Salon distingué – Household effects in good company (curated by Nadia Schneider Willen)
Museum Langmatt, Baden, Switzerland
Housed in a villa built by an industrialist in the early twentieth century, Museum Langmatt still reflects the needs, values and tastes of a certain social class – of people for whom surrounding themselves with exquisite, precious artefacts and works of art was very much part of their identity. The exhibition Salon distingué is an inquiry into Household Effects in Good Company and as such addresses the functional complexity of the Villa Langmatt as stage, exhibition space and time machine rolled into one.
Faced with the challenge of curating a contemporary art project in a fully furnished interior with an impressive inventory of its own, it made sense to use the domestic character of this manorial villa as cover for smuggling new and unexpected works into an established ensemble. On entering the bedrooms appropriated as exhibition space and the much grander ground-floor reception rooms, visitors therefore find themselves face to face with contemporary sculptures and objects positioned – at times discreetly, at times ostentatiously – alongside the existing household effects. What all these works of art have in common is the way they start with objects of everyday use – tables, lamps, tableware, plastic bottle caps and such like – and then, by rendering them unusable, combining them with other objects, or translating them into some other material, transplant them from the utilitarian milieu into the realm of the exhibit.
In Diango Hernández’s installation Dining at Eight of 2009, comprising four tables at which “figures” made of stacked lampshades sit opposite each other, household effects are used as culturally coded materials that the artist reconfigures to make them tell new stories. Bearing in mind the individual objects’ place of origin, their points of reference include the conditions of their own production and the underlying socioeconomic power gap.