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„nutshell“, 2023.



Raft, carbon, willow, metal stand, aquarium, water, miniature raft, flagpole


Part of the class project "Presented by the Sea"

by the class Jankowski (ABK Stuttgart)

Industrial Art Biennial 2023

Landscapes of desire, Rabac, Croatia

We are in Rabac, Croatia, a remote fishing village in Istria. In the middle of a wild surf, a raft floats on the open sea. Although it is close to the coast, the raft - made of converted lockers from a changing room - seems to be at the mercy of the harsh elements of the Mediterranean. On the raft is an aquarium filled with water, in which the raft itself floats in miniature. But floating is the wrong word: it rocks back and forth between the glass panes, almost shattering. It looks like a nutshell in the middle of the apocalypse. The miniature raft cannot escape its glass cage, and the view from outside is always of its fate. Back to the actual, large raft: a flag made of thin willow branches flies from a light flagpole made of carbon fibre, which the viewer cannot assign to any country or origin. The flag looks a little like it is made of reeds. Historically, flags on ships were used to show "which flag" you were sailing under. The image of pirates choosing a skull and crossbones as their insignia also comes to mind. Does Mimi Kohler's flag then refuse such an attribution of origin and identity? 

Mimi Kohler chooses natural materials such as willow rods, wicker, thorns or cones with their very specific (partial) forms, their filigree materiality and transience. The process of transforming these materials into new, unfamiliar situations and forms underlies this. When a flag is used, its utilitarian character is immediately apparent. It is often a matter of demarcation from something else, just as a folk nationalism understands itself above all in demarcation from something else and thus defines itself. The refusal of such an iconoclastic reading of their work is tantamount to the cultural (re)appropriation of icons, such as the adoption of camouflage patterns from military and hunting contexts, or Palestinian scarves in interior design and fashion, or the appropriation of queerness by the mainstream. Ultimately, such symbols are stripped of their meaning and become arbitrary. There is a radical artistic potential in this. Ultimately, this forces a discourse on whether political symbols such as a flag can be further developed through the use of non-connotative and overloaded meanings, such as an expanse of monochrome willow branches, thus relativising their negative implications.

(Text: Patrick Alan Banfield)

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