BERLIN GALLERY WEEKEND
Michaela Meise’s work focuses on the sculptural—ranging from ceramics to furniture. Her objects move between function and dysfunction, the architectural and the emotional. On the eve of her new show at König Galerie in Berlin, she discusses product packaging, growing up in Germany, and the fairy-tale like character of Gloria Vanderbilt.
Interview by Francesca Gavin | Photography by Franziska Sinn
What do you find interesting about using commercial materials in your work?
Commercial material is so functional that it is almost invisible. It doesn’t have a value in itself. It’s basically designed to make you buy a product. The adverts come with the magazine you buy, the packaging with the product. Boxes also serve as protection and give some information. Usually I pick commercial material that “works” on me. I am the consumer, I have some affection for the content and I want to understand, what attracts me to it. I use found images from newspapers and books, because they represent collective images. And since they are public they shape our memory, they circulate inside ourselves and outside.
Why are you drawn to deconstructing or exploring different modes of display?
Displays serve the function of showing images or objects. The sculptural aspect of monitors, museum vitrines or shop shelves are most visible when they are broken or out of order. I like to observe the structure of content, the framing of information. I admire filmmaker Harun Farocki, who pointed out that all machines and functional objects are in their designs deeply soaked with history and human phantasies.
How does an awareness of the depiction of gender and identity emerge in your work?
Identity questions emerged out of my upbringing, my biography. Cultural identity was never homogenous in my experience as a child. There is a strong German-Turkish community in my hometown, which was also for decades the location of an US military base. I was encouraged to be feminist as a teenager, but I also experienced misogyny on different levels and at different times until now. I was fed up at a certain point of powerful, elegant art, which seemed to me all the same expression of genius or superiority. I tried to find aesthetics of excitement and irritation. This is what I would call gender identity: utter your aesthetic and have a sense of belonging.
What first drew you to ceramics?
I was always attracted to ancient terracotta figurines, but it took a while until I worked with clay. I find it an almost cultic, shaman material, because it is literally earth. And in the handling process clay is a lot like food which needs delicate treatment, like mayonnaise or a soufflé. Actually it is an easy material, but stubborn when it comes to control it. Of course experienced ceramicists can predict the quality of a surface when certain parameters are met, but I am an amateur and additionally embrace coincidences of material and heat. Furthermore I find the cultural history of ceramic appealing. Pottery is everywhere and it was always an accessible medium for women, even when they were prohibited to be artists.
Why does your show at König Galerie have the title “Holle-Vanderbilt”?
The title unites two persons: the fairy tale character Frau Holle and designer Gloria Vanderbilt. The latter is an heiress from an American billionaire dynasty. I applied Gloria Vanderbilt’s method for interior design as a principle for the furniture objects of my exhibition. Vanderbilt covered the floor of her apartment with textiles and made it firm with transparent floor paint. All the chairs in my exhibition have words and symbols carved in the surface, with papers, images and textiles glued on top of it. The ceramic figure of Frau Holle weaving a tapestry is placed on a plinth. There is an assembly of mythical images, celebrity culture, history, currency symbols, which captures confused noise, an accumulation of signs of paranoic proportion.
In the chapel of König Galerie at ST. AGNES, Michaela Meise (b. 1976) presents “Holle-Vanderbilt,” an exhibition that interweaves the well-known fairytale of Mother Holle with the life of the American artist Gloria Vanderbilt. The show includes objects borrowed from everyday life, furniture sculptures, and one ceramic. Open through 28 May 2017.