Monika Meler

5 Cures for the Virus of Nostalgia
paper, paper covered with dirt and soap, wood
8 x 38 x 5.25 in.

These boxes contain fragments of memories from my childhood relating to my parents and growing up in Poland. As a child I was forced by my mother to wear very elaborate, tailored, colorful dresses. I remember being stuck with pins during fittings with the dressmaker and feeling trapped in my stiff new clothes.

My father was a horticulturist and I often traveled with him across Poland as he collected dirt samples from different regions. These travels were among my most joyful moments of growing up. Even though I knew I would get in trouble for getting muddy, I found great delight in dirt and the slimy worms and insects associated with it.

My mother was horrified at the sight of her dirty little girl, yet I felt comfort knowing that she would always be there to clean me up and wash my beautiful dresses. The use of dirt, mud and soap in these works explores the dirty to clean cycle I associate with my childhood.

Dirt and Abjection

On another level the boxes are a vehicle through which I explore my engagement with dirt in relationship to the concept of abjection through the material process of hybridity.

Like pristine white dresses covered in mud, the abject reverses established hierarchies by promoting what is considered base or contemptible in society.
Dirt, which my mother considered wretched, attracted me because it ensured her presence to clean me. In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva suggests that abjection begins at the moment when the child recognizes separation from the mother. Being dirty allowed me to resist this separation, so much so that I now believe this separation to be a myth. My relationship with my mother exceeded “mimetic yearnings”, because I felt I was in a slow process of becoming her, both physically and emotionally. Recognition of these similarities pushed me closer to my mother and made me yearn even more for my childhood, during which my need and connection to my mother was more necessary than in my adult years. My use of materials, such as dirt, soap, hair, and insects in the processing of these ideas results in the questioning of theoretical boundaries between past and present, childhood and adulthood, clean and dirty, art and life.

© Monika Meler