Monica Bonvicini

28 Aug - 14 Nov 2010

© Monica Bonvicini
Not For You, Installation view, Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, 2009
Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Mathieu Génon
"Both Ends"

August 28 - November 14, 2010

In her art, Monica Bonvicini raises issues regarding gender and power relationships in all kinds of contexts. At the centre of her work are architecture and public spaces, the world of labour, sexuality, as well as politics and representation, whose close connections she reveals. Bonvicini investigates the inner logic of public and private spaces, examines the interrelationship between physical and social space, and deconstructs the connection between function, addressee and aesthetics in architecture. In this investigation, the identity-defining aspect of people’s perception of the space surrounding them plays a key role. In Bonvicini’s eyes, buildings as well as urban and suburban infrastructure are by no means neutral, but on the contrary obsessive, politically ideological, and sexualised.

Sexual determination of specific spaces, professions, and certain modes of behaviour is repeatedly a focus of Monica Bonvicini’s work. The artist engages with architecture as a traditionally male domain, with the occupational image of construction workers and the resulting clichés, and explores the mechanisms underlying stereotypes. She puts materials such as latex, leather, steel and concrete — which due to their properties have social connotations — in unexpected contexts, creating new links. In her series Leather Tools, 2004-2009, Bonvicini had different tools clad with black leather and thus transformed them, due to the purely associative power of the material, into a fetish.

Bonvicini often creates situations in which the viewer is called upon to act. Under the title Don’t Miss A Sec.’, 2004, she put a portable toilet in the middle of the forecourt of the Art Basel fair grounds. The mirrored walls of the cabin were designed so that people outside could not see inside, but the person inside could see out. The construction aroused insecurity and anxiety in users, because the boundary between participation in public life and the intimate moment of going to the toilet was blurred. While not as participatory, the work NOT FOR YOU, 2007, confronts viewers just as directly: in metres-high illuminated letters attached to a steel scaffolding the title of the work was emblazoned across the corner of two walls in the otherwise empty exhibition room. The lettering was not illuminated by neon light, but rather the surfaces of the oversized letters contained two rows of light bulbs which lit up garishly in a rhythm. While on the one hand visitors were unable to escape the visual stimulus, on the other they were rebuffed by the literal message “Not for you”. In this way, with both verbal brutality and conceptual subtleness Monica Bonvicini hinted at a class society in the cultural sphere in which contemporary art has become an exclusive status symbol of an at once hermetic and elite circle. NOT FOR YOU addresses the problem of the role of the viewer, as well as the function of the exhibition space, which, despite the fact that there was nothing on the floor, seemed overloaded by the size and bright light of the lettering. Bonvicini makes the location of art — including the institution and its protagonists — a subject of art, and in this particular case, a target of artistic criticism denouncing the prevailing conditions of the institutional system.

At the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, conceptual works, sculptural works and large, space-filling installations will all be presented. The combination illustrates the artist’s formal diversity and continuity in terms of content. While her oeuvre reflects an explicitly political attitude, it never simply conveys her position using artistic means. Rather, Bonvicini repeatedly seeks a confrontation on an artistic level as well, by breaking with routine representations and traditional viewing habits.

„I decided to try art because it was the only way to be a worker and an intellectual at the same time.” Monica Bonvicini

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