FILTH IS GLAMOUR / EG SKIL EKKI OR I DON’T UNDERSTAND - NOVEMBER 2015
Artists: Celeste Aldahn / Margaret Lloyd
Author – Claire Robinson
Filth is Glamour – Celeste Aldahn
Filth is Glamour has been a long-awaited exploration for artist Celeste Aldahn, culminating in an exhibition in the Front Gallery at FELTspace. In particular, she chose to focus on one symbol – the anus. It’s a subject positively dripping with taboo, an area rarely discussed openly due to being a site of waste and refuse. Some would prefer not to speak about, write about, read about or look at it, all the characteristics suggestive of a taboo-ridden place. It’s considered filth.
Taboo is defined as prohibited, forbidden, banned, unacceptable, frowned upon, off limits and out of bounds. In spite of this, the anus is an essential part of our digestive system. Aldahn says the use of the anus as a symbol can help us to find a connection between something we may happen to desire and want to explore, and something considered so taboo it is not openly discussed. After a few minutes pondering the spacey, erotic, pink and silver haven that is Filth is Glamour, it’s evident that two opposites are being pitted against each other. Do filth and glamour have to exist on different planes, or can they interchange or even be the same thing?
Play runs throughout Filth is Glamour, and is apparent in each of the works. The anus becomes a character, and a sexually potent one at that. Unlike other genitals, the anus is gender neutral, or rather, it belongs to both genders. We all have one, so we can all squirm with intimate, unspoken knowledge of our own bodies when it comes time to confront a wall of them head on. Digital prints of anuses in different shapes are assembled on crinkled clear plastic and fabric, and stuck across the gallery walls. Some are shiny, some have plastic eyes. The shadows, wrinkles and creases of the cute, squishy holes give them personality. Printed in black and white, their fleshy tones are eliminated, the subjects floating in the air like dandelion florets or cosmic bodies. The light-hearted display makes any possible transgression merely an act of fun, challenging the viewer to be offended by such a playful spectacle.
The materiality contributes to an otherworldly approach, including shiny silver badges, mirror pieces, silver painted star sculptures and plastic sheeting which crinkles and shines. Everyday objects like smiley-face badges and bottle caps are also employed, evoking a grungy, youthful feel. The digitally printed collages, Dildo Technology and Filth is Glamour are filled with labelled images of vintage-look, thick-lined diagrams of erotica and weapons. Each collage is bordered with hearts and a swirling font spelling out 'FILTH IS GLAMOUR'. The artist has also made printed tote bags available for purchase - these collages do not look out of place printed sweetly on fabric, even further releasing the subject matter from its prison of taboo.
Aldahn has been influenced by cyborg feminism; defined by feminist and scientific scholar Donna Haraway as the rejection of rigid boundaries, especially those separating ‘human’ from ‘animal’ and ‘human’ from ‘machine’ (1991).1 In Aldahn’s video work Splooshing!, the artist has placed microphones inside her skirt whilst being methodically spanked, a human action becoming mechanised in its digital reproduction. One object becomes another again when later Aldhan pours food products such as custard and runny red syrup over her half-naked body. Substances which were once desirable and edible products mutate into the taboo of bodily fluids within a matter of seconds.
The erotic planetary disco that is Filth is Glamour blurs boundaries, merges conventions and eliminates the societal need to categorise by gender. It questions perspectives and invites us to subjectively shift and merge our previously cemented ideas, erasing the conventions of taboo and enabling the human body to reach empowerment.
1. Haraway, Donna J, 1991, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge.
Eg skil ekki or I Don’t Understand – Margaret Lloyd
Margaret Lloyd uses the FELTspace Back Gallery to let the audience into her experience as an artist in residence in Hrisey, Iceland. Working as a storyteller, she has used elements of quiet domesticity to recreate the feelings of encompassing isolation. The small, windowless room has been decorated with a homely floor rug along with a mid-century set of lounge chairs and a coffee table. These objects are inanimate icons of comfort providing a little solace, drawing out the overarching themes of loneliness, despair and even guilt. Upon entering through a doorway of heavy wintery fabric, there is a sense of bleak enclosure, oddly mixed with a warm invitation to explore the works, including the table laden with artist-made books.
Upon arriving to Iceland to begin the residency in winter of 2014, Lloyd discovered other participants had cancelled, leaving her the sole artist working amidst severe surroundings. With limited daylight, Lloyd spent weeks consumed by snow, ice, dark skies, cold windows and little company, while beginning the task of translating ideas into art. Lloyd’s paintings depict isolated interiors and sublime exteriors, the colour palette alone causing a shiver. While examining the icy, painterly scenes, it is easy to question how one would react to such an experience – by shutting down, or by working hard at finding beauty and self-appraisal in sudden displacement?
Lloyd’s black and white film photographs are arranged with purpose. Small but insightful glimpses into the void, they are filled with contrast and layers. In Iceland Frozen Lake, it takes a moment to determine whether we are peering into a deep rock pool, volcano or shallow body of water. The freezing liquid swirls, creating overlapping light and dark outlines, trapped under the frozen surface of what was once a flowing lake.
The most tangible details and evidence of many hours of work by Lloyd are found in the artist-made books, appearing finished and at ease, resting on the coffee table. Upon picking up one book, Eg skil ekki, there is a comforting weight to the materials; binding, calico, wood, dried pulp of the handmade paper and hand sewn embroidery threads. The cover is decorated with tiny stitches, small round knobs, a column of linear and geometric patterns, and the title (translating to ‘I don’t understand’) embroidered in unassuming cursive. The warm brown and grey colours of the thread evoke a feeling of unmistakeable northern European design. Inside, handmade pages compel the reader to turn them, listening to the creak of materials in the binding, while following Lloyd’s musings into her surroundings and herself.
The inescapable dreariness comes across in her words, as well as the vast beauty of the landscape and the mental challenge of setting forth to find inspiration in isolation and fear. The artist writes of her creeping guilt in using money from a crowdfunding campaign to travel for the residency. “Why do I deserve this?”, a question many of us ask when overwhelmed with privilege. Upon her return to Australia, Lloyd gifted many of her original artworks from this experience to those who donated toward her unique trip. In providing the means for art to be created from an experience, they received a piece of it in return.