“What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we go downstairs, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed on order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why? ― Georges Perec: L’Infra Ordinaire
I am drawn to the human tendency to physically and psychologically accumulate potent objects. I believe memory attaches itself to objects like an ephemeral residue, especially to those that exist within and around a personal living space like a bedroom or kitchen. Be it a letter stuffed away in a jean pocket or a piece of furniture, an object possesses the capacity to act as a proxy for things beyond itself and its seemingly simple material existence. This action of accumulation has the ability to disinter the more tender portions of the self and one’s history. I am drawn to the metaphorical nature of these things – of the traces of life these objects carry and the simultaneously objective and subjective memory that can be found written on its surface or imbedded within the surrounding walls. They can subtly disclose elusive, but poignant aspects of someone’s internal life – of the places they have called home, their habits within a space, and perhaps whom they have loved. They exist beyond metaphor and enter a complex realm where notions of home, memory and time intersect with human psychology.
In my work, I want to explore how our human psychology interweaves with our lived space and helps physically construct the reality we perceive and experience. I often reference everyday objects and spaces within a home that are familiar and pedestrian. These sources take on many forms from everyday clothing folded in a chest of drawers to bricks making up a wall to the many thresholds that exist within a lived space, like that between public and private space. Our familiarity with these things offers an associative entry point, which we can use to situate ourselves and our own experiences with similar the objects or spaces. They become extensions of our bodies and minds – a conduit for memory and a way to weave in and out of time-present, past, and perhaps future.
I use clay for its elemental and transformative properties. The raw whiteness of the porcelain is an anonymous color, blank and unassuming. It holds, what I see as a quiet, delicate beauty. Blanched and seemingly drained of color, the texture and fluidity of the clothes are akin to ghosts like in The Secret to Hiding. Thin porcelain envelopes are tucked in and under the folds, offering an even more secret space. Furniture stands as lonely vestiges as in Wounds Need to be Taught to Heal Themselves, wrapped in remnants of cloth. The whiteness or faded tints remove the forms from our normal understanding of the object and changes its “tense”– from present to past, from concrete to a trace or a visual imprint that is simultaneously dead and full of life. I like the idea of the work to seeming both dead and alive – something that comes from our daily reality, but also is derivative of fiction, and bordering the surreal.
The materials and processes I use tend to offer some form of transformation. My most central processes are casting or slip dipping objects and clothe in slip and burning it out. This process flirts with the notion of a haunted, ghostly object or space. To me, this relates to memory, memory of an object, and plays with a physical manifestation of time and timelessness. The process of slip dipping entombs an object and creates a fragile protective shell. Though rigid once the water evaporates, the fluidity of the cloth is held in suspension and holds pieces of deconstructed furniture in mid-air, waiting as remnants of our daily lives, reminiscent of our dreams like in Some Will Stay for a Few Moments, Other for Years. The act of shrouding, knotting and draping with the slip-coated cloth can serve as an outward manifestation of an inner psychology. Still in its raw state, the slip is easily cracked open to reveal the underlying core of fabric or dissolved by water – breakable, impermanent, yet remarkably strong. In its fired state, the original object is lost and all that remains is its hollow porcelain shell, a fragile representational memory of the real thing. Its thin shell is perhaps more fragile in its permanent state, and more easily broken by gravity or the slightest misstep than before. The object is one step removed from its original self. It is a self-referential memory.
I like this material duality, especially when considered in relation the preservation of a singular object or the creation of a space in the form of a wall like in This is Where Space Begins or I am the Space Where I am. I like the idea of the walls that make up our homes as embedded with the daily accumulation and debris of our lives – our tangible clothes, cups, bowls, and cutlery along with our seemingly intangible habits, routines, and thoughts transformed into bricks, both constant and tenuous because of its material permanence and impermanence.
In new work in progress, I have begun slumping glass cups and other functional items found in the kitchen cupboard. Slumping of glass stemware and firing cutlery contort the forms in a way that keeps them recognizable, but alters their forms in strange ways– familiar, but weird, surreal, uncanny. There is the German word unheimlich, a term that is associated with ideas of the uncanny and imparts a sense of lurking or an uncomfortable sense of haunting – just beyond familiar. In this developing work, this notion of unheimlich is becoming more central and joined with revealing what lays hidden just beneath our normal vision in our homes – the accumulation of things under our floorboards and in between our walls. In conjunction with slumping glass, other materials like plaster, cement, wax, different substrates for growing crystals and paper offer opportunities for further transformation of everyday object. The transformed-reality captured in all of these processes and materials makes the object recognizable and situates it within our everyday experience. Much like the muscle memory connected with the height of a chair, we have a pre-existing physical and immutable psychological relationship with them.
— Lauren Mayer