ugly object

Score for an almost unintentional transformation

or How to be swallowed by Orsa

So let’s begin.

Not so easy to work with ugliness – as with beauty in the end. To live for a whole year with something ugly – just found and specially selected for its ugliness, is a confrontation with unpredictable effects, Nothing more nothing less. No one knew where it belonged to, why it was where it had been found, nor what it was for … What to do?

The first few days (January, that is) it’s a bit uncomfortable to live with the object. I place it here and there, I don’t look at it, forget it for days, suddenly I search for it, feel guilty when I cannot find it, or at least – it’s a commitment made, heck! – if here and there I don’t think about it.

I decide to put it in my wicker basket. The one that is constantly being opened and closed, where I keep lots of useless and unfinished items, but also pieces of cloth, needles, buttons, scraps of plastic that friends and relatives bring to me, I mean all the things that maybe once I could use.

And now ‘IT ‘ is there too. This “creature” of felted hair in low quality, with eyes of translucent plastic that ‘daunt me a bit ‘. But I have to get used to it. Because with ugliness, or better with this kind of almost ‘objective’ ugliness, maybe one must live with to fully understand it. Oh God, to understand ugliness… What does it really mean to understand ugliness? Maybe it should not be understood, perhaps I should just start to tune in to it. Maybe “the creature” will change aspect little by little. Could it be that observing it might change the way I perceive it?. And who is it that thought of buying it? And who was it that produced it? Maybe it was one of those gifts you find in Easter eggs that make you think, while images of sadistic mocking smiles of marketing experts come to your mind: why the hell did I buy it?

Or maybe it’s one of those objects created by some designer ‘engagé’ to appear “triumphantly” ugly in order to throw the right-thinking people out of track with their disharmony, in this universe of easy, and substantially kitsch, beauty. In short, a semantic trick…?

But these are useless speculations for my purposes today.Poor hairy tail.Ambiguous and pathetic.

Indeed, perhaps I am slowly growing fond of it. Its glance is a bit sad.

“Beauty is the promise of happiness,” said Baudelaire. Is ugliness promise of sadness then? I think following a (pseudo) logical calculation… but what is ugly after all? Extreme ugliness has for sure a certain attraction, from Polyphemus to Cyrano de Bergerac. Of course, according to this logic I would say that my hairy creature is not blatantly ugly. It is just a bit unpleasant.

Therefore, not particularly charming. From here, the road seems closed…

The only way is to begin to act.

 I take a canvas. I begin to draw with ink and I’m determined. I know the phenomenon well. When I draw, when my hand quickly traces the lines, my thoughts become fluid and melt with my sensory perceptions. I am light-fingered and secure, in total transport. It’s almost a moment of ecstasy.

While hatching I think about the ‘thing’, about its reality of being an ‘ugly thing’. And I think about beauty too, the classic one, the traditional one, the one that does not break the mould.

I realize I’m writing sentences. Obsessively. Without realizing it. “Beauty promise of happiness” in the rapture of creation is like a mantra that becomes pure sound and sets free from rational thought. I carry on and on until I get to something delicate and light. Bluish hues trace profiles that remind me – when I look at things done – of Japanese prints. Like a breath of wind – that morning breeze from the garden, from the well-cared park. I realize that I am abandoning myself to a kind of sophisticated beauty research, which is not exactly in my nature. But this is the context that I chose for my creature. A comfortable and protective nest, but also a “beautiful” and delicate one.

 It is starting to get hot (it is summer now) and the wicker basket, where the creature is waiting, is now full of accumulated material. I decide to glue it (the creature) on the canvas that I had prepared and that is waiting for it. I cover it slowly with yarn. I create as I like a new surface, a kind of patina that shelters and veils. I can meddle on its surface just as mother nature. I feel powerful. By the way, I get the impression that all this is giving me a chance to think clearly about myself (you have to do it once in a while, even exploiting completely random events ..).

 In fact my ideas become clearer.

 I feel that it is not enough to have embedded the object in a delicate web. But there is no solution yet. I wait…

 With the first wintry cold comes the turning point. I have to protect it more. I feel I have to act as mother bear in defense of her young. Strength, courage and love. So I spread a fabric on the canvas, an old blouse and work it in a way that embraces the creature. A great bear’s head that dominates the canvas without destroying the embroidery appears almost in its own right.

 When I focus on what I did I rediscover the energy inside me, a primitive and vital force, which makes me act often before the thoughts have started the engines. Not to be rhetorical, but I think this is the instinct for life and for its defense (in all possible forms) that especially women have..

Only now images come to my mind that I had never connected before.

 The bear depicted in the caves by the men of the Neolithic, to represent admiration and respect, almost a request for protection.

 Mother love of the bear which can be found in many medieval allegorical paintings.

 The bear – condensed primitiveness and strength but also propensity to play: Dante remembers “the bear when it jokes.”

 The teddy bear to turn away fear that children continue to embrace in their beds.

 But also the bear that for the alchemists symbolized ‘Nigredo’, l’Opera al Nero, the first stage of the alchemical process, in which the material is dissolved (and then is sublimized and reborn in later stages).

 Here is what I did to my creature. Now it is clear.

 I submitted it as I could (lovingly) to a process of alchemy.

 Crossing along this path, unintentionally, my own story, in which Alchemy has entered in many ways.

 It seems an acceptable finale to me .

 Also Aesthetically.

For now…

 Antonia Alampi

telling the story of Doris Maninger’s creation


Ugly Objects Amsterdam : visit web site

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