Renaissance of the Preposterous
MFA Thesis Exhibition, July 2020
Renaissance of the Preposterous
In his essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin writes, “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.” In this statement, he is referring to the mass print or casted reproduction of an original artwork meant for wide consumption and commodification.
Applying this same thought to mass produced toys—objects of art fashioned by craftsmen with the intention of commodification—there is certainly a detachment of aura and authenticity to the person or character that the toy is originally based on. However, there is an unmistakable change that takes place once the toy has made it into a child’s hands and enters into her world: she imprints a new aura and new authenticity to the object that was previously lifeless. As the omnipotent player, she breathes a spirit of life into an otherwise limp figure throughout her lived imagination—she gives it the aura it was missing in the package. The toys and figurines present in this work have authenticity that was imbued by their previous players, as evidenced by their scuffs and broken parts. Benjamin also wrote in a review about a museum show of old Victorian dolls, “Once mislaid, broken, and repaired, even the most princely doll becomes a capable proletarian comrade in the children’s play commune.”
This collective exhibition is my commune in which I take the viewer into varying levels of preposterous situations that are fusions of real and imagined histories. As the newly appointed omnipotent player, I am aware of both this authenticity imbued by the previous players as well as the existing stories that these assembled toys bring with them as I cast them into new roles in the stories I am narrating with my visual configurations. Some of the situations constructed in this exhibition are solemn and provoking while others are ironic and mischievous. Juxtaposing the authentic playthings with other objects and furniture that boast in their agedness suggests a deterioration for the viewer to contemplate the inevitability that much of what is seen will still endure beyond their own lifespan.
Several works employ colorful casting foam that serves as a catalyst for the viewer to supplement their own layer of understanding to the work that is presented. A visual skirmish takes place between the authentic objects and this fluid medium that has infiltrated the landscape. The foam elevates, consumes, reveals, interrupts and overflows. It has no definite mold to occupy and cannot be contained. Finally, I have left clues for the viewer in the form of elaborate titles which begin to expand upon the themes that are often broader than my stagings can fully realize.