Naama Arad at Dortmunder Kunstverein

Artist: Naama Arad

Exhibition title: Love Handles

Curated by: Linda Schröer

Venue: Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund, Germany

Date: December 2, 2017 – February 18, 2018

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Dortmunder Kunstverein

Note: Exhibition floor plan can be found here

In her sculptural, predominantly installative work, Tel Aviv based Naama Arad (*1985) examines the relationship between humans and objects. From this point of view, her work explores themes on gender, sexuality, power and language. With a subtle sense of humour and made from everyday massproduced items, her sculptures reveal an almost symbiotic relation between the individual and the objects surrounding it.

Arad discovers chains of associations based on formal, aesthetic or linguistic aspects everywhere, be it on her way to the bakery, to the crafts store, hardware depot or the office supplier. The mass-produced, ambiguous commodities act as her material for seemingly surreal flip-flop images: A flyswatter is both the female genital area and a phallus at the same time (Master and Servant), a telephone wire and air freshener mimic pubic hair (Legally Blonde, Black Ice). In other pieces, a Stutenkerl– a traditional German pastry formally resembling a gingerbread man smoking a pipe – is trapped behind a fishnet-like wire (XX), or Miniature pretzels rain from an entrails-like shape (Feed your Head). The individual objects form figures with identities and genders of their own and, through their inherent symbolism and implications, function as syntactic elements of a threedimensional arrangement. With each individual constellation and interference between the objects emerge new complementary encodings, leading to new meanings and content that can develop a life of their own based on the viewer’s own intrinsic connotations.

A life of their own, imbued not least by the references to fetishism and animism. While the former sexually charges inanimate objects that objectively have no inherent erotic value, the latter animates formerly inanimate matter. Thus, these charged objects like the dustpan (Bossy Bottom), the wheelbarrow (Doggy Style) or the climbing trellis (Hounds of Love) encourage the viewer to ask questions of objects that surround them in their everyday life, seeing that the design of every commodity includes the designer’s own dispositions and viewpoints at the time of development.

Arad’s work leaves plenty of room for personal projections and stands in a confusing contrast to the usually functional purpose these everyday items fulfil. Moreover, it poses the question of identifying art and non-art: references to classic Readymades and the clarity with which everyday items are loosely yet cleverly combined encourage imitation but also discuss how we assess the rules and worth of art. Arad’s work invites the viewer to an encounter and a dialogue with their unconscious and encourages them to discover their own subjectivity.

Love Handles is Naama Arad’s first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. She recently had solo exhibitions at Projektraum ACUD in Berlin (2017) and at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2015).