One of the final shows being held at Modern Fuel’s current space before the move to the Tett Centre later this summer is Martina Muck’s installation Memory. It’s a beautiful show, highlighting—quite literally—the innate sacredness of everyday objects. The show consists of twenty-two vessels that range from near garbage (a plastic spoon found near Lake Ontario) to childhood treasures (a first guitar case). Each piece sits on the floor, alone, and illuminated by a single dropped light. The effect is striking when you walk into Modern Fuel’s intimate space. The vessels are like so many candles on an altar; and indeed, Muck seems to be worshipping these objects in some way.
They actually don’t belong to Muck at all, but were collected from members of the Kingston community. For each piece, Muck had a conversation with the donor about its significance. On one of the walls, on small, inconspicuous white cards, a single sentence explains each object. A bird’s nest “both fragile and strong”; a souvenir from Sarajevo; a cup bought at a garage sale in 1995; a Russian jewelry case that has been passed down for three generations; an old box that used to hold rubber bands and stamps; a bowl that represents years of bad marriage, and sixteen other vessels both mundane and exquisite. The guitar case is by far the largest; most are small cups and bowls. The smallness of each piece requires the viewer to have a keen eye for detail and an appreciation for minutiae—both good things. Each object is lent to the installation for its entire duration, which is a lovely exercise in trust as well.
Muck, a German-born artist, often plays with light and shadow in her work, and this installation is no exception. Each vessel sits alone, spaced well apart. The lights from above, though, make the shadows swell and overlap with one another. Nothing exists in and of itself, the show seems to say. Objects cast metaphorical shadows with their history, stories, owners, and futures. These disparate objects are connected now, and forever. The light, then—that small measure of seeming worship—is so appropriate. Even a simple bird’s nest is sacred. This is definitely a show to take a look at. It’s likely one of the loveliest displays you’ll see all summer.
This is Muck’s first show in Canada, and it will run at Modern Fuel until June 14. For more information about the artist, visit Muck’s website.