ART SEEN - Sell It With Flowers
Uli Van Neyghem looks at this intimate and powerful exhibition on international consumerism.
- Image: artworks by Barthélémy Toguo on display at MAHN (July 2019)
Sell It With Flowers: an artistic glimpse behind the facade of globalisation.
Did you know that Neuchâtel is looking back at a long history of producing Chintz, founding its importance and wealth? Or that in fact, this decorative textile, often sporting floral motifs was the first true global product?
Les 'Indiennes' (French name for Chintz, based on the origins of the fabric) caused an unprecedented craze on all continents known at the time as of the early 17th century, at first imported from India, but later imitated by European workshops as well. Its unique selling point was the fact that it is washable, making it popular in a much wider range of the population, not remaining reserved for the wealthy elite. The commercial success was spurred on by colonisation and exploitation of vast territories of the world by European powers which led to unprecedented circulation of raw materials and goods, as well as people.
Following the largescale retrospective 'Made in Neuchâtel', highlighting 200 years history of Chintz production in the Swiss city, the Museum of Art and History now shows a related exhibition: artworks by five contemporary artists from different parts of this world questioning the impact global products like the famous 'Indiennes' had and have worldwide.
The exhibited pieces confront ornamental elements with a stark and sobering reality, sometimes tied to personal experiences of the artists.
- Image: artworks by Marcos Ávila Forero on display at MAHN (2019)
Marcos Ávila Forero was born in Paris in 1983, from Columbian parents during political exile. Today he lives and works both in Bogotà and Paris. His artworks are a form of political activism, collecting 'testimonies' on the social realities of the people caught in the agricultural and economical conflicts in his country. He works closely with local communities to convey their little-known combats, also bearing witness to how their lives are affected by free trade agreements.
For the series 'Estibas' (which translates to : 'You load'), Forero repurposes transport pallets from holding merchandise to 'transporting information' and stencils the faces and figures of guerillas into the wood. By pouring the resulting saw dust through the wooden stencil afterwards, he creates fragile reproductions of the 'document' on the ground.
Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg transforms icons of consumerism like supermarket or fast food logos into ornate, repetitive circular patterns that resemble mandalas in Eastern spirituality and meditation. She is questioning whether in modern consumerism our mundane habits have assumed an almost spiritual importance and points to the reality that advertising enters deep into our lives, homes and minds.
- Image: artwork by Frida Orupabo on display at MAHN (2019)
Frida Orupabo is an artist living and working in Oslo, daughter of a Norwegian mother and a Nigerian father. Orupabo explores themes of race, gender, sexuality, post-colonialism and identity. She assembles her artworks in form of collages, putting together fragments of photos: from personal to historical colonial, as well as from images found on the internet and social media.
Through this unique mix of sources, she combines her personal with the collective history, to question how women of colour have been and are often represented: sexualised or as objects of curiosity.
- Image: artwork by Munem Wasif on display at MAHN (2019)
Bangladesh artist Munem Wasif is represented by a fascinating black and white film with the title 'Machine Matter'. In slow and poetic pictures he captures the eerily beautiful atmosphere in a deserted weaving factory that once produced Jute: the rough material used to make sacks needed for international transport of goods such as cotton or rice. Intertwined are detail body shots of one of the former workers of the factory, acting as a representative of the many people who are left behind in the ever changing demands of global commerce.
Image: artworks by Barthélémy Toguo on display at MAHN (2019)
The last of the five represented artists, Barthélémy Toguo, lives and works in France and his birth country Cameroon. His installation, called 'Urban Requiem' consists of a steel ladder holding large wooden stamp sculptures, reminiscent of administrative stamps. Each has a different message engraved in their surface, all somehow related to contemporary subjects of migration, exile, identity, citizenships and frontiers. The artwork is completed by paper prints of the messages on the wall behind the ladder.
'Sell it with flowers' is a small, but powerful exhibition, confronting us with different aspects of globalisation, consumerism and the resulting worldwide effects.
- Image: Uli Van Neyghem at MAHN (July 2019)
What: Sell it with Flowers
Where: Museum of Art & History Neuchâtel (MAHN), Esplanade Léopold-Robert 1, 2001, Neuchâtel.
When: Until August 25, 2019
Opening times: Tuesday - Sunday 11:00 - 18:00
Entry Fees: Adults: CHF 8-. (Children <16 are free of charge. Reduced fare for students, seniors etc. is CHF 4-.)