All Things Fall is based on the Massacre of the Innocents, a Biblical tale of infanticide, committed by King Herod to avoid losing his crown. The tale has provided dramatic subject matter for artists throughout history, including Rubens, Reni, Giotto, and Tintoretto. Depictions of the subject often show a crowd, in a frenzied and violent orgy of the brutal act of killing children. Rubens’ famous depiction (illustrated) was influential for Collishaw’s zoetrope, both in its architectural emphasis and complex figural constellations.
Apart from being an opportunity to demonstrate the artist’s skill in rendering the human body in extreme and dynamic poses, historically the subject of the Massacre of the Innocents has remained a fascination for the public because of its appalling nature. As Collishaw pointed out, in the medieval period the Massacre of the Innocents was one of the most popular plays. When looking at these works the eye cannot fixate on one part of the painting, as it's constantly being urged to move on with the ebb and flow of the figures, exploring the multiple bodies in all their contortions. Similarly, in Collishaw’s zoetrope, you cannot fixate on one spot, as the carousel of horror whirls around, drawing the viewer into the action.
The optical illusion of the zoetrope commands our attention, engaging the audience and in turn, making them complicit in a scene of genocide. The multiple characters enhance the feeling of an unremitting onslaught. The work relies on the filmic principle (of a rapidly exposed series of images to suggest animation), which underlines the viewer’s involvement, as what you are seeing is not what is actually happening: the eye tricks the mind into seeing an illusion and, in doing so, the viewer becomes the mechanism by which the data is interpreted.
In All Things Fall Collishaw combines the old technological form of a zoetrope, an early means of presenting the illusion of a moving image, with new technologies to design and create the work. All of the 300 characters and the architecture have been designed in 3ds Max and ZBrush and then printed as 3D models in resin. The circular sculpture rotates at speeds so high that the static scenes become suddenly animated.
The ‘carousel’ nature of the works adds to the feeling that you are involved in a means of entertainment. In the words of the artist: “It draws you in. As soon as it starts revolving, it’s hypnotic, suddenly you are looking at something that is not actually happening, and you engage with it. It becomes this festival of violence, a gory entertaining carousel” (Mat Collishaw in conversation with Andrew Graham-Dixon, Black Mirror, Galleria Borghese, 2014).
Mat Collishaw (UK), born in 1966, is a key figure in the generation of British artists who emerged from Goldsmith’s College in the late 1980s. He participated in Freeze (1988) and since his first solo exhibition in 1990 he has exhibited widely internationally. Recent solo exhibitions: New Art Gallery Walsall (2015); Last Meal on Death Row, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida (2013); Pino Pascali Foundation Award, Polignano a Mare (Bari), Italy (2013); Afterimage, Arter: space for art, Istanbul, Turkey (2013Collishaw’s work is in several public collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, and Tate, London.