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Intimate Vestiges: Fiona Roberts at Format Systems

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Fiona Roberts, Hairbrush, 2015, Ceramic and horse hair. Dimensions variable. Photography by Michael Marzik. Courtesy of the artist.

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If I am touching something, it is also touching me. If I use something, it is also using me. If I see something, can it also see me?

I walk into an eminently familiar domestic space: the hairbrush sits on the shelf, the coat hangs on the hook, the bed has not been made this morning. A second look reveals that all is not as it seems. There is now an overwhelming feeling of unease. The shag rug is reaching out to me with a thousand gentle fingers and the curtains’ shiny eyes gaze into the room from the window.

Cleverly camouflaged anthropomorphic additions to commonplace objects give them agency. These usually inanimate things now look and touch back. Object becomes subject. Roles reverse. The eyes, mouths, fingers, strands of hair and glossy organs adorning these everyday things impose a sense of voyeurism. The presence of these once inactive objects intensifies as they come to life before the viewer’s eyes, hidden in plain sight.

Each piece exudes a delicate intimacy, though there is still feeling of discomfort. Who is looking at whom? Are the curtains watching me? Have I interrupted the pillows’ sensual embrace? Once the discomfort abates, I realise that they are not so strange.

Our relationship with these things is symbiotic. As I run a brush through my hair, the brush is stroking me. While I sleep in bed, the pillows cradle my face. When putting on my coat, the coat embraces my body. Objects are not a threat; the objects forming this installation are open for the viewer to consider the sensory exploration that is Fiona Roberts’ Intimate Vestiges.

It is intriguing that by merging the two things that we inhabit – the body and the home – Roberts’ can create something that feels so foreign and unsettling, while still feeding our avid curiosity. There is a heightened level of awareness that develops when experiencing Roberts’ work, one that allows the viewer to contemplate their place in their surroundings: I am inside, but am I still an outsider?

Fiona Roberts, Intimate Vestiges, 2015. Photography by Michael Marzik. Courtesy of the artist.
Fiona Roberts, Intimate Vestiges, 2015. Photography by Michael Marzik. Courtesy of the artist.