Published on the occasion of Chloe Rose Taylor’s solo exhibition SuperValue at The National, Christchurch, 2017
Chloe Rose Taylor’s installations often look like they could belong in an editorial photoshoot. Keenly aware yet gently mocking of current trends across visual culture, objects are placed in fully-realised, often fantastic environments. In these (re)imagined worlds, things can bypass the constraints of many conventions, including, in many instances, taste.
Taylor often shows an affinity for the overlooked or ugly object. In 2015, for example, she submitted a twinkie for inclusion on the Auckland Art Fair’s trade table. The table is an ongoing relational art project, where people barter for items according to what the organiser feels is a fair trade. Somewhat surprisingly, then, Taylor’s submission of the twinkie was rejected — condemned as an object that held no value for a potential trade.
The twinkie is resurrected in Taylor’s new body of work, SuperValue. Un-opened and now framed, it follows in the ready-made tradition, a mode of art made infamous by Marcel Duchamp. Employed to re-dignify the everyday object, Duchamp stated that the ready-made was “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste.”
Taylor’s work isn’t indifferent, but it certainly suggests that every bit of glam needs a bit (if not more) of ugly. Using resin almost like a glue, each work fuses together elements that might otherwise seem poles apart. There is a cheap novelty brooch that has been adorned with gold, diamonds and an emerald; an oval (potato-shaped) brooch displaying a fake ‘Louis Vuitton’ logo; freshwater pearls studded onto a phallic form; another brooch boasting two-minute noodles. The combinations unsettle a whole set of value distinctions. The cheap is married to the luxurious; the ordinary riveted to the ornamental; the crude paired with the heirloom. In fact, it’s worth noting the gold and diamond are taken from Taylor’s family rings, which only seemed to destine them for bricolage that much more.
That conflation of meanings is also at play in the exhibition title, SuperValue. As an amplifier, the prefix ‘super’ implies something of heightened value. Conversely, it can also imply getting a good deal, a bargain. It’s no coincidence that SuperValue is the name of a supermarket chain across Aotearoa. SuperValue, the exhibition, might be considered then as a re-appraisal. Some materials have been elevated, like the twinkie, and others seemingly devalued, like the gold and gems. Taylor creates a lurch in how we would expect those materials to be treated. In the gap, we confront how – and why – we valued those materials beforehand.
It would be wrong to say though that the works are just exercises in provocation. There is an obvious glee in making art that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and a clear interest is amplifying form and texture. Just think of the carefully casted and molded dollop of poo on the floor.
Bringing everything together is the dominant table upon which everything sits. The top could have come straight out of Flintstone’s Bedrock – a huge slab of foam and concrete that out-sizes everything else. For Taylor, the table is a reminder of conversations over food, where so many of our views are instilled. More formally, it literally offers a level playing field for the various objects that sit upon it. In SuperValue, all types of historical, monetary and sentimental systems of value have come to the table. Time for us to sit, and negotiate.