Regeneration3, Musée d`Elysée Lausanne


The protagonists in my work are collected and forgotten but also gifted objects. In German these items are also known as “Staubfänger”, literally dust collectors, gatherers, magnets or catchers. Using the photographed objects I create complex collages and wallpaper walls with them, or produce other living-room or decorative articles out of them, for instance carpets.
The impulse for these photo-collages originated in a photographic project about interior furnishings in holiday homes. What particularly caught my attention in the first eight houses and apartments I visited was the decoration, and I became preoccupied with the question of where our untiring need for decoration springs from.
This motivated me, parallel to documenting the interior spaces, to create an archive of the decorative items that I photographed in the holiday homes. Out of these ubiquitous dust catchers, familiar to all of us from any holiday domicile, I created a collage in the form of a tapestry. As a sequel, the Perla Mode gallery was treated to a crazy wall covering out of similar things that nobody needed.

The objects in the wall tapestry collage are instinctively arranged in such a manner as to give the recognizable appearance of a carpet pattern. It was only later that I became aware that the traditional quadripartite division has its origins in Persian garden culture, in turn based on the garden of paradise. The Persians collected plants, animals and fruit trees in these gardens that they had brought with them from their military campaigns. The paradise gardens were divided into four parts by means of geometrically arranged irrigation canals, which ensured a constant supply of water, and at the center of the garden was a water basin. Persian carpets adopted this design of the garden of paradise. Thus an involuntary connection appears in the collage between visions of paradise and the objects of contemporary consumer culture.

A common aspect of both paradise and consumer culture is superfluity. It has often been predicted that the limits to growth have been reached, but the never-ending nature of our insatiable demand would appear to indicate otherwise. Our consumer culture has long manifested itself as a pacifistic element in our societies. Although each and every one of us could confidently relinquish each and every stitch in this opulent tapestry, nevertheless they each still evoke emotions such as laughter or a shudder of horror in us. It is precisely in this charm that their past use really lay. Without ever fulfilling any real function in our everyday lives, these figures and decorative items continue to be manufactured in incredible quantities.
But decorative elements often also serve as status symbols. Some objects are purchased to symbolize affluence, but precisely these objects are not the focus of my work. Rather it is the objects that are kept for emotional or sentimental reasons and therefore tell something about the owner that interest me.
What interests me are the products that have been halfway sorted out or relegated – the objects that crowd together in holiday homes like stranded asylum seekers or spend decades kicking their heels on window sills and on top of tall wardrobes. And they do this only because somewhere in their past or in the owner’s past there was a reason for them being – an emotional tie to presents given, a love of nonsense, or a sentimentality for things that no one else needed.
Precisely this pattern of behavior, to require things that one does not actually need, is characteristic for our affluent society and our culture of consumerism. For a long time now the question has not been about contentedness: “Modern societies cultivate refined dissatisfaction.” (Norbert Bolz). Instead, like in paradise we live in a world of permanent temptation, while our perceived needs nevertheless continuously grow in step with our continuously increasing affluence.

I liked the connection that emerged between the Persian vision of paradise and my work, but there was another aspect that I wanted to bring into the work, namely our almost primeval attachment to such objects and the way they reverberate with us. This reminded me of a visit I had made to an exhibition showing religious voodoo sculptures. Being interested in the relationship and the obsessiveness that we as humans in different cultures and in different ways form with our objects or collections, I took the exhibition as an inspiration. In some sense voodoo is the “most current” religion, not only because it has no dogmas or writings and through slavery absorbed elements from other religions, but also because it avails itself of the objects by which we are intimately surrounded.
Visiting the exhibition I was told that the practice of voodoo involves types of meta-figures, through which the spirits and gods can be communicated with.
Vodun believers make these sculptures themselves out of objects to which they attribute powers. Often these are everyday items like string or cloth, but also things that are, when considered, indeed powerful elements of our times such as cola bottles or cigarette packs.
In any event I wanted to introduce something obsessive and mystical and an element of superstition into my work, and decided – using earthenware-casting compound, string and paper – to produce my own meta-sculptures using the ceramic objects in the tapestry.
Most of the voodoo sculptures I researched have protective functions, therefore over a period of months I wrote down minor incidents and characteristics that worried me and used them tongue-in-cheek as a title.

Magdalena Baranya