Living in a dollhouse
Thessaloniki museum showing new installation by Katerina Zacharopoulou
Besides family and friends, no one would have known of Petronella Oortman had the lonely, idle, endless hours of her 17th-century Dutch bourgeois existence not led her to construct a work of art. A pioneering installation, to be more precise.
The wealthy spouse of a rich silk merchant, Oortman created a miniature replica of her residence, which she subsequently placed in a display cabinet.
While the project proved a particularly expensive affair – as it turned out, the replica’s cost exceeded that of the house itself – it did earn its creator a prominent spot in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
That is where artist Katerina Zacharopoulou came across the dollhouse for the first time in 2006. She immediately felt that she wanted to revive the centuries-old story in her own way.
Zacharopoulou’s installation at Thessaloniki’s Bey Hamam exhibition hall comprises 10 video projections. The first, featuring a Venetian watchmaker working on a vintage piece without much success, is screened inside a cupboard.
“It’s a symbolic image which prepares visitors for the installation’s timeless environment,” Zacharopoulou told Kathimerini. “The narration has no beginning, middle or end, while the action could be taking place during the course of a day. A day in the life of a woman. These kind of dollhouses have nothing to do with children’s toys. They are about about despair and sadness.”
The artist wanted to revive Oortman’s dollhouse using her own memorabilia and objects collected during her travels. In the videos the scale of the objects is inversed.
“Instead of them being smallscale, they are gigantic. I took the miniature idea and turned it into a life-size house,” said the artist.
At the former hamam in Thessaloniki, every room hosts a different video installation: an entrance hall, a living room, a reading room and a bedroom, among others.
Inside the rooms, a woman’s loneliness comes across in a se- ries of mental and emotional activities such as reading, pacing, waiting, writing and so on.
“Perhaps we ought to take a closer look at the small, simple things that we underestimate in our daily life,” said Zacharopoulou.
Zacharopoulou’s exhibition at the Bey Hamam is a production of the Thessaloniki Center of Contemporary Art and is curated by Syrago Tsiara.
Eros and Psyche adorn the wall of the entrance hall installation (l), while a woman reading (r) appears calm, yet emotionally tense.
A general view of the Bey Hamam in Thessaloniki, where the exhibition is being hosted until June 26.