Galerie A’pert

Press Release Galerie A’pert
October 1997

What someone has thrown away – both the activity and the discarded material – becomes the medium towards an artistic vision. The anonymous ‘donor’ unwittingly initiates a response by the artist to a sign which determines the choice of trash used in each sculpture. Such an approach to a selection of material and artistic execution puts Jennifer Protas in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades.

Layers upon layers of garbage and soil are placed in a seemingly haphazard manner with thick carpets of grass sprouting from the tops of some of the tanks. Time passes as moisture builds and the air attacks the organic substances contained within, new and unexpected alterations occur. New elements emerge and become vividly alive as various molds and strata of mildew take over adding their own colors and changing shapes in the process of decay. Protas is no longer at work on the object: the object works on itself and the artist becomes the audience as her original creation continues to metamorphose on its own. In these works, the emphasis does not lie on the demonstration of skill and industriousness; instead, our attention is drawn into an absorbing vision of alchemy. These prophetic garbage cans are cross-sections or core-samples of real-life piles reduced to the dimensions and precision of a terrarium.

Protas exposes the volatile mixture of organic and inorganic/toxic and non-toxic materials which exists beneath our roads and houses and skillfully covered hills and parks – recycling waste to (re)create new and ‘natural’ environments. And yet Protas’s sculptures, full of disquieting possibilities, do not carry protest or statements reminding us of the ecological condition of our planet; neither indifference nor resignation regarding the fact that our planet has never been so overloaded with waste of all kinds as it is now. Protas combines the obvious fact of decay within a picturesque context ( for the tanks posses the pictorial qualities of a formalist painting are indeed beautiful to look at ) and leaves the viewer to contemplate the silence of a fermenting, mutating world. She intervenes occasionally with a miniature landscape or the placement of a tiny plastic doll or car in some of the containers. On the walls are a second series of works: these are large color photographs in which we might recognize details from the containers.

Here, hotel garbage ( specific to the nomadic way of life in a western consumer society ) has been depicted by means of glossy boards like advertisements revealing close-up views of exotic pill strips from alien drugstores, fragments of photos and texts of unknown origin, half-eaten snacks, cotton tips, travel guides and condoms. But overall, these works generate the kind of quiet animation of something slowly changing: what we once threw away and perhaps forgot about has indeed come back to haunt us.

Text written and translated from Serbo-Croation by, Tafil Musovic Amsterdam, 1997

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