Zoë Sheehan Saldaña /
Zoë is an American artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is part of a collective of artists who, so far, are not well-known in Europe. This group is interested in and criticizes American consumerism through its art and poetics. Doing so in plain view of everyday life with efficiency, ambition and modesty.
Zoë is very fond of this extract taken from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:
“You have been told also that life is darkness,
And in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love…”
Zoë Sheehan Saldaña’s approach is frighteningly efficient and illustrates the tension between the artist and “the market”. The artist takes part in “shop-dropping”, a surreptitious act of removal, counterfeiting and substitution art. It happens in three consecutive “actions”: 1 – Going into a shop to purchase an item of clothing or any mass-produced object. 2 – Reproducing that item exactly, by hand, using traditional methods; 3 – Returning the copy, in this instance a work of art, back into the shop where the original was. The object or the duplicated item of clothing, that is virtually identical to its model, is then put back for sale, at its original price, as if nothing had happened. The buyer is not aware that he/she is in fact buying a work of art… that the artist is “letting go”. A drop of art in everyday life.
On many occasions, Zoë Sheehan Saldaña, has used her skills in Wal-Mart’s clothing departments, where she would “shop-drop” shirts, blouses and trousers with the extreme discretion that is required and without knowing the outcome of her actions. From her work, the artist only keeps one picture that will be displayed next to the original garment, deprived of its label since it will have been sewn into the “work of art” item, as if to make it even more ordinary.
This work of concealment may seem absurd yet it is mainly poetical… Importance is given to the clandestine act (it is exciting), the role of stealth (keeping it secret allows an illicit action), the subtlety of the parasitic act (the work of art replaces an ordinary object), the well-known skills of hand-made production required from the artist to make the copies, using traditional methods and that bring real added value given the human investment used in the process. There is an additional statement: by making it invisible, by accepting to lose her work and never give it a name, the artist seems to degrade her own production. We are not dealing anymore with the “transfiguration of the Commonplace” as in the famous phrase from Arthur Danto about Pop art, but with a transformation of the ordinary: an ordinary object remains ordinary despite the transformation work carried out by the artist and art.
Poetics and design, in the strict sense of the word, are hidden rather than stated. If they exist, they do not wish to be recognised as such. “Poetry comes from the transformation that occurs when you watch something close up” says Zoë Sheehan Saldaña who adds referring to her own work that it is about transformation, in fact, a reflection that leaves an open door for those who wish to bring their personal contribution to the process.
TEXT BY BARBARA POLLA / LONDERZEEL NUMBER 2 / DRAW ME A GAZE