Ten lo-fi, handmade assemblages constructed from inexpensive, everyday materials comprise Dora Economou’s second solo show. Walking amongst her sculptures you have the impression of thumbing through a private diary that wavers between autobiography and fiction. A list of titles (‘of current, previous and future works’) displayed on a shelf behind the sculptures helps us decode her personal references. The artist collects ‘stolen’ phrases from books and songs (from Virginia Woolf to The Cure) in a notebook, and these textual elements become the starting point for her modest sculptures. Economou’s use of materials such as fabric, wood, tape and paper, lend her works a fragile quality. Even loaded symbols are humbled through their conversion into new materials, as in Killing an Arab (all works 2008) (the title is borrowed from The Cure’s first single), where the checked motif of the Arabic keffiyeh scarf is copied in red pencil on a paper napkin.
Economou also builds in aspects of the accidental, the transitory and the unfinished. Half Machine Lip Move is an homage to mistakes: the work is a primitive-looking machine consisting of a pencil fastened to a small boulder on the floor, which rests tentatively on a piece of paper. Each time the work is disturbed or wrongly installed, the pencil produces an accidental drawing. Economou’s practice references both the works of women artists from the 1970s, who experimented with material in relation to handicraft and household work, as well as the expressionistic, post-feminist sculpture of artists such as Isa Genzken or Cosima von Bonin. Visually, her work also quotes contemporary sculpture associated mainly with the Glasgow scene of the 1990s, as well as a new generation of German artists (grouped in exhibitions such as ‘Formalismus’) who explore the legacy of modernism in connection to contemporary design, architecture and pop culture.
Nevertheless, Economou’s work is less an exercise in form and the way space produces identities, than an impulsive, non-rationalized process used to convey a personal narrative. Although Economou does not speak directly of herself and her life, her works are imbued with references to her own cultural interests, her obsession with collections (of words, of insignificant materials), and her devotion to performing useless tasks. The traces of her successive interventions imply an ongoing performance whose primary function seems to be to help her keep her hands and imagination busy.
First published in Issue 120