“This is tomorrow” anticipated the critique in “Call the now”
In 1956, an exhibition entitled “This is Tomorrow” was held in London. The collage created by Richard Hamilton “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” is considered as being the start of the Pop Art movement, which criticized consumerism by mocking everyday images and trivial objects.
Sixty years later, the German artist Charlotte Eschenlohr held an exhibition “Call the now” atthe Being 3 Gallery’ in Beijing. The “Call the now” series definitely marks a sequel to this earlier artist. Charlotte’s collages also show the contradiction between daily life and modern consumerist culture. However, her works are less ironic and refer more to social problems , consumerist culture in particular culminating in a society that worships this lifestyle. People become the offerings of commercialism; all behavior is surrounded by consumerist ceremony.
Charlotte Eschenlohr lives and works in Munich, New York and Beijing. Her work breaks into the daily life of different cultures and demonstrates the contradictions of the global world. At the same time, Charlotte is very aware of the feminist critical stance that contemporary consumerism follows the patriarchal point of view : the female is regarded as a medium of exchange and consumption and as an adoring “goddess icon”. In the glut of commercialism, the female has degenerated into a consumerist icon of sexual desire , put down as a vivacious and romantic business totem.
1. The present Chinese “dragon” totem
Charlotte has worked in China since 2010. China has given her a fresh outlook. She attempts to express in her work what she sees: “Dong Yong and the Seven Fairies” intermingled with lively and noisy festivities; a bust of the Buddha mixed with men and women; soldiers, tiger heads and a modern coquettish lady vamp…skyscrapers designed in Chinese calligraphy; ancient images that can still be seen in the show windows of modern stores – everywhere is full of foreign brands while still representing a traditional hallmark. As a foreign artist, Charlotte notices a lot of changes in daily life in China; to her it is complex and unordered. Charlotte juxtaposes the image and the icon. This ‘new’ reality is expressed in her Chinese series “All is Real” and “Dragon Fly”.
China still has a traditional culture, but also faces the impact of modern global civilization. All the fragments of culture and thought are therefore brought together into the reality of the present world. Thus, the images and icons express a mixture of China with the notion of its feudalist tradition and ancient culture alongside consumerism and fake modern style.
Obviously, Charlotte is a spectator who points out the current situation as a new ‘Chinese dragon totem’.
2. The “Venus” motif uncovered in the “adoring goddess”
Adoration of the goddess is inherent to the human being. In western classical culture, the female as a temple has had an enduring impact. People have always regarded the goddess “Venus” as a symbol of beauty and love. From ancient Greek Alexandros’ “Venus de Milo” to Renaissance Sandro Botticelli’s “Venus” it is all linked to adoring the goddess. In classical culture, the “Venus” statue is related to the glory of a historical tradition. Therefore, to eliminate the holy, contemporary artists express the Venus as the image of destruction, for example the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Venus of the Rags”. However, one fact cannot be neglected: when elite culture constantly destroys the classical image of the goddess, popular culture will unceasingly mold the “new goddess” image.
In “Call the now” series, Charlotte juxtaposes the classical image of Venus with mass media fashion models, illustrating that Botticelli’s goddess Venus has been broken for the new merchandise. Mass media shows a lot of slim, seemly and detached new female images. This is the new goddess created in an age of commodity . Human original behavior is characterized by an obsession with the ‘adoring goddess’. In the age of commodity , the goddess is created by popular culture based on an ordinary female mold, and only aims to stimulate consumerist taste. Hence the “adoring goddess” in modern commodity-driven society.
3. The spun spider’s web, a fight for freedom
Charlotte’s latest work is entitled “Temple Spider Network”, referring to feminism and aiming to think over more deep contradictions of modern civilization. From Alexandros’ spiritual work “Venus de Milo” to Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” to the letters “Temple” copied into the Chinese characters “ Fahai”, the modern sexual freedom of the female image is suggested: a female search for happiness. In her new work, the spider element symbolizes a matriarchal society. The spider is small, self-defensive, aggressive and poisonous. The spider’s web can trap small wild animals, representing the success of women’s rights over patriarchy. At the same time, the web also stands for being strapped to the merchandise representing commerce: high-heeled shoes and lipstick spin a new web to catch the female.
In her “Network” series, Charlotte places together details of Chinese characters and a royal building on the basis of her experience in China. At present, networks imply that people are connecting with each other. The “Network” expresses the paradox between freedom and captivity. The whole process of seeking freedom as an unceasing struggle with invisible networks such as religious beliefs, compulsive consumption and the lust for power, which perplexes and constrains human advancement.
Charlotte Eschenlohr’s work, like that of other excellent artists, challenges us to examine ourselves, yet it cannot solve the issues of human existence.