Plastic things are all around you but how much do you notice them?
Plastic Vanitas exhibition is a series of photographic artworks by Mariele Neudecker that re-presents the collection of the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) as vanitas still lifes. MoDiP the only accredited UK museum with a focus on plastics, is a research resource of the Arts University Bournemouth where Plastic Vanitas was created during the artist’s residency.
Vanitas painting is a specific genre of still-life painting that flourished in the Netherlands and Flanders in the 16th and 17th century in which the most exquisite accoutrements of everyday life are presented as symbols of the worthlessness of earthly achievement and the inevitability of death.
Intensification of the act of looking and seeing is at the heart of what Mariele Neudecker does. Working in a variety of traditional and new media with imagery found, retrieved and reconsidered from our common cultural consciousness, she represents what we know so we see it as we have never seen it before.
Neudecker was fascinated by how MoDiP’s collection is stored in anonymous boxes by plastic material, size and weight, seemingly in random accumulations of objects that make no intellectual sense. The featured box contents were selected as a result of the artist listing object types depicted in vanitas paintings: skulls, mirrors, drinking vessels, candles, scales, fruit, flowers, insects and so on and the MoDiP staff selecting some forty boxes from the 1000 plus in the collection that contained at least one such object or something physically similar. For example there are no skulls but there are crash helmets and they take a similar form, and thus can act as substitutes. The rest was left to intuition and the artist’s alchemy. Each image includes every object that is stored in the particular box housing the selected object. Objects stored singly are re-presented in isolation.
The resulting images are remarkable. They are also beautiful. The vanitas paradigm shines a new light literally and metaphorically on these mundane objects. Individually they are redefined as contributors to life’s precarious mortality. Carmen curlers are no longer useful beauty aids but instead emblems of vanity; a protective hockey helmet becomes a spectre of what might happen were it not worn; clocks become the harbingers of life’s brevity; and so on. The compositions as a whole act as allegories of the challenges that face our world with its dwindling resources.
A text + work exhibition, curated by Professor Susan Lambert, Head of MoDiP
In partnership with Bath Spa University, bowarts nunnery gallery, Poole Lighthouse
Supported by Arts Council England.
Plastic Vanitas: Touring ExhibitionAfter exhibition at the Arts University Bournemouth’s TheGallery, the show will tour to:
- The Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts, 15 January – 27 March 2016: Fitting into a larger programme about materials invented in the Lower Lea Valley.
- Corsham Court, Bath Spa University, 1 May – 31 July 2016: Shown alongside the extraordinary Wunderkammer natural history collection with its fossils and stuffed animals recalling the contents of Vanitas paintings.
- Poole Lighthouse, 29 October – 28 November 2016: Thus helping to integrate MoDiP with its wider local community.
Featured PublicationPlastic Vanitas — Mariele Neudecker
Published by text + work, TheGallery, AUB
2015, Soft cover with images
Publication includes contributions by Professor Emma Hunt, Professor Susan Lambert and essays by Professor Hanneke Grootenboer, Alice Sharp and Rachel Withers.
Available to purchase from TheGallery Office or the AUB Online Store from 10 September 2015.