Charged Vacancy

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There is a central clause in the contract for the reception of art and that is the willingness to take part in the active mental leap needed when riding the course of any metaphor as proposed by an artist. Metaphors are invitations for the imagination to move from the literal concept or thing to a heightened understanding that is more subjective, imagist and open to the influences of emotion predicated on associations and memory.

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The work Vacancy is a sister work to the piece No Vacancy first shown in 2010, which was a text statement that is also recognisable as a piece of signage for a state of being: in the mind of the audience there is no room at the stable or perhaps there is no available job offer. With Vacancy, presented for the first time in Berlin in 2014, the sign becomes an invitation to consider an open ended metaphor, a reading of a neon sign looking for your attention, the vacuous state of being glutted comes to mind, these representations of pots and pans display their own embodied potential to offer forth foods that in turn can be turned into digestible objects of consumption.

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The trope of surrealism has come up with respect to Nikou’s output. Her work with cutlery and tableware often suggests the indigestible or the impossible with regard to function and purpose. Like Oppenheimer’s teacup, Vacancy is a functional group of wares cast in a useless arrangement that are lit up to proclaim a mental state of emptiness, brought on from the metaphor of having eaten too much food perhaps, or from what one has eaten and how. Likewise Nikou’s jewellery rendered from gold plated Cheezels, those most processed of foods and yet so dissolvable and brittle at the same time. Jewellery after all, and come to think of it kitchenware, has so often been home to what we consider the most precious and ornamental.

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To render food beyond the perishable, as Nikou often does in her practice, is to give this source of so much emotional valence an embodied form that takes the methodology of craft and endows it with the personal, a world entire below or above that of the ephemeral everyday. As the artist has stated herself, ‘Using hands-on processes in preference to industrial, the experimental significance or success of my work is dependent upon a symbiotic relationship between concept and physical process. Expression is aimed toward non-linear meaning and is often first derived through the silent practice of writing poetry.’ This poetic expression also calls to mind Gertrude Stein, another female artist who rendered everyday objects in new and original ways by employing, like Nikou, repetition and a decentred approach to charged metaphor, delivering the audience to a surprising destination:

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In the inside there is sleeping, in the outside there is reddening, in the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. In the evening there is feeling. In feeling anything is resting, in feeling anything is mounting, in feeling there is resignation, in feeling there is recognition, in feeling there is recurrence and entirely mistaken there is pinching. All the standards have steamers and all the curtains have bed linen and all the yellow has discrimination and all the circle has circling. This makes sand.

This article first appeared, in a slightly different version, in the CFL publication Vacancy by Michelle Nikou that was published in September 2014. It is available in a limited edition, to purchase a copy please email

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