I’d like to begin this article with some bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. That is, “the thingamabob that does the job,” or the magic that brings objects to life. Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo could be likened to Walter Benjamin’s notion of “aura,” to the “uniqueness” and “mystique” of the work of art as described in his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936); but it also comprises the fantastical, the transfusion of sparkle into things. I am, of course, making reference to Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950), in which Cinderella’s dress is magically transformed from torn rags to haute couture just in time for her to make it to the ball; and it strikes me that artists Caroline Broadhead and Maria Militsi are our modern, magic-making equivalents.
Entering Second Hand, First Hand, the two artists’ recent exhibition at Marsden Woo Gallery, London, is like stepping into Cinderella’s scullery, with its barren concrete floor, bare wooden table and woven stool, and kitchen utensils strewn about. Yet a closer look reveals the creeping jewel-like texture of the space. There are echoes of J. G. Ballard’s 1966 novel The Crystal World, references to the encroaching crystallization of objects that “glistened like wedding-cakes,” and with “a ceaseless play of light” across their surfaces. Broadhead and Militsi have rendered a performance in which the materials take center stage. These are not objects that merely provide the backdrop, but that have realigned themselves with the enchantment and allure of making.
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