Supports for Unnecessary Ornamentation, 2015-2017 and
The Table that didn't know its own future, 2018-2019
MDF, recycled wood, plywood, carpet, chalk pastel
I was a guest curator at Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, where I was invited to develop an exhibition on global feminisms. The architecture and interior of the museum designed by the Viennese architect Hans Hollein has had a great influence on me, including a muscular reaction on the right side of my body because of the table I was working at; the museum has imprinted itself onto me. This table (less of a desk) was in the Bibliothek and I often think of this as an object that could never know its own future: that one day it would have an ugly beige computer monitor on it, papers, wires, and a woman from the South-Asian diaspora via Canada brought in to subvert the story that the museum collection was proclaiming. Museums and libraries (bibliotheks) accumulate time, exemplary of modernity in their exercise of organizing the excessive, indefinite accumulation of “stuff” in an immobile architecture, while they were also formed as venues of governance of instilling men (not women) with codes of conduct and self-regulation. Alongside their formation, the disciplines of ethnography and anthropology accumulated objects in order to codify and translate “primitive” societies to colonizers. While museums attempt to provide visitors with “a set of resources through which they might actively insert themselves”, they are also full of objects collected and presented in a way that are “referential indices of the Self,” and can therefore, be considered as self-portraits. In a way, this sculpture – which re-interprets the table – is a self-portrait. I re-mapped the dimensions of the table by memory and through photographs in order to draw a plan for it and make it using MDF and plywood. This sculpture documents the push-pull experience of an institution wanting another perspective/culture, while simultaneously subsuming that perspective along with the artworks and viewpoints made in various geographies and periods, into dominant narratives codified for a German, European audience. This installation is an encounter of the museum, the furniture within and the bodies that occupy them, as well as the shifting memory of these spaces – what they want to remember and reject. The day after my contract at the museum ended, the table was returned to its original state; it breathed a sigh of relief. In the process of recreating this table, which took many failed attempts, I entered into a way of thinking that Hollein occupied: a sense of play, working slightly off-centre, taking basic shapes like circles and forever changing their fundamentals. The table has one side with sanded-down gesso, over which I drew with chalk pastel, turning the table into a surface for a drawing. Along with the sculpture, there is a purpose-built vitrine made to house the blocks that were used to raise the table because it was too short to work on. The day after my contract ended, the blocks were removed and the table was returned to its original state.