 3537
Richard Hurford is an award winning theatre, radio and multi-media performance playwright and dramaturg whose work has been produced throughout the UK and Europe.
Photo copyright: Kristin McGuire and Alison Bailey Smith