Sunday, September 09, 2007

Land of Crystal Mai-Thu Perret 11.09.07-06.01.08 Bonnefanten museum, Maastricht (NL)

This decontextualizing of historical fragments is a recurring interest of mine. I like the idea that you can make a thing mean something new, without completely erasing its original signification, so that you get an effect which is layered, almost ghostly. Mai-Thu Perret As one of the young generation of artists weaving new stories around the visions and shapes of twentieth-century avant-garde movements, Swiss-born Mai-Thu Perret (1976, Geneva) is an exceptional talent. While melancholy and satire are rarely absent from it, Perret’s work in particular also conveys a kind of down-to-earth optimism. Her texts are a mixture of historical fact and fiction. In her sculptures and objects, she parodies the history of lofty ideals employing a matter-of-fact ‘I can do that too’ aesthetic. Conceptual thinking and the strategy of claiming existing images go hand in hand with craftsmanship and a belief in the magic effect of sculpture. Fictitious story Mai-Thu Perret has been writing a fictitious story entitled The Crystal Frontier since 1999. Employing part imagined and part annotated diary fragments, letters and texts from handbills, she sketches a kaleidoscopic image of a group of women who have retreated, disillusioned, from the city and from Western, i.e. capitalist, society. They pick up their lives again in the desert of New Mexico but on a different footing with work, nature and themselves. Perret describes the objects and sculptures she makes in addition to writing her story as ‘hypothetical products’ of this women’s commune. The objects are without exception elegant and sometimes haunting improvisations on mostly classic modernist themes in which the boundaries between practical, decorative and autonomous objects are systematically crossed. Perret based ‘The Family’, a group of papier-mâché figures representing a woman with children (2007), on a picture from a 1935 Hollywood musical (A Midsummer’s Night Dream).

Her ceramic wall reliefs are reminiscent of the fifties and Lucio Fontana, while her handmade flags and motives made of neon lights are copied from Georgian latticework or from a painting by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944).
Land of Crystal The exhibition Land of Crystal is built up following the ground plan of the museum. An outdoor minimalist spiral covered with cotton fabric printed with Perret’s own designs is on display in the great hall. In the four smaller ‘domestic’ rooms, she arranges the group of figures, flags, neon lights, wall reliefs and texts in a traditional museum fashion according to type and materials. Perret explores how her objects and the Crystal Frontier story, which usually serves as a fictional setting for her work, relate to this ‘old-fashioned museum presentation’.


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