by Dilpreet BhullarSep 17, 2022
Ever imagined typically a dysfunctional furniture? Can a utilitarian object transform into an absolute non-utilitarian piece of aesthetic? Joana Vasconcelos, a Portuguese multimedia artist, redefines this very idea of dysfunctional furniture through her vibrant, colourful, and psychedelic art installations. She categorically calls them Stupid Furniture, which recently concluded at Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea, Italy. Vasconcelos shares, “There is a number of furniture that exists and no one really knows why they exist. Whose functionality is non-existent! They are not even endowed with an aesthetic sense. Nobody needs to have them! They belong exclusively to the constant need of the human being to find solutions to fill the emptiness. As I always questioned the existence of these apparently useless pieces of furniture, I decided to call them Stupid Furniture and set them free from their fate. Now they are truly dysfunctional. They cannot be used at all. I turned them into something different, into works of art.”
The genesis of Stupid Furniture goes back to the pandemic days when the artist was confined within her studio space. A strong penchant for all things creative, Vasconcelos found herself instilling a fresh perspective to a very beloved piece of wooden cabinet, that she inherited from her great grandmother. Inspired from this very act of painting a long-standing domestic piece of furniture, she found herself buying peculiar furniture from local flea markets, that eventually refurbished into what we see as the Stupid Furniture. “It’s a very organic and fluid process and requires a lot of manual work. The exhibition took about a year to be conceived, planned and executed. However, each piece has its autonomous process,” she adds.
Departing from this very idea of reinterpreting familiar objects, Vasconcelos’ art explores the idea of decontextualising domestic objects. She sketches out a whole new personality, rather very unfamiliar to the beholder’s perception. Infused with colour and combined with avant-garde artistic mediums, Vasconcelos removes these objects from everyday familiar but conventional settings and introduces a contemporary definition in its own right. Each one is unique and different from the other!
Vasconcelos shares, “I try to give it a twist and to take it further - reorganising and reinterpreting the domestic environment. I select household objects or furniture, in this case it might be an iron, a telephone, a fireplace or a pan - and then I bring them into a new dimension. It’s like the metamorphism of women themselves. If women’s traditional role as housewives has been transformed, I must also transform the house itself. That’s why I use a lot of domestic objects. I put them into perspective, change their identity and transform these objects into a new reality.”
For the current exhibition, the artist explicitly amalgamates local Italian traditions with subtle hints of her original Portuguese flavours. Commenting on her aesthetics, she adds, “Its Baroque-Portuguese and Italian!” Exploring the very innate quality of the Italian culture, the artist has curated 11 pieces that introduce a new interpretation to this western culture and its local delicacies such as Pasticcino, an Italian iced cake and Torta della Nonna, a classic Grandmother’s cake. Joana says, “When we think of Italy, the first thing that comes to my mind is luxury, the sumptuous decorations and the house, the domestic environment. And then the importance of design and furniture, as well as the huge Salone del Mobile. My work questions these dimensions that are so strong and present in the Italian culture.”
Vasconcelos’ art is extremely dynamic and adaptive in nature. In contrast to the scale and scope of her ongoing immersive installation Valkyrie Mumbet at the MassArt Art Museum (MAAM) in Boston, eclectic pieces within this Italian white cube focus on curating more intimate experiences. The artist says, “The dimension of the Valkyrie is a result of the space which they will inhabit. In this case, the gallery has the dimension of an apartment, so, it has kind of a domestic environment, which is really perfect for my work because the furniture fit in it.” However, the constant across her diverse oeuvre includes the various handicrafts – tentacular textiles, lace, crochet and embroidery - and fairy lights. The use of fairy lights induces a surrealistic element of magic into her experiential art. “The aim was to create that half-heavenly, half-fantastic dimension!,” she adds.
Through this exhibition Vasconcelos is all set to unveil the Wedding Cake - her most ambitious project till date. She shares, “I am talking about a completely immersive sculpture-building, with four floors and 12 meters high, which will be installed in Waddesdon Mannor, England. It marks the connection between the universe of pastry and architecture but is, above all, a temple to love.” The world awaits to once again witness Vasconcelos’ magic as she transforms the familiar into a space of surprise and awe!
Stupid Furniture by Joana Vasconcelos was on view till July 29, 2022 at Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea.