The Forbes Simulachres

Didier Mutel (b. 1971).
The Forbes Simulachres
Paris: Didier Mutel, 2019.

Agency & Equity in the Modern Era

How does one account for the differences seen between modern Dances of Death and their historical antecedents? At Cambridge University’s 1929 Linacre Lecture, Dr. Peyton Rous (1879-1970, 1966 Nobel Laureate) delivered a presentation titled The Modern Dance of Death, in which he suggested that modern medical diagnostics and treatments contributed significantly to the idea that people could oppose death on many fronts. Dr. Rous wrote, “One sees that people know how often his activities can be deferred, that men no longer have such bitterness as would lead them to find satisfaction in his ravages.”[1]

The fact that advanced medical care exists, however, does not mean that everyone has equal access to it. Human agency in the resistance of death resulted in the recognition by artists of human culpability in the deaths of others. This is most apparent during the early half of the 20th century in works that responded to World Wars I and II. Artists of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st began to draw enhanced attention to the detrimental impact of social and economic inequities. Didier Mutel’s The Forbes Simulachres functions as a momento mori addressed to the individuals celebrated in the annual list of the world’s richest people.

[1] Payton Rous, The Modern Dance of Death (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), 5.

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Inside front cover.