Up and down the curbs with Magali Reus
aprile 13, 2016
Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo presents Quarters, the first Italian solo exhibition of Magali Reus. The young Dutch artist works with sculptures, using materials, which range from the domestic to the industrial. Her work often forces us to revaluate objects that we use daily but which are commonly disregarded as commonplace and therefore go without notice: Magali investigates their connections to us, to our bodies and actions.
Her show opens on march 31st, until june 12th.
I’m walking just in front of In Place Of (Cross Bite) sculpture, a section of a curb of hers, when Magali arrives; we start talking, she nicely answers..
GR: May I ask you a few questions about “Quarters”: we could start from the title itself?
MR: Yes, sure. The title relates to the public space of the ‘quarter’ which is one of social convergence. It also talks about the idea of portioning, of things being cut off or cut away from a larger whole. This idea of the sense of something belonging to something larger, or the sum of parts I think is reflected in both of the series of works in this show. And, then finally, the show here in Turin is the fourth incarnation of the tour, so all together this seemed to me like a fitting title. Anyway the title changes every time..
GR: That’s it, I remember in the penultimate exhibition, for The Hepworth Wakefield, it was “Particle of Inch”, wasn’t it? Then it travelled to Germany..
MR: Yes, after The Hepworth the work travelled to the Westfaelischer Kunstverein in Münster, Germany, for “Halted Paves”, before coming here. Each time the architecture of the space was very different, which meant that the exhibition transformed quite a lot over time. For instance at The Calder space at The Hepworth, which has a very dominant and specific architecture, I chose to make quite significant architectural interventions whilst here at the Fondazione the work is shown against a more neutral, conventionally white backdrop.
While talking we reach In Place Of (Appetites), so it comes to my mind that..
GR: Magali, this curb was conceived after you walked through a street-market in Germany: could you tell me something more about that?
MR: Yes, I suppose this work was inspired by that somewhat. The way people lay out their rejected private belongings for display in the street for people to consume is kind of a strange phenomenon. To find all these objects which have intrinsically personal connections and memories tied to them: souvenirs picked up on holidays abroad, unwanted presents, broken goods, corporate gifts and so on. Essentially there’s this personal history laid out on the street, one which can be woven into any number of speculative narratives. I like the flexibility of the street curb’s architecture and how it can be flexed into personal use like this. What struck me about the particular market you’re referring to is how this man appropriated a bicycle rack in order to create a kind of urban wardrobe. Not only was this quite an inventive act as a means to an end, but it also created this uncanny spillage of the domestic into the public sphere.
GR: I see.. and what about the other sculptures’ thematics?
MR: Each of the floor works has their own sense of logic or thematic, which plays out on the base structures. For instance the work In Place Of (Cross Bite) has a feel of the clinical or the orthodontic.
GR: Like these enlarged toothpicks!
MR: Yes, and this also translates itself into other elements such as the pink resin bottomless mugs into which small metal wires are sunken. They have a sense that they could have morphed from dental braces, and as an simulacra of a mug – albeit one with its sense of function removed (no handle, no base) – it is an inherently uncanny extension of the mouth and the gums, as well. There’s a constant shifting of scale happening in this work. This is clear for instance when we look at the base, which awkwardly sits between an architectural scale model and a piece of furniture. And on this white sculptural base again an odd mixture of components ranging in scale can be found. Tooth picks, which have been inflated to fence-size whilst the 1:1 rendering of the box of toothpaste on airbrushed steel extrusion has a very familiar translatable relationship to our bodies. As the black lines scoring the white base suggest: all of this makes for an unstable ground, or the idea of demarcated territory, but one that has yet to receive plottable or defined coordinates. There are many things that appear to us as familiar images before we can assign definite linguistic clarity to them.
In a second she goes smiling to another piece, the yellow one In Place Of (Pin Drop):
GR: And what’s there? I mean.. I see something inside the mug..
MR: Yes, if you look closely you can see needles submerged in the mug’s resin and the “skin” of it is decorated with an airbrushed lotus flower. The mug was a found object, which I transformed before casting it: I took its handles and bottom off to render it useless. I thought of the mug as a consistent territorial marker, which could be continued as a motif through each work. It’s a fleeting and ubiquitous gesture: it is reminiscent perhaps of the ways in which people personalise their office spaces, homes or other daily spaces. These mugs could hypothetically read ‘best dad’, feature the picture of a pet, a football club, or maybe a corporate logo. They’re highly legible markers – the mugs are simple objects, vessels which permit subtle personalisation by their owners; it’s a funny move from one generic space to another, but under the guise of original authorship. As I mentioned, the mug is a motif which is repeated in each of the floor pieces, but it has a different material composition, colour or texture on each one of the works. With its missing handles and bottom it began to resemble an extrusion, and with that association comes the promise of exponential growth as well as connection to something more architectural like a telegraph pole or lamp post. Pushing it beyond the interior domestic or office space, it can be connected to the exterior urban space instead.
GR: And about the curb series, is it a complete work now or do you think you are going to add more pieces?
MR: I think I’ve reached the end of this series now and I’m currently amidst developing new work for an upcoming show at The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in September this year.
Our steps lead us in front of a huge lock, bigger than our heads and fixed to the white wall, the Leaves (Ivy Tranche, December) one.
GR: Ok, I would like to ask you something about the locks, or better the “Leaves” series: I know that you built them completely from the beginning, right? We can say that a lock keeps a secret, its secret, that is the way it works and in which it’s functional, as long as you don’t know how it works!
MR: Exactly, it’s part of its mystery.
GR: So as you built them.. do they still have the same meaning for you, now that you manage all their inner secrets?
MR: I never actually wanted them to be functional objects. There is far too much projection happening within these works. I suppose some elements are similar to what one might find when opening a lock’s casing, but really most of it is purely fantastical. I think it does make sense to say that they’ve lost a bit of their sense of inherent secrecy. The idea was that as objects they’d move away from being very austere and instead become these flamboyant and almost verging on expressive objects. With their shackles cut there’s the underlying potential for movement or a sense of activation. Fixing them at head height was intended to establish a direct connection to our bodies: they can newly be perceived as animated characters, their skins ornate with various colours, finishes and textures .
GR: Well, if I’m not wrong, I see that you work on a sort of limit: I mean a curb is like a limit between public and private spaces, between a street and a home or a shop; and again a lock could represent the border between open and close.. does it sound correct to you?
MR: Yes, that sounds right. There’s always a degree of openness in the work’s construction or composition. But there is also a lot that isn’t revealed. Where you can clearly see the curbs are hollow shells, there is a kind of honesty to that. But, what plays out on top of them, and through the objects’ re-translation, (which mainly happens in the making process), they acquire a kind of intimate or private logic which may not necessarily be very easy to translate into language or common sense.
GR: Ok, so one last question, a different one this time, ok? Which was the last show that you saw?
MR: Mmmh, let me think.. I think it was the Alexandra Bircken show, in London at Herald St.