Artist: Michaela Meise
Venue: dépendance, Brussels
Exhibition Title: The Sick Book
Date: January 1 – February 10, 2014
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of dépendance, Brussels. Photos by Sven Laurent.
If there is a common ground to the exhibited objects – a book, furniture, ceramics – it would be the notion of the grotesque. The expression of laughter in the history of art (i.e. François Rude’s Young Neapolitan Fisherboy Playing with a Tortoise) has connections with Grotesque Realism as it is described in Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary study Rabelais and his World. Carnivalesque transgressive rituals and anarchic humour are residues of subcultural, pre-Christian traditions, which is why laughing and smiling were banned in the art of medieval Christian Europe. A grin displays teeth, showing the only visible part of the skull of a living human. Laughter reveals the grin of death. During a short time it was praised, however: some 13th century grinning sculptures (i.e. in the cathedrals of Magdeburg and Naumburg) prove that smiling was then considered as an expression of the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit. One example is the portrait of Reglindis which is part of my relief Sookee sous Reglindis. In the 19th century sculpture Young Neapolitan Fisherboy playing with a Tortoise there is no more reference to christianity or pre-existing cults. But the fisherboy is wearing a woolen cap, which is the bonnet rouge of the French Revolution (sculpturor François Rude was an anti-royaliste).
The exhibited seats Cheshire Cat and the Cheshire Kittens have the shape of a weightless and floating smile. It is a grin without a cat (Lewis Carol) and is in- spired by a character in Carol’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The character of the Cheshire Cat actually has some historical heritage in old church decorations in the English county of Cheshire.
The Sick Book was developed from picture materials from the internet, representing spa facilities in Germany, where they are named Wellness. Mixed with private photo material, book covers and a collection of newspaper adverts the book illustrates the contemporary aesthetics of physical and mental wellbeing. The lines between a spa and a rehab center are blurred. They address what sociologist Alain Ehrenberg named the typical mental diseases of contemporary capitalist society: depression and addiction. They are both connected with either too much or too little consump- tion, since consumerism is the ground on which the economy is based.