Mädchen Club and "other stuff"
Press release / Catalogue text
What is expected of life as a "mädchen"?
Paramor lived in Mitte in 2002, an area of Berlin with many bars and clubs, including a bar called the "Mädchen Club" in her studio-building specifically for young 'maidens' (teenage girls). It was during this time, while pondering the space of feminine adolescence and experimenting with new techniques, that a new body of work emerged.
Extending her practice - based on a process of cutting and pasting cheap, readily available materials (paper) - resulted in a series of 2-dimensional, collaged images that explore representations of gender and idealised forms of 'desire' in popular culture. Seen for the first time in Australia, they also represent a major step between her final Lustgarten installation - produced in 2000 for Dresden's Schloss Pillnitz - of the Baroque and architecturally decorative paper sculptures she was known for here, and her most recent (collage) series FOREVERYOURS .
Other intermediary exhibitions ie. Heart-On (Perth, 2001; Melbourne, 2003) and Outback Heat (Hanover, 2001) demonstrate earlier stages of this new direction . R etaining the use of decorative paper sculptures, their symbolic form and function changed - becoming phallic. Juxtaposed against 'girlie' beach towels ( found in Europe, made in China) embroidered with Mills & Boon titles, both exhibitions critiqued the feminine stereotypes used in popular, 'low-brow' culture as signs for sensuality, eroticism and desire .
Perhaps living in Germany for three years heightened her awareness of the tradition of collage and a capitalist process of 'fetishizing' the body, as in early twentieth century works by Hannah Hoch and Max Ernst whose cut-out images were also from 'popular' print, particularly newspapers and magazines, etc. Hoch's dada politics were conveyed by juxtaposing images of industrialists, fashionably dressed women and domestic implements in a radicalized, anti-aesthetic space lacking in linear narrative. Ernst, particularly his 1921 Femme 100 têtes , created a surreal psychological space by placing what Rosalind Krauss describes as "an immense body, or more often a part of that body, that floats within the otherwise quotidian space" .
Paramor, on the other hand, constructs a fetishized space using an aesthetic of the "hand-made", building her images from roughly hand-painted pieces of paper cut and glued to a blank page until the highly coloured Mädchen girls emerge. Up close, they can resemble contour maps, but further back they appropriate the aesthetic of advertising posters or billboards using 1970s 'girlie magazine' images instead of slick fashion photography; young and naked, Paramor's phallusized female bodies stand poised for a camera, ready for consumption and/or the 'male gaze'.
Though the forms may have changed, Paramor continues her play between 'high' and 'low' culture; the 'low brow' female-body stereotypes speak to Manet's Olympia and the theoretical and historical discourses around 'naked' and the 'Nude', while, formally, the cutting and pasting of roughly-painted paper juxtaposes traditional painting and collage techniques against contemporary photographic and/or digital print techniques .
Paramor's 'other stuff' continues this dynamic and her seeming fascination with the clichéd ideologies of Mills & Boon novels (she currently owns about 1,000). Friends were photographed in poses appropriating the 'ideal couples' on their covers and the resulting photos made to look like digital prints. In like font, amusing Mills & Boon titles such as Services Rendered and Man Friday were placed in frame, rendering the ideological signs for love and 'coupledom' ironic and exposing a "fanciful and wishful dream world, loaded with deception and failure" .
Is this a "mädchen" future ?
© Kirsten Rann 2004