Tell us a bit about yourself, and your work.
I started my career as a choreographer and performer, made dancefilms for fifteen years, and during the last five years I have moved towards visual art, working in sculpture, video installation and now performance.
Could you introduce us to the works SPIEGELEI and s(he)?
I made SPIEGELEI and s(he) in 2011 – they were made in tandem. I was actively working on SPIEGELEI, and s(he) came about from a series of objects I was toying with in the studio.
I am not really a magpie but I occasionally come across an object I am strongly attracted to. These works began when I found a bin of used ball bearings. Shortly after, a bowl of skin coloured balloons drew my attention at a dollar store. I didn’t intent to put these two objects together but when I started playing with them it seemed like something new was trying to emerge. Forms, cells, body parts, orifices. This was the beginning of the work.
The word Spiegelei is the German term for a fried egg served sunny side up, but literally it translates into English as mirror egg (Spiegel=mirror, Ei=egg). For me, Spiegelei alludes to the body’s ability to interpret and misinterpret the world around it. It suggests processes of (re)production, mimesis and examination that are central to my work, and it gestures towards a kind of absurdity and duality often found in Surrealist practices. I also chose the title Spiegelei because if you don’t understand the word you have to rely on an affective response to the physical aspects of the work – in other words, you have to trust your body’s reaction.
Butted up, one against the other, the tables in SPIEGELEI form an assemblage that stretches into the gallery. The little objects placed across these tables resemble organ-like structures and feel as if they are of the body, or of a new type of body forming. They feel sexual or (re)productive but are not gendered. While they are somehow related to a variety of bodily forms, such as eye, egg, seed, anus, testicle, breast, bellybutton, they are also unfamiliar. Not belonging to existing categories, they are somehow base, and their horizontal placement implies movement and pulse. Or as Bataille would say, they are “formless”. (I take this definition of “formless” from Formless: A User’s Guide by Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss)
What was your initial impetus for creating s(he)?
One night, after reading some of Louise Bourgeois’ writings, I lay in bed wondering what objects I might bring forth from my past.
I am in a train compartment with my father, my sister and my mother. My father wears a little black fur coat, rabbit I think. It belongs to my mother and looks a little funny on him. We are at the border between Romania and Austria, the conductor slides open the door to our compartment and asks for our passports. Something is happening, I can’t describe it. Everybody is still and tight.
Of course there is no border between Romania and Austria: we were either at the border between Romania and Hungary or, more likely, between Hungary and Austria. But this is how I remember it. I found a short fur coat at the thrift store, it sat in the corner of my studio for over a year, but after the purchase of remnants of a staircase banister, and a number of coincidences, something quickly took shape.
s(he) has lost a leg and should have toppled over a long time ago, yet there it stands, stable but precariously so, presenting a stance that, however fragile, is also authoritative, confident, haughty, and maybe a bit protective. It is also grossly exposed. One could say s(he) is not wearing any pants, revealing a droopy scrotum/uterus like sack, round and reflective breast/ball like orbs, and a double bellybutton that implies some kind of dual birth. From afar, these genital looking objects combine to look like a face, while the nose on the head, inside the upturned collar, droops like a penis.
This haphazard but attentive process where found objects are repurposed makes me think of how the affective resonance of something from the past can be absorbed and reshaped through its relationship to other things, and that by doing that, something new can be made of the past. Instead of being carried or discarded, the past can be used to propel a movement forward. I like to think that this movement can be both personal and political because it includes personal shifts but also attempts to shift the way we relate to our collective idea of previously established categories and classifications.
* A version of Laura Taler’s writing about Spiegelei and s(he) was recently published in Embodied Fantasies: From Awe to Artifice, eds Suzanne Anker and Sabine Flach, Volume I of the series Art-Knowledge-Theory (Peter Lang Publishing) 2013.
Photos by Laura Taler and Jeremy Mimnagh