Galerie Clages, Cologne, Germany
Monika Stricker’s works to date are characterized by a certain tautness – be it a domed sheet of perspex held in place on the wall by elastic straps, or the smooth surface of a tall plinth sheathed in an immaculate layer of purple gloss paint. In the past, the young sculptor, who studied in her native Düsseldorf under Magdalena Jetelova and Rita McBride until 2005, has worked within a design context, addressing the architecture of classical Modernism, such as Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. This suggested something close to the frosty taste of Liam Gillick or Gerhard Merz, but with an added hint of blueberry muffin.
And now this exhibition entitled ‘Wisteria.’ A bold, golden emblem sits like a bulky belt buckle on the side wall of the gallery. From the middle of this gold leaf ornament – the logo of the American television series Desperate Housewives – protrudes a slender white mannequin’s hand gripping lengths of purple rayon, as if gathering up dressmaking offcuts. A second hand grows out of the floor where the purple fabric ends; above all this hangs a curtain of pink nylon strips; and in the corner, as a counterpoint, lies a small piece of fabric in a bright shade of magenta. A limp arrangement of decorative materials whose irony targets both the interior design mania of suburban homes and the artist’s own previous work.
Monika Stricker can lend materials an unexpected intensity. In this case, however, she has pulled the plug, so to speak, creating an installation that draws a soft-boiled picture of hysteria. Which is appropriate. After all, Desperate Housewives - set on the fictional ‘Wisteria Lane’ (the similarity to ‘hysteria’ is no coincidence) - deals with the states of mind of bored upper-class mothers. The ancient Greeks thought that hysterikos was particular to women, and, a century after it was refigured by psychoanalysis, Desperate Housewives gives the image of hysteria a new spin via the health spa, the cocktail lounge, and the waterbed. The result is photogenic and entertaining, but finally has to do less with reality than with enabling the glamorous scenes that have long been guarantors of success in the drama industry.
Hysteria has always been less a clearly defined disorder than a pliable motif for glamour and drama. Literature and theatre, and later cinema and the entertainment industry, couldn’t get enough of it. And the bulimic topography of Desperate Housewives still thrives on it. As a result, besides facial enhancements and clients for the counselling sector, this kind of TV show leaves behind plenty of product waste that needs picking up. With scant materials Monika Stricker has taken on the task, managing to create something that moves beyond Wisteria Lane, towards art.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell
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