Formel. Marionette

On January 20th, 2014 Contemporary art patron, Sarah Elson will launch a series of private art commissions in her family’s West London residence. For the pilot project, Elson has invited Berlin based artist Suse Weber who will have free rein in part of Elson’s home and create a performative time-based piece that responds to its domestic and private context. The audience participatory installation ‘Formel: Marionette’ will inaugurate Launch Pad, a series of site specific commissions that Elson has planned as a platform for emerging artists who have not previously had exposure in the UK.

Suse Weber (b. 1970, Leipzig) has developed a distinct vocabulary that she calls “Bildvokabeln”, a vocabulary of symbols, signs and interchangeable modules that reference political, cultural and historical contexts familiar to her from her own background. Having come of age as an artist when the Berlin Wall came down, Weber’s incorporation of such graphics that relate to standards, heraldry, or totems of images speaks a playful yet politically resonant language.

Made from a variety of inexpensive common materials, such as hardboard, plastic, rubber, and cardboard, each component is hand cut to standard sizes and shapes that resemble flat-pack assembly parts. Flags, gladiator helmets and shields, crenellated bands and draped sashes are some of the shapes that punctuate the ordered, rectilinear wall supports. Part of the installation is a human-scale, movable rack unit, fitted with slots and bars for securing these graphic elements. Weber calls the unit an “Emblematic Sculptur”, a sculpture that ‘exists in connection with the viewer’s behaviour’ eluding any ‘lasting presentation’. Weber herself controls the choreography of interactions and as “puppeteer,” moves the “Sculptur” around changing the components as she sees fit. She calls herself a Marionette, explaining that we are all, on some level, marionettes, activated and operated by our own histories, cultures and personal circumstances.

Weber has compared her work to a traditional traveling puppet show. The characters and props remain consistent but the story changes slightly according to the local audience, customs, culture and values.

For the Elson commission, Weber explores the way certain design features of the Victorian semi-detached house renovated by architect Seth Stein lend themselves to a performative or observational function. As in any of her works, the viewers are participants or actors, in that they often interact with Weber as she replaces and changes the components of the work. Here, though, the rooms will become a stage for the work, the artist, visitors, and the family who live there. In this domestic setting Weber will reference the everyday activities that relate to an intimate personal life – hanging up one’s coat, moving between spaces within a home that have distinct purposes (sitting room, kitchen), communicating between rooms and levels of a London house.

The performance opened to the public from 20-26 January 2014 where visitors were encouraged to activate and engage in dialogue with the artist.

Suse Weber lives and works in Berlin.‘Formel: Marionette’ has previously been performed at Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Kunstverein Bonn, Bonn; Kunsthalle Lingen, Lingen and Wiels, Brussels.

Formula Marionette, 2014. Mixed media installation. Installation view. Dimensions variable. Launch Pad, London.