The solo exhibition Ever so Humble, Ever so Proud shows the recently produced works of the interdisciplinary artist Mila Lanfermeijer. These new works, combined into an installation, are the result of Mila Lanfermeijer’s artistic research which she carried out during her residency at SEA Foundation. In this research Mila explores the possibilities of garment as a sculptural medium and canvas. The starting point for her research were the observations she made on the influence of one’s perception during the process of attributing meaning to objects: how objects are often interpreted according to their perceived use value, which seems partly related to an object’s material characteristics, yet seemingly more dependent on the value perception of a user in combination with their discursive disposition.
This general starting point, had an immediate cause. This was Mila Lanfermeijer’s experience while visiting the Calico Museum for textiles in Ahmedabad. A striking feature of this visit was the rather peculiar presentation of clothing. These were still on display in their protective plastic packaging (most likely with long-term preservation in mind), and hung to the wall in a folded, flat state. This led to a whole new experience of these garments, that were now partly disconnected from their originally intended function as the result of this peculiar presentation method. It was during this experience that Mila saw both the influence of context on the experience of a specific object, as well as the similarities between garments as an artistic medium and other art disciplines, particularly that of painting due to the presentation of the garments in their flat state.
To tease out these influences in our perception of objects and processes, Mila combined her experience from the Calico museum with a visual and artistic analysis of various historical paintings of garments and fashion, hard-edge artworks, as well as several design patterns of textile works and garments. By juxtaposing these research objects, Mila Lanfermeijer noted that the use of overlapping surfaces, cross-lines and geometric shapes were all recurring elements; these elements were important in the meaning-making process for each of them, but nevertheless applied with a different objective and with a different result in mind.
To explore this, Mila adopted a work process in which she explored her research objects by detaching them from their original context and thus of their perceived user’s value, focusing on their physical qualities instead. By exploring these qualities, such as their physical restrictions, imperfections, (unforeseen) reactions to certain conditions or the application of experimental techniques, Mila tries to come to a closer understanding of an object’s materiality, almost to a point of obsession. By doing this, she constructed several monochromatic garments in their original flat state, their function disconnected by abstracting the seams and weaving patterns, as well as their connotations and attributed socio-cultural meaning. During this process, concepts regarding demystification of grand narratives, as well as the aspects of materialism and rituals related to each of the object’s specific material properties were all red lines within her research.
The theories and concepts of the scholar Jean Beaudrillard have been an inspiration throughout Mila Lanfermeijer’s oeuvre, especially his theories regarding cultural ideologies, as well as their influence on our perception of supposed binary oppositions. An example of one such binaries which returns in this project, is that of fine arts versus artisanal, applied arts. These ideas and approaches resonate within Mila Lanfermeijer’s current project as well.
Mila Lanfermeijer adopts a critical and deconstructive attitude towards the political, social and cultural concepts that are projected onto these material objects. During this project, she adopts a similar approach in which she deconstructs the connotations related to garments, both in their depiction in her selected historical paintings but also their practical design patterns, as well as hard edge paintings. These are all the carriers of socio-cultural meaning and connotations. By abstracting and detaching the original intended functionality from these objects, Mila approaches them as actual material objects, actively becoming aware how these connotations influence our perception of these objects. By actively framing removing this ideological layer, she indirectly deconstructs the binary oppositions that arise from the (often hierarchical) structures imposed on craftsmanship by the fine arts. By making no distinction between fine arts and applied arts, thus abstracting the socio-cultural context of these objects, the essence of their materiality is left.
What follows is Mila’s process of experimentation with the materiality of the objects, constructing new relationships with these objects from the ground up, based on their physical properties and qualities. This research into the differences and similarities in the use of migrational or even transmedial aspects, such as composition and geometry, both in the field of abstract painting as well as the more traditional field of textile and pattern making, were therefore central in this project. Her obsessive process of experimentation, repetition, and exploration, is what Mila Lanfermeijer hopes is conferred onto the viewers through her artworks.