ela mariska
ugly objects ugly
claire marianne

claire marianne



Marianne, owner of the Luna Antique shop on Zeedijk, received the figurine as a joke gift. Although both the gift giver and she thought it was ugly, there was an understanding that it could not be sold.  As an owner of antique shop, she knows there is someone out there who would buy it.

Video: about the object

Video: the story behind the object's original owner

Video: on the Red Light District

Video: more thoughts on the Red Light District



I've put it in what we could call my "kitchen,” as it used to stand also in her kitchen. Why??? I have to say that it is quite easy in fact to live with such an ugly object since it has the tendency to disappear in between my pots. I know that it's here but I don't really see it, or look at it…we are kind of getting used to each other. I don't really know what to do with it. I'm still testing the object.

I took it with me to Africa. I wanted to see how it could be perceived within another culture. So I just installed it in a Tuareg "kitchen" - I guess that they don't have a word that means kitchen there. It is a hole in the sand, some pieces of wood burning there, a big pan, two or three jars, cans or whatever, teapot never too far, and one small glass for burning hot green tea. Into such a context I brought the little doll from the red light district.

I tried to ask the Tuaregs what they thought about the object, and although they were intrigued by it, it seems to me that it didn't make any sense to them. Discussion was quite difficult because they didn't speak English or French. Facial expressions are good but to enter in the details, well... They might have thought that I am just a weird person. They quickly didn't pay much attention to the figurine, but rather more to my camera!! I could see that it is just evoking nothing for them, meaning that it is a bit more evocative for us, me, Marianne and you…

That experience was just a try out for me to see what this object could be, out of its a place where they really don't have the same relationship to objects, as they are nomads, traveling with a very minimal amount of things. What would they do with such a nonfunctional thing? So in Africa (that was in Mali) at the beginning of the Sahara desert, this object is quite nothing…and well, in that way it is already quite nothing in its own context, so... and it remains ugly, stupidly ugly.

In the interview, the woman spoke about something sweet from this figurine. It interested me. I would not call it sweet but looking at it at the same time as looking at the film that you made, I would say that it is about a kind of innocence that this figurine reflects. But I m still far from finding beauty in it, I have to say!!

ela ela

What is beautiful, in this little figurine??... I can’t find it…

I remember that I didn’t find the Buddha statues in the shop much more beautiful, at first sight. Marianne explained that they are really well done, and that they represent much more ... that’s quite true. OK. Maybe that is what makes the Buddha statues beautiful to her and surely to many other people. Could my little statue represent much more, so much that she could become beautiful?

I remember this exhibition where I saw some of the Haitian statues. I couldn’t find them beautiful either but they had something... It was beyond being beautiful or ugly, it was fascinating, somehow. Most of the objects that I saw there were used for prayers, all hand made with poor materials, and some even looked broken. But they attracted me. They were much more interesting than merely beautiful. They were rich, evocative, poor and yet powerful. I have been thinking about it… I think that these objects weren’t made to be beautiful. They had another function. I think that what gives these objects their strength is the care and intention that the one who made them had put into them. Their uniqueness...

The little statue is unique too but boring…She is out of context everywhere. She doesn’t fit in my home, maybe she did in Marianne’s house but I rather think that the owner simply got used to seeing it.
So she needs a context, friends around…

And she needs to have something changed, to leave this horrid fake innocence painted in pale blue in her eyes… I thought that I would just transform this poor little girl into a modern, perfectly desirable image of a woman. 90-60-90, something like that, no? The perfect contemporary beauty for women... After all, aren’t we in the district that is playing with all these clichés? “La femme fatale” everywhere behind these red light windows, the best of what a woman should be, beautiful and desirable…. I could try to make something like that for this statue. She would need a serious change…new clothes’ style but she could keep her basket full of apples. Apple, the fruit of temptation… is it not perfect? But this idea really bores me, seems to me to lack something, something like sincerity.

I would like to reinvest some preciousness in it. And I can’t see any preciousness or beauty in these clichés. Maybe I am too reactive… I would like to make something for Marianne. I don't think that she would really appreciate the cliché-figurine. Something that she could find beautiful, maybe something like a Buddha statue. I don’t know yet how, maybe remaking it by bronze casting. Maybe by creating a whole world that this statue could belong in, a new set of objects similar to this statue. Hand made, hand painted, naives, indigested and yet hopefully with something beautiful in it. I thought that I would like to install them together, as the setting seems to have importance for the statue, like an alter for prayers.


I decided that the object in itself did not evoke anything beautiful…but what about its shadow? What could be hidden inside, or behind this little figurine? Unseen things hiding under the shadow…hmm… much more interesting to me. And then, how to make it into something that the owner would also find beautiful?
The final shape is not here yet, but we're getting closer!

ela ela
ela ela

etching, dry point, aquatint, porcelain, resin

I believe that it is ok to have ugliness around us.
As long as it is a decision.
I like ugliness because it carries our rejected side, which I like more usually than the "official" one... but if she gives me this ugly object... hmm...what should I do? it is not really ugly, but much more boring..
make it beautiful... though I can't find any beauty in it and give it back to her, as a gift...though I don't know her.


she had to keep it because it was a gift she couldn't throw away so somebody had to do it for her...
maybe something more interesting happens when the object vanishes.
little baby doll... reduced into a crumble.
that's my gift.  it can be beautiful and I feel almost that was a heroic action.
a quite violent destruction, ouf, such a release for me also, and some lines carefully drawn on a metal sheet.
only its shadow remains now, printed on this paper sheet.  
and a something  weird  sprouting out of it now, and growing…
a bit glossy and childish, like the figurine, and made  precisely of the ugly object 's powder.

this was inspired by this woman, dreaming of her garden while she stands in the middle of her shop.
I think that it is something that most of us do actually.
I don't connect with what she sees as beautiful/ugly.
and so finally I didn't make it more beautiful. I couldn't.
but the beauty that I found in the process came more from the meeting with the ugly object owner.
the beauty came also from the energy that I involved in making something not for myself, but for her.
The shadows seem more free than the closed shape of the object… that is what I wanted to give back to her…

and the good thing it is that she can do whatever she likes with it now!!