Multiplied presence

Flat Octopus – Exhibition Case

Interview – Alice Máselníková and Paula Elion

Sometimes things can feel lonely even if surrounded by other things. Paula Elion’s small figures made of readymade items and repurposed with a playful approach and experimental use of material have an air of solitude about them. Even though the dolls often appear in pairs or small groups they do not seem to find much solace in the company. They dive in, lean on and stumble over each other in attempts to find balance, use prosthetic tools or position themselves on jars and cans to help them bear the weight of their light-weighted existence. Though enclosed in the glass case, the figures are shrouded in a whiff of varnish that connects their smooth bodies to the initial studio process.

There are several overlapping motifs displayed at the same time and originating in different contexts. For instance, when she conjures the symbol of cacti, it draws meaning from its Latin American origins and its representation of both the Arab and Jewish habitants of her new/old homeland. In other works, playing with dolls symbolizes what society expects from girls, as well as referencing religious and cultural myths and stories.

In Christian countries, these dolls can be used as Baby Jesus lying in the Christmas crib, while in Israel these same dolls represent baby Moses. By deconstructing and reconstructing the objects from their cultural structures and into new artistic forms we are invited to explore alternative interpretations of meaning.

The process of making the works is spontaneous and what makes it exciting is not knowing beforehand what the piece will look like at the end, highlighting the elements of experimentation and surprise.

Curator – Alice Máselníková, 28 May–18 June, Flat Octopus Collective, Stockholm, Sweden

Photo credits – Natalie Koski.

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