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Mon éducation (The Exemplary Death of Marcus Licinius Crassus)

Swiss Arts Awards, june 2006

CentrePasquArt – Kunsthaus Centre d'art, exhibition "Aurum", Bienne, 2008

The installation stages the "exemplary" death of Roman general Crassus during his military campaign in Mesopotamia. According to the myth, the Parthians poured molten gold down his throat to punish him for his greed, a legend which is translated here as a peculiar sculpture: a golden digestive system, operating both as an improbable historical artefact and as a sarcastic commentary about art fetishism. In the background of this vanity stands a series of grotesque chewing-gum drawings on wood, giving threats, insults, warnings and bad omens, in the style of a Roman theater chorus.

Marcus Licinius Crassus stands in history as one of the most despised public figures of his time. Owner of a considerable wealth amassed in dubious conditions, and victor of the slave revolt led by Spartacus in 71 B.C., he later took part – with Caesar and Pompey – in the first triumvirat which precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. Aiming to stand out in his quest for power by achieving military victories, Crassus initiated in 55 B.C. an extremely contested war against the formerly allied Parthian empire. Citizens even demonstrated in Rome to prevent the departure of the armies. The humiliating defeat cost Crassus his son and, soon afterward, his own life. It turned out to be the most important Roman military defeat, at the dawn of the empire.

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Installation view

> investigation: Seven Years (Mon éducation: 2005-2011)
> text: Emilie Bujès sur Mon éducation
> Caroline Nicod sur The Exemplary Death of Marcus Licinius Crassus


> sources: Dion Cassius, "Histoire romaine", Livre XL
Plutarque, "Les vies des hommes illustres", Tome III, "Vie de Crassus"