Melanie Ebenhoch works at the intersection of painting, sculpture and installation. In her solo exhibition Hotel the artist sources from a range of history of art, film, psychoanalysis, and architecture and uses optical illusions and cinematic representations to forge moments of irritation, gaps, slippages in the way we perceive reality.
Ebenhoch is interested in the “optical unconscious”, which lies underneath the surface and realm of visuality and instead opens up "an investigation of the slippages between signifier and signified, that characterize both the structure of the individual psyche and the shared fantasies of a common culture"* concealed and reproduced in narratives of art, design, history, film.
(* Laura Mulvey, “Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity”, 1999, p. 66)
At the center of this exhibition are four painting-reliefs, that could be read as hats or, else, as two pairs of nipples, and demonstrate Ebenhoch’s humorous play on representation and desire. Bat in the hat (2018) references Velázquez’ Las meninas — a baroque masterpiece “representing representation”. In Ebenhoch’s version everyone has left the room which turned into a nightmarish scene of a ghostly shadow and its dark irrepressible side illustrated as a huge bat. Eileen Gray’s nightmare (2018), depicts a detail of a mural by Le Corbusier which he painted over the walls of E.1027, a house designed by Eileen Gray. The eight murals have in literature been described as act of sexual violence related to both her gender and her non-heterosexuality. Gray, in the shadows of the so-called “fathers of modern architecture” for decades, is today recognized as having established alternative modernist aesthetics. Demons at Arezzo shows an abstracted scene of Giotto’s Exorcism of the Demons at Arezzo (1277-79) of spatial and perspective deferrals.
Ebenhoch’s investments in intimacy, sensuality and domestic interiors are juxtaposed with feminist predicaments and a recurring subject of female sexuality as “mystery and threat", evident, for instance, in posters depicting close up of female thighs and vulva, seemingly kissed by up-side-turn sun and, respective, moon. Relationship between gaze and its subject and object, are disturbed by Ebenhoch’s idiosyncratic and illogical play of symbols and perspectives. The artist introduces the recurring questions of agency and representation of the female body, wary, however, of the identification of “female” attributions and clichés, wittingly posed by the metaphor of the vase.
Dichotomies between inside-outside, dream-nightmare, visual and unconscious, masking and unveiling, in Hotel argue for the uncodified, irrepressible, monstrous strains of history as haunting, unexamined compulsions. Ebenhoch’s installation operates in a gap: that space of possibility between gendered cultural prescriptions of femininity and difference which is outside 'dominant masculine meanings embodied' in history.