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Shannon Bool, Installation view, Bonner Kunstverein, 2011. Photo: Simon Vogel

Shannon Bool: The Inverted Harem II

The exhibition of the Canadian artist, Shannon Bool (*1972, lives in Berlin), leaves us with a feeling of déjà-vu. A curtain out of denim, carpets and dance poles. The artist takes objects as the basis for her work that recall localities such as a pub or a club. Whether bleached, highly polished or disconcertingly combined, her works lure and captivate. Bool leads us into a place that plays out between inner images and distorted appearances and suggests free associations.

Bool’s forms of expression are versatile. Besides floor works, there are also objects, silk paintings, photograms and collages. Some elements of her visual vocabulary stem from classical painting, yet without making their historical dimension visible. Others originate from religious symbolism without playing out their dramatic dimension. In other situations, Bool samples references from popular culture. The motives derived from cultural history are not quoted, but transformed into pure pictorial material. Visitors to the exhibition encounter carpets referenced from historical paintings and given such names as “van Eyck Carpet” or “Memling Carpet”. The artist returns the ornaments – derived from the art-historical canon of images – back to the horizontal plane of carpeting, which she, in turn, orders handmade from Turkish weavers using the finest techniques.

Within the framework of the exhibition, the harem provides a leitmotif. In the 19th century, these secluded quarters became a topos in western painting that represented an ideal location for projection. Here is where the male view of the female was portrayed, just as much as the west’s view of the orient, enhanced by unbridled and beguiled sensuality. In Bool’s works the issue of perspective is always addressed, not only in the sense of the male view of a woman’s world. In contrast to the Renaissance artist who demonstrates his painterly prowess by his mastery of perspective, Bool lets the historically-cemented balance of power become playfully derailed.

She uses the appealing power of certain materials, while simultaneously robbing the objects of their functionality; her disconcerting interventions generate distance to the everyday. Her vertical sculptures – reminiscent of go-go dancers’ poles – as well as her silk paintings evoke a seductive dance that never takes place. The viewer is deluded into fantasies that remain unfulfilled.

Shannon Bool studied in Frankfurt and New York. Her ongoing interest in literature is infused with a specific sensibility in handling materials, which leads to unusual shifts in meaning. Her work over the past years has attracted growing interest and been exhibited in many venues, such as the Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden, the CAPC in Bordeaux, the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, the RMIT
Project Space in Melbourne or the Migros Museum in Zurich.

This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Gesellschaft für Akutelle Kunst in Bremen.