Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro: Venereal Architecture
Ikea and Lego, spliced together at last. But there's a twinge of something a little menacing.
If you don’t enjoy Lego and Ikea, there’s something wrong with you. Having ransacked a Scandinavian storeroom, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro are back to meditate on our materialist existence. Venereal Architecture at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is a collection of bright and beautiful sculptures. But while everything is glossy and geometrically precise, there’s also a twinge of something a little menacing.
Healy and Cordeiro are sculptors of the readymade. They dig up found objects and mix them into new formations. You may recall some of their playful reinventions, such as the colourful wall of Ikea furniture propping up a dinosaur skeleton. This was featured at the MCA in 2012. Indeed, the Swedish mega-brand has been a long-held source of inspiration. There’s also an instinct to catalogue that runs throughout their practice. It’s as if they are attempting to archive the present, creating an orderly arrangement of excess.
The sculptures featured in this exhibition are Lego-built animals combined with Ikea furniture. There’s a tortoise wedged under a glass coffee table, a lion guarding a baby’s changing table, and — my favourite — a speckled black octopus coiled around a yellow chair. It’s as if these rainbow-coloured creatures have been tamed and slotted into a showroom. In fact, some unions look to be a bit sinister. For example, there’s a deer violently pierced by an Ikea trestle. The animal is quite literally bolted down, forcibly domesticated.
A big theme for these artists is the way in which we manipulate our surroundings. They shatter words like ‘custom’ and ‘unique,’ satirising society’s veneration of banal objects and trendy furnishings. In fact, the sculptures are decorated with perfectly manicured pot plants, some with little blankets of brown Lego soil. While this is super cute, it also highlights our preference to imitate nature, to aestheticise it and pair it with a matching decor.
Although the connection Healy and Cordeiro draw between Ikea and sex may feel a little whimsical at first, it’s interesting to think about the link between carnal desire and consumerism. Their Lego portraits are vaguely discernable sex acts — physically pixelated and named after Ikea products. The fact that they are made of cheap, hard and mass produced plastic may parallel the sad state of sex industry, rife with exploitation.
In sifting through the junk of everyday life, Healy and Cordeiro critique the ins and outs of first world living, from the oversupply of flat-packed dream homes to the porn industry. In many ways, Venereal Architecture pulls towards something a little more disturbing than is first expected. By scratching beneath the surface, these artists engage with globalisation in thought-provoking ways.
Serious stuff aside, I love the simple parallel between crafting a fantasy home as a child with Lego and graduating to an adult level of assemblage through Ikea. Goes to show, this exhibition ain’t just bogged down in weighty issues; it’s good fun too.
Arts & Entertainment
Friday, March 5 - Monday, June 14
National Gallery of Australia