Cultural Product

Cultural Product
Serving Suggestion

Sunday, July 13, 2003


I wish I were bigger

Fatter? Taller? More famous? Or just giant?

I wish my work was bigger!
The stain on the carpet looks like spew. The day I was minding the show outside on the pavement someone had done a big red spew and I knew I had done right.

Catalogue Essay
Sarah Goffman’s wish to be ‘bigger’ is a clue to the ethos of her latest installation. If only she was more capacious, then she might be able to harbour all the junk in the world. This passion for objects may be read as a symptom of intense curiosity. While studying literature at university, Goffman was plagued by the thought that she could never read everything, marvelling at libraries stacked with more books than she could hope to absorb. Evidently she feels the same way about all the detritus she now seeks out. Her plaintive proclamation may be understood as the inevitable outcome of a collector’s obsession, or the manifestation of a desire to save the planet from rubbish. Indeed, the two aims may be intertwined in an altruistic yet covetous drive to improve the environment.
Goffman’s installation, made almost completely from found materials, is full of intriguing combinations, seemingly infinite in their variation, like a microcosm of the world made from trash. Here, the artist suggests new aesthetic forms for things which are usually despised or beneath notice. Arranged in organic formations, these cast-offs appear compellingly beautiful. A tree branch in a giant bag, plastic shopping bags sport customised pockets and toilet paper is embroidered like exquisite craftwork. Commonplace items are repeatedly transformed from the prosaic into the decorative, blurring the boundaries between categories.
While this composition may be read as an inspiring DIY dream, or a masterpiece of waste management, darker themes may be discerned. The structures on display have unmistakably apocalyptic resonances, suggesting a crumbling cityscape after a disaster. Miniaturised scaffolding submerged in a fishtank illuminated by a floating strobe, with stained carpet beneath, summons up the spectre of civil decay. Here, nature is visibly damaged by artificial constructions, but is itself already man-made and mass-produced, reflecting the perils of excess. In spite of these black undercurrents, humour is evident in various distortions of scale: scaffolding inside a fishtank, a small box labelled ‘Extra Large’ and a miniature newspaper mountainscape.
Goffman’s collections could be understood as a way of filling the void, a compensation for loss or momento mori. After all, every collection is a constant reminder of the very reality it has been created to stave off. The objects she covets are talismans of an inverted conoisseurship, each piece the grave of a past desire. Many of the materials Goffman puts to use will be around long after we are gone, given their virtually indestructible, toxic qualities. In this installation, people are absent except in caricatural forms while inanimate objects testify to the folly of our endeavours. Inhabiting a blackened zone, an empty motorcycle suit hangs surrounded by an audience of cut-out faces. Elsewhere, money and ashes sit side by side on glass, as in a macabre shop display, posing an equivalence between human life and hard currency.


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