Photo Credits: Alfredo Brant
With elegance and a fine ladylike umbrella
Amalie Alsbo, Lucie Albrecht, Meta Daniel, Sidsel Bjørg Hjelmager
MA students in Culture Studies, The Lisbon Consortium
Katharina Lackner´s interest in the relationship between object and viewer can be seen in her displayed piece, Mit Eleganz und einem feinen Damenschirm (With elegance and a fine ladylike umbrella) (2004-2020). In this work she uses porcelain, both whole and broken, to question how we engage with objects and the power that is held in our gestures and choices towards them.
Played in reverse, the video cast onto the fallen teacup shows a woman in an elegant dress adorned with an umbrella. Moving slowly, she comes into the space. With grace she lifts the umbrella and smashes the porcelain that covers the dining room table. When all the porcelain is smashed she leaves the room. The original work from Lackner produced in 2004 consisted of the video installation alone. Now in 2020, the video reappears in a new context in the collective exhibition Silence in Pieces. The work brought to us today shows the evolution of Lackner’s work as the video installation is now contained within a larger frame of itself. Through this process, the viewer is invited to engage with a new perspective concerning subject/object relations. Inspired by the act of destroying something delicate, this seed of curiosity prompted Lackner’s interest in porcelain and its connotations.
Finding that porcelain had long been a traditional gift for brides, questions of the emotion and power retained in these objects emerged. Porcelain pieces cannot be viewed through a simple lens. They are passed down from generation to generation thus their function and value serve not just their practical/material use but also as a mnemonic device for history and tradition. Traditions are not neutral. Beyond their family specific context porcelain, according to Lackner´s research, also symbolizes femininity and purity. Given away at weddings, its expensive and delicate nature suggests that you treat it with care.
As heirlooms such as porcelain move through the different spacial and temporal phases of a particular genealogy, they serve to recall a structured remembrance. Laden with worth, both emotionally and monetarily, these fragile objects are imbued with power. Like the act of the wedding itself, the message tied to the ritual is greater than what can be seen. By this same token, the message tied to one’s porcelain collection, also takes on a larger effect. Moving from object to institution the collection becomes “coextensive with man both in space and time” and with this, the visible is rendered invisible and the subject-object divide becomes obscured (Pomian, 1990, 5)1.
With the acknowledgment that objects, such as porcelain, may serve to uphold patterned traditions, do we truly understand what messages we are transferring?
Are we in charge of them, or them of us?
With the interactive work presented to us here today we are placed with the opportunity to engage with these memories and structures, even smash them if you please. How will you react? In the words of Lackner, “If you could do what you want, would you do what you want?”
1 Pomian, Krzysztof (1990). Collectors and Curiosities: Paris and Venice 1500-1800.Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge, p.5.
Katharina Lackner's reflections on her work Mit Eleganz und einem feinen Damenschirm, [With elegance and a fine ladylike umbrella], part of the group exhibition Silence in pieces: 4 acts at the Galeria Fundação Amélia de Mello in her interview with Lucie Albrecht.