Ruckus logoA scene of various sculptures in an empty hardwood floor living room, predominantly made from found domestic materials: an end table with white sheets, a clothes hanging rack, candlesticks, a vase, etc.
Above: Install at houseguest

wandering home


Review
Jessica Oberdick


The atmosphere of Alivia Blade’s wandering home lingers delicately in time. Warm beiges and golds dominate the color palette, a soft fragrance floats through the room, and the space feels both frozen and active, classic and contemporary. Throughout houseguest gallery, Blade carefully displays her sculptural work mixed with furniture and decorative objects from her home. The resulting layout mimics a sort of dressing room and, as an installation, blurs the line between art objects and domestic products, gallery and living space, becoming something transitional instead.

Visitors are welcomed by their own reflection in a large, bronze mirror as they step inside—an effect that enhances the sense that you have entered into a personal space. Around the mirror, objects have been placed on a mix of stools and pedestals: a pair of delicate hand-made lace gloves, a translucent honey brown sculpture of hair combs, a pillow with synthetic hair tassels sits on a Breuer style chair, and a wispy gauze blouse floats on a modern wooden garment stand. Among these sculptural pieces are a vase of flowers, a small makeup mirror, and deep draping fabrics. Extended from this initial set-up are similar small, intimate areas with their own domestic configurations. Each of these vignettes, however, remain united as Blade returns again and again to familiar objects for her installations. We find near replicas of the same hair comb sculpture and the same long synthetic black hair as her dominating material. On the left-hand wall, a bag made of synthetic hair hangs from a garment rack; on the right, a drying rack is draped with thick bunches of long black strands; and on the back walls, sculptures of hair hang like macramé.

It would be easy for an artist’s work to get lost in such an elaborate installation, but the intention and precision with which Blade has crafted her sculptural pieces elevates their status amongst the domestic products of which they are placed. Her entangled Comb Sculptures, for example, intuitively exist within Blade’s installation, both invisibly blending into her crafted atmosphere and elevated by their placement atop makeshift pedestals. As sculptural pieces made from such familiar objects, their location in a home setting is expected but their forced entanglement unites them as singular independent objects that are instantly recognizable as art despite their former domestic utility.

Similarly, Blade’s use of the synthetic hair straddles the same transitional space as the Comb Sculptures. Its status as a personal object, or perhaps more specifically, an object of transformation allows it to blur lines within this space. Even displayed in its simplest form—draped across the drying rack—the synthetic hair is removed from its original context. Seen in partnership with the objects Blade has created with it, the hair on the drying rack is more akin to a painter’s palate than a tool for beauty. In this sense, while its purpose has transitioned from that of beauty to artistic material, it lingers between being an object of utility and an object of art.

While elevating domestic objects into the realm of art is not new, there is something unique to be said for Blade’s use and display of her works. “Readymade” sculptural works are often deliberately displayed in a gallery setting in order to achieve their elevated art status. Rather than mimic the aesthetics of a traditional gallery, wandering home instead embraces houseguest’s domestic setting. This choice enhances the character and aesthetic value of Blade’s sculptural works by forcing them to linger longer in the transitional state between utility and art object.

This transitional state is a grounding point for Blade’s work within the larger canon of surrealism where creating unusual juxtapositions and conjuring a dream-like uncanniness into the artwork was often the goal. Works like Meret Oppenheim’s well-known Object, the hair covered saucer and tea-cup, similarly conflated the line between utility and art. For Oppenheim, the goal was to challenge societal ideals of civility, while Blade’s abundance of hair alludes to today’s over-consumption of cosmetic products. In both cases, the artists use our memories of the original functions of the objects to create unsettling works of art.

In the statement for wandering home, the exhibition is described as exploring memories and stories from Blade’s childhood and how they continue to affect her today. This focus on memory—as fickle as they often are—is what contributes to the general ephemerality of wandering home. Nachträglichkeit, a German term (translating to hindsight) used by Sigmund Freud describes the effect of fusing the past and present1, and is an appropriate term for defining Blade’s own continued revisitation to her memories as a method of understanding her current circumstance. Combing the past and present, however, creates complexities, as Joan Gibbons notes in Contemporary Art and Memory: “memory is complexified by a conflation of past and present, in which that which is retrieved is contingent on what is felt or experienced in the present.”2 These complexities though are essential in bringing Blade’s work from the realm of the private to that of the public. It is our own knowledge and memories of these objects that fuse with Blade’s in the present, imbuing them with meaning.

The emphasis on specific objects and the inclusion of scent both contribute to the nostalgic overtones of the exhibition. While the memories being referenced are unknown to us, we can appreciate the way Blade’s focus on specific objects, such as hair combs and synthetic hair, elevates the status of these domestic products into art objects. In the same way that our own memories augment sights, sounds, or smells that are otherwise ordinary, Blade has taken her recollections and transformed them into something new and unique.

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wandering home is on view at houseguest gallery until August 21st, 2021. 

Citations:
  1. See Joan Gibbons, Contemporary Art and Memory, Tauris & Co. Limited: New York, 2007. Discussion on Nachtraglichkeit p. 15-18.
  2. Joan Gibbons, Contemporary Art and Memory, Tauris & Co. Limited: New York, 2007. P. 15

Notes:
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7.31.21

Jessica Oberdick (she/her) is an independent curator and writer whose research focuses on themes of identity and social perception. She currently works as the Exhibitions Assistant at the University of Louisville.
A clothes hanger fixed to a wall holds up many sections of shiny, black, and straight synthetic hair, loosely put together in the shape of an abstracted garment with arms and legs somewhat legible, or in the shape of a large blurry “X”
Hair Sculpture V, synthetic hair, pants hanger

On a wooden tray is a small assemblage of brown, translucent hair combs, all different shapes and sizes, haphazardly stuck into each other’s teeth, like a sort of pointy tumbleweed.
Comb Sculpture IV, assorted combs, adhesive

A drying rack for clothes, being used for many long sections of straight black synthetic hairs, filling the rack completely.
Hair Sculpture VI, synthetic hair, drying rack

A scene of carious sculptures inn an empty hardwood floor living room, predominantly made from found domestic materials, here all together, resembling a kind of salon or barbershop, with a central chair, various mirrors and size tables, a hip high Romanesque column, a white shirt on a clothes hanger, and so on.
Install at houseguest