Volksboutique: The Lust for the Aesthetically Pleasing and Mindfulness

the scholar Hal Foster discusses in his article “An Archival Impulse” artists who operate as archivists and curators. These artists—Thomas Hirschhorn, Sam Durant, and Tacita Dean, to name a few—delve into research and sift through endless piles of what man others classify as “junk” to re-present and re-frame items of the past to viewers. Naturally, each artist does so with a different intent. In some instances, artists catalogue and archive in order to find “time readymades.” Other times, this re-presentation serves as to “[retrieve]…alternative knowledge or [act as a] counter-memory” (Foster, 4). In the case of Christine Hill, the proprietor of Volksboutique, re-presentation seems to be driven by an aesthetic lust for nostalgia pieces. The original Volksboutique, situated in Berlin, Germany, not only acts as a gallery space but epitomizes an intentional lifestyle practice, which can be classified as mindfulness (Hill, 26). However, Christine Hill’s work appears to fetishize material culture and mindfulness.

volks

(Christine Hill, Volksboutique Anniversary Commercial Clip, 2017, http://www.volksboutique.org/)

The introductory video on Volksboutique’s website demonstrates the aesthetic lust of mindfulness. The commonplace phrase “aesthetically pleasing” denotes a satisfaction of the senses and is certainly a characteristic of the Volksboutique website. The website entices the visitor with a beautiful layout, fit with an embroidered border and header. The hues of the website and video are muted and soft–the greens evoke antique glass and the pop of red is that found in Edward Hopper paintings. In the video, Hill offers some samples of what objects Volksboutique stores and archives. However, the manner in which Hill prepares the demonstration and displays the objects creates an aesthetic tension. Every motion is intentional, slow, and controlled. At the same time, the actions are so clearly for the voyeuristic viewers. As Hill is faceless, the viewers can imagine that they are Hill painting their nails, and moisturizing their hands, finally crossing them in the most particularly specific and charming manner. The video continues on to display an assortment of objects with the same color pallet, with Hill remarking, “This one’s really nice,” “This is a really nice one,” “This one is really beautiful.”  The objects may seem unremarkable but in part because they are unremarkable they are beautiful. Because the actions bespeak confidence, knowledge, particularity, and possession of these beautiful objects Hill creates in her viewers a lust for a mindful lifestyle as well. This is not surprising in an age in which everyday life is frequently curated online to evoke envy and desire in others. This is also exemplified by Hill’s Minutes–a collection of notebooks detailing everyday tasks. Minutes showcases art that is reminiscent of the alluring notebooks and examples of penmanship found on Buzzfeed and Pinterest. Thus, as a result the art viewer becomes consumer of the ephemeral, awakened by aesthetic lust for the vintage and the fetishization of mindfulness.

unnamed

(Christine Hill, April, 2006, The American Heritage Dictionary)

In this manner, Volksboutique sets itself apart from other archival works by Hirshhorn, Durant, and Dean.Whereas artists like Hirshhorn work towards the creation of “a counter hegemonic archive that might be used to articulate ([dis]placements)” and the creation of new meaning, Hill unintentionally awakens the insatiable consumer (Foster, 18). Hill’s work is pleasing and charming, but perhaps it is important to recall the words of Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: “Charm…spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art” (Waugh, 273.)

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