Suchan Kinoshita’s installation Stuff (1995), focused on a by-product of our cleaning rituals: human detritus. Kinoshita collected her raw material from used vacuum bags given to her by acquaintances and, having transformed the gallery into a makeshift laboratory, subjected it to a process of painstaking examination. The pieces of ‘stuff’, such as balls of hair and bits of fluff, were carefully classified and then sorted according to a labour-intensive system that looked as if it had been devised by an eccentric archaeologist, conducting research into the habits of our contemporary age. By taking stock of the detritus in this way, Kinoshita’s work subtly gauged the passage of time, converting the hair and fluff into fragile ‘evidence’ suggestive of past events and experiences.
Although the installation represents the artist’s quest for order, it had a playfully chaotic aesthetic: the cluttered glass shelves looked precarious, the structure unstable. In offering up this residual matter for public scrutiny, she took it out of the intimate realm of domesticity and into one of quasi-scientific categorisation—through being ordered, the gathered ‘stuff’ acquired a poetic innocence that seemed to transcend the notion of ‘valueless’ material.
Kinoshita was born in Japan and, before deciding to make art, studied theatre and music in Germany. This training was perceptible in her installation’s resemblance to a stage set. The tools employed to carry out her curious investigation—including brushes, rubber gloves, lamps and a goldfish bowl full of water—were displayed as if recently set down, implying a participatory experience for those who ventured into the gallery. And as Kinoshita collapsed conventional hierarchies by assigning value to substances that are usually discarded, she also highlighted the frailty of our bodies by revealing the dead matter we shed on a daily basis.
In the adjoining room Kinoshita exhibited two cardboard boxes punctured by illuminated fairy lights which spell the word ‘Nowhere’, with its inherent semantic suggestion that ‘Now + Here = Nowhere’.
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