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ART SEEN - Mai-Thu Perret at MAMCO

ART SEEN // Style// Art & Culture // Jan. 21, 2019

Uli Van Neyghem visits Mai-Thu Perret's exhibition : A female Swiss-Vietnamese artist that refuses to be put into boxes.

MAMCO, Geneva's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is currently highlighting the work of a free spirit of the art world. Mai-Thu Perret's body of art is particularly diverse; encompassing sculpture, painting, ceramics, textiles or video and installation art. 

Perret was born in Geneva in 1976 and studied literature at the Cambridge University in England - this explains the frequent literary references in her work - continued by art studies at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has worked as a curator and her work has featured in large-scale exhibitions all over the world.



As a woman in the male-dominated world of contemporary art, Perret enjoys taking and elevating domestic items and crafts into the sphere of art. She does for example create 'abstract paintings' in form of ceramics or uses rattan and wicker to craft sculptures. By using these stereotypically 'feminine' media in her work, she challenges perceptions that 'real art' should consist of seemingly more 'heroic', 'masculin' materials such as marble.



The role of women in society and art is a common theme to a large number of Perret's works. For example, in the form of a utopian, fictional commune of women trying to escape partriarchal convention in an ongoing art project called 'The Crystal Frontier'. What started out as writing a story to use as a basis for inspiration, developed into a universe of its own over the years. It includes accumulated text fragments and multidisciplinary artworks, all created from the perspective of the commune's members.



I found it especially fascinating to see one of her artworks for the second time, but now in a very different environment. Having observed her work at the openair sculpture garden in Geneva's Parc des Eaux Vives last summer (you can listen to an episode about that here), the installation, consisting of suspended bronze human organs (heart, lung and uterus), took on a completely different meaning this time around. Hanging among the giant redwoods of the park, the piece seemed to reflect on the relationship between the body and nature when in the openair park setting. Here, in the bare rooms of the museum, it held suggestions of isolation, separation and emptiness.

Rather than having an intended meaning, some artworks are an invitation to reflect or interpret and enter into a dialogue with their surroundings and context.

Perret's art has many facets and her complex works often contain references to literature, politics, eastern religion and spirituality or avant-garde art movements like Bauhaus or Constructivism, making her work difficult not only to describe but categorise. Perret herself describes her artistic language as "more of a symphony than a single voice". 



The Practical Details:

What:                   Mai-Thu Perret Retrospective 
Where:                 MAMCO (Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain) 10, rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, CH-1205 Geneva 
When:                  Now - Until February 3, 2019 
Opening times:    Tues-Fri 12:00-18:00. First Weds of the month: until 21:00. Sat and Sun: 11:00-18:00 
Admission fees:    Regular: CHF 15 (Reduced admission - students, seniors etc. CHF 10. Groups: CHF 5)




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