Saturday, January 05, 2008

Voodoo For You

Because I travel a lot – and because I don't have a permanent home – personal tokens, fetishes and charms are important to me.
I started collecting them in my mid teens – a stone with a hole in it from my grandmother; a bracelet given to me by a neighbor at my first studio, something from each member of my family (from a time that was good), and unusual pieces I've found in thrift shops and flea markets. I prefer old or used objects with an emotional history, even if it's someone else's.
My boyfriend has given me a number of small, beautiful objects that have become my talismans: necklaces and pendants that I wear for comfort, tiny carvings that I hold and take with me when I travel. He has also given me talismans of his own, rare charms that have traveled with him. They make me feel incredibly close to him, as though we've shared a life before we met. I've made him gifts using my own hair sewn into a bracelet and a doll very like me, dressed in denim from my painting jeans. I've given him some of my own talismans, ones that I've had since childhood.
This sharing of objects with a personal history was one of the things that led me to research voodoo beliefs and practices, in which objects and natural phenomena are believed to possess spiritual significance or to encase a soul. Many of my own belongings were depicted (sometimes cryptically) in my Voodoo-inspired watercolour series, Venus In Hell.
When I set up my Sex Tourist installation at Art Melbourne '07 – a messy hotel room, with my photographs and sketches as the memories of events that had taken place in it – I used a number of my own things: a favorite green make-up bag, empty prescription bottles, a half-empty bottle of perfume, a mobile phone, my own lip-print in red lipstick on a glass, even a set of my own lingerie (washed – I don't give that much of myself away). People picked through the make-up bag, handled the objects scattered on the bedside table and the bed, stared at the images on the walls. I felt – and people's responses indicated – that it was a more meaningful experience because everything was real. Each piece had a history, each was a piece in a human puzzle more intriguing – and, ultimately, more revealing – than a work relying solely on my imagination.
Nowadays, instead of throwing away personal items that I no longer need, I hold onto them. I don't keep just any old junk. They have to have been something of value or of constant use. Like a voodoo mambo, I use them to imbue an otherwise two-dimensional work with a real history as well as an additional emotional and sensory dimension.

1 comment:

Rachmeal said...

Fantastic photo!