Kader Attia’s thought-provoking work Ghost (2007/2017) transforms aluminium foil from a relatively innocuous domestic object into a powerful meditation on identity and our relationship to the other.
Inspired by Attia’s cunning approach to materials, and his interest in museum archives, this post will look at three different artworks shown at the MCA which use unconventional materials to great effect.
Variously described as a 'joyous, celebratory sculpture,’ a 'horticultural extravaganza,’ and 'an awesome monument – depending on what you believe’ – of modern art, Jeff Koons’ Puppy (1995), is a memorable moment in the MCA’s exhibition history.
Presented in association with the 1995 exhibition From Christo and Jeanne-Claude to Jeff Koons: John Kaldor Art Projects and Collection, Puppy was a 12.4 metre high white terrier with a brilliant coat of over 60,000 flowering plants.
Modelled on a 52 centimetre plaster cast, the process of ‘bringing puppy to life’ involved stainless steel fabricators, structural engineers, horticulturalists, and irrigation specialists, scaffolders, and over 100 volunteer tertiary students who worked for 10 days from scaffolding and cherry pickers to fill the 340 vertical plant boxes that made up Puppy’s coat.
Many different plant varieties were used, including Begonia sempiflorens (Puppy Begonias), developed by local nursery Newports, who also lent their horticultural expertise to the project. Puppy sat watch over Circular Quay for the duration of the exhibition; an iconic image that many still associate with the MCA.
Colombian born artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso likes to work with 'real things.’
Using the preserved bodies of frogs, lizards, starfish, seahorses, butterflies and bones, Cardoso explores the natural world and our relationship to it. Cardoso invites viewers to investigate the many layers of meaning behind the materials used in her works.
In American Marble / El Márnol Americano (1993/2003), the artist arranges cattle bones in long rectangles along the gallery floor. In this formation, the work references the traditions of minimalist sculpture as well as patterns existing in the natural world.
According to the artist, the work also refers to ‘the floor designs made from cattle bones, which was a way for Spanish colonists [in Colombia] to create cheaply the effect of marble floors.’ Zoomorphia was the first major exhibition for the artist in Australia, her adopted home since 1996. Cardoso also curated Artbar in July 2013.’
Shortly after reopening in 2012, the MCA presented the first major exhibition of Australian artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro in Australia. Healy and Cordeiro use found objects to explore and question the way we live: our sense of home, the way we accumulate stuff, our memories and our taste in furniture.
In Dust to Dust (2008), the remains of three IKEA coffee tables are displayed in wooden vitrines – the type usually found in museums to display precious objects. The coffee tables were pulped by the artists to form fibrous semi-circle mounds; their former life as consumer products completely unrecognisable.
As exhibition curator Anna Davis writes, 'by presenting the ruined tables as pseudo-historical artifacts the artists invite us to imagine our enduring legacy on the planet.’
In her current role, Stephanie looks after the MCA’s collection of archival materials. Stephanie completed a Bachelor of Art Theory (Hons) at UNSW and Masters of Digital Information Management at UTS. A book worm at heart, Stephanie is also passionate about the importance of literacy and access to information.