• Coral Bijoux

The Allegory of the Vanity of the Plastic Spoon by Coral Bijoux is an excerpt from the Dreams as R-evolution body of work drawing on themes that emerged around the dreams, wishes and expectations installation (Fig.1). [1]

While the spoon – silver, wooden, and, overwhelmingly plastic – is at the heart of this work, the Allegory of the Vanity of the Plastic Spoon is layered and rich with metaphor around the imposed domestic roles of women (particularly in kitchens), ideas around sacrifice, consumption, desire, consciousness, class aspirations and plastic disguised as the ‘real’ thing. In the piece which follows, Coral ruminates on her journey towards and within this latest body of work.

Fig. 1 [1] The installation was part of the Dreams, Wishes and Expectations Exhibition.
Read more at https://creativefeel.co.za/2017/11/dreams-wishes-and-expectations/

“The Dreams, Wishes and Expectations” exhibition of 2017 launched the Voices of Women Museum space, which I curated. Considering a metaphorical device to assist the ‘reader’ to engage this body of work – differently, with a new lens, I happened upon a most unobtrusive object – one that silently does its work to undermine the very heart of our humanity and our engagement with the natural environment (upon which we are so reliant) – the plastic packet (Fig 2). The contemplation on what nurtures us and our attitudes towards this concept of nurturing lies at the heart of how we define (and demonstrate) our human-ness. My current body of work deepens this contemplation through the Dreams as R-evolution work. The Allegory of the Vanity of the Plastic Spoon is one such work. (Fig. 3)

The desire to be exists in a frame that is articulated through the self. Self-hood at a time when the collective serves to choke you into being one. One what? As a female, femme, feminist, woman; my womanhood is defined by acts of sacrifice and motherhood dressed up as giving up all for the dream of nurturing clean up, cook up and being-existing entirely for ‘the other’. (Mum, is it ready?!)

My body of work looks deep into the eye of domesticity, among other things, where the fleece lined captivity in the “I Do” space of choice is defined in acts of loving-ness. This state where your love is sought by doing – these tangible blessings in pots with spoons and scoops of delicious nothing-ness. Loving titbits of love.

In spaces of transition, defined roles turn aside and inside out in acts of reframing: a questioning and a search for alternate ways of being.

The Dreams as R-evolution body of work considers that the struggle to assert our identities lies in every encounter – be it politically or socially. Grappling with content, statues and spaces, we jostle over who has rights and who doesn’t. We venture into spaces that are both personal and defining – the home, surrounded as we are by our domestic definition. Mother, woman, mum, social sacrificial lamb. Delicious roast lamb. I often wondered at the notion of ‘lamb’, the sacrificial metaphor and its association with Christianity? Lamb of God. Sacrificial lamb. Innocence roasted.

Dreams as R-evolution’s Allegory of the Vanity of the Plastic Spoon [2],is a spooned (and forked) ensemble of plastic – a contemporary garment (circa 2019) which comments on a Colonial past where women were once covered in lavish adornments that kept them from free stride, and kitchens where maids abound to serve the space of privilege. The ‘plasticity’ has been found and collected from sea-d debris and bottom drawers from homes with thoughts that “one day we may need it …”

Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 [2] The Allegory of the vanity of the plastic spoon alludes wryly to the work of 17thcentury Flemish painter, Pieter Boël  https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Vanities_of_the_World

While the saying ‘born with a silver spoon in the mouth’ implies privilege and inherited wealth, I reference the plastic spoon as the place and space of ‘functional’ bliss. The lower-down-dregs of us re-use and re-cycle to our hearts content, that which is given so freely. So accessible is plastic, that it need not be an inheritance – though it is well placed to be so – where it floats fantastically freely across generations into a near and distant future, choking our ability to taste a fresh sole. Found riding the crescent waves at sea or decorating a picnic tabled blanket or discarded at sites under bridges at dusk with breyani hand-outs, the plastic spoon makes its mark while it floats to distant lands where perhaps roast lamb is consumed with silver spoons.

Dressed in spoons of plastic, weighed down by the implications of roast lamb without a sole in sight and a substantial serving of innocence, the wearer becomes the next generation’s witness to that which we have served up to an uncertain future and a questionable past.

More on this work coming soon at https://coral4art.co.za/

Coral Bijoux is a South African artist who makes visible the work that she has engaged with for many years: observing, challenging, documenting life in a transitioning world amidst political and social upheavals, quiet moments and life experiences. Her ideas and concepts speak through a visual language which is fecund with metaphor and symbol, textured surfaces through her choices of materiality echo layered meanings. Her artwork, curatorial practice and projects centre on these experiences and observations using predominantly installation in site specific spaces; sculptural forms, drawings, photo-montages/collage, paintings, soundscapes, animation, video…whatever the space requires… in a variety of materials. She is interested in the metaphor of material as well as its alchemy often juxtapositioning organic and inorganic materials in alternate indoor and outdoor spaces. Wood? Enjoy its smell, its texture, its memory…Plastic? Can we escape it? Clay…its the earth! Laughter? It vibrates. Silence? It absorbs…it speaks. Rhythm? It centres…ME.


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