The Ultimate Romance is an installation composed of an HD Video (colour, sound, 4’29’’, loop) and a bronze sculpture.
The work portrays the act of a failed attempt to copy an artefact from the Calouste Gulbenkian’s collection—Head of King Senwosret III (c.1860 BCE)—and questions the idea of a circular time and the notions of failure and loss.
Through the lens of a projector in the centre of a dark room, we see a video of an Egyptian artefact, one of the most important works in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum’s Collection—the marvellous Head of King Senwosret III made of obsidian stone. The object is on a revolving plate, in a circular and timeless waltz—red laser lights defining and trying to copy all its lines, recesses, and impurities, intercept its mirrored black features. The artefact is scanned at the Egyptian wing of the museum.
The footage is accompanied by a sound piece that serves as its soundtrack—a very faithful cover version of the theme ‘Planet Caravan’ (1970) by the British band Black Sabbath—played by Black Sabbath tribute band Venïce Cathouse (1). This hypnotic ballad takes us, in the words of Black Sabbath drummer Eric Singer, to ‘float the cosmos with our beloved one ... It is about someone taking their loved one on a spaceship travelling through the stars, in the ultimate romantic weekend.’
It is not surprising to think that the sculptor in ancient Egypt was known as ‘the one who kept alive’. Three-dimensional portraits of the pharaohs were locked inside the pyramids with their bodies, hidden from everyone, allowing the souls of these entities to remain alive and, with the help of the ascending construction that surrounded them, find their path to the stars.
The Head of Senwosret III in a dance as it is scanned and thus copied—like each chord of ‘Planet Caravan’—is transformed into a virtual image, merging its inherent primitive layer with an extremely futuristic one.
It is also interesting to think that obsidian is the foundation of Black Mirrors, used by the Aztecs and by John Dee in their great expeditions to chase away evil spirits. Another very important fact is the inability of a 3D scanner to register mirrored surfaces. It is through this premise that the third element of the project is created—the image captured by the scanner was 3D printed and then cast in bronze (2) —transforming all this into a failed attempt where there is no ending, no referent, no artefact, no sculptor, no scanner, no copy, no riff, no band, no dance. It is all the same thing.
Henrique Pavão, 2023
(1) The soundtrack was recorded on a professional sound studio through a Neve 8078 console, and the gear used was the same as that used by Black Sabbath in the 1970s. An example of this is the Leslie speaker applied in the vocal track.
(2) The sculpture is displayed in a Rothstein’s vitrine, a replica of the ones existing at the Egyptian wing of the Gulbenkian Museum. The vitrine here works like the Leslie speaker; the failed copy of the artefact is placed inside the same vitrine where the original is, evidencing and even emphasizing the idea of failure and ruin.
The Ultimate Romance, 2023
HD video (colour, sound, 4’29’’,loop), bronze, vitrine
Planet Caravan (1970) – Black Sabbath covered by Venïce Cathouse
Venïce Cathouse are:
Mário França: voice-guitar solo
Jonathan Bogard: bass
Hugo Cazanova: rhythm guitar / piano
Henrique Pavão: percussion
Mix & Master: Benjamim
Produced by Henrique Pavão & Benjamim
Recorded at Namouche Studios, Lisboa, 2023
With the support of: ArtWorks (Oporto, Portugal), The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum (Lisboa, Portugal), Fundación Botín (Santander, Spain)