UNIQUE FORMS OF CONTINUITY IN SPACE

The original plaster still exists in the Museu de Arte Contemporânea in São Paulo, Brazil. But historical photographs make it clear that it has been heavily restored over the years.

Boccioni's original plaster of Unique Forms of Continuity in Space still exists, and is located at Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC USP) in Brazil. When studying historical photographs it becomes very obvious that the plaster has changed its appearance over time. This is due to multiple restoration efforts (in 1952, 1960, 1971 and 1986) to patch up cracks and damages caused by wear and transports between museums and exhibitions. These deviations are even more apparent in the multiple bronze copies distributed around the world (1, red arrows). This can be attributed to the casting process; details are invariably slightly changed or even lost in part due to the bronze shrinking as it cools.

There is no known record of Boccioni himself wanting to cast any of his plaster sculptures in metal during his lifetime, so the fact that Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is almost universally represented as a bronze sculpture is not according to his wishes. F.T. Marinetti was the first to cast the work in bronze in 1933, no doubt with the aim to better preserve it for posterity since the plaster had already started to deteriorate.

Bearing all this in mind, in order to match the reconstructed striding sculptures more closely with Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, it was felt necessary to make a photogrammetic copy (essentially a 3D scan) of the bronze version, then digitally “reverse engineer” it back to its original state with the help of photographs of the 1913 plaster original.

 

The Tate Modern bronze copy of 1972 was digitised and used as a starting point for the process (2). An in-depth analysis of the 1913 photographs (3) provided the information needed for making the necessary sculptural changes. The resulting 1:4 scale 3D print was exhibited at Estorick Collection in 2019 (4). It is currently the closest existing approximation to Boccioni's 1913 conception of Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and a full-scale print is pending.

[Published April 2020]

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© 2019 by Anders Rådén and Matt Smith

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