Wool and Water makes reference to Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking-Glass' (1871), which follows Alice into a fascinating and surreal world of doubles and mirror images. This fictional realm serves as a metaphor to the changing of conditions and sense of metamorphosis in the ‘real’ world. These metaphors also arise in mythes, they make something clear, give sense to something that is senseless, like a reversed dream. Because metamorphosis is a fact, we can assume that life itself is also subject to perpetual change. This exhibition is about coming closer to the reality of the world through means of invention and symbolism, by avoiding pure aestheticism or the immediacy of a documentary. In this way, the exhibition, which registers facets of a mythological invention, touches both historical aspects and the geopolitical topicality.
“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”
- Excerpt from Fragments by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC)
The element of water runs through the entire body of work of Didier Mahieu. This evokes thoughts on the philosophy of Heraclitus Of Ephesus and his idea that ‘everything flows’; the human being in constant and eternal development. There is also a clear reference to Ovid’s (43 BC) text on rivers in his book ‘Metamorphoses’. His vision on the world, characterised by an idea of transition, enforces this ‘liquid’ state of life. The only true law is the law of transformation and the borders between different elements are very fragile and easily encapsulate new things. Mahieu uses this philosophy to unify his body of work through means of subtle references. The storm appearing in the portrait of a Chinese woman, a very timeless icon, hints at the Manchurian lotus shoe placed at her feet, in the shape of a boat. This piece, woven with precious, almost baroque, materials links the historical view with the current and industrial situation of the region. The geopolitical context modifies the portrait of the Chinese woman into something close to a publicity image. Context, time and place start to lose their characteristics and merge into one another.