A Life Without Form
walnut wood, seashell powder, silicone, glass, brass, greencast plexiglas, variable dimensions, 2021
A Life Without Form is an exploratory research into the origins of seashells, their economic & cultural value throughout history and the long-standing tradition of seashell collecting.
Seashells have been part of countless cultures and their use arguably predates the timeframe of what is commonly considered to be part of modern human history. Ranging from functional items such as currency and jewelry to being worshipped as symbols of wealth, fertility and strength. Their most prolific appearance in Europe came during the 16th century as a result of the colonial trade, exploration and exploitation by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Seashells as an exotic good became widely admired for their natural beauty, mathematical properties and as a reference towards god as well as gaining scientific noteworthiness through the study of Nature. Instigating a craze amongst the upper class of society, conchylomania caused a rapid adoption of seashells into private collections. Over time our affection for the aesthetics and beauty of seashells is still very much alive, yet their social value as a symbol of extreme wealth has shifted towards the realm of trinkets and tourism, a common good even used as a building material.
A Life Without Form consists of a series of 38 display cases in various sizes, containing a casting from the inside of a shell on one side. The unique shape of the inner chamber is directly linked to the former inhabitant and represents the living force that once resided inside. Across from this the corresponding seashell is presented, grounded down into powder. The act of turning these beautifully shaped and patterned objects into powder is intended as a reference to the natural processes of decay and transformation and a direct response to the ambiguity that comes with the traditional methods of preservation & collecting of seashells, which disregards or even results in the killing of the animal itself. As such it is also a reminder of the unseen living animal behind the shell, and how its importance within natural ecosystems is often overlooked.
Additionally A Life Without Form as a title & work is intended as a reference to Damien Hirst’s “Forms Without Life” which is characterized by its glass cabinet containing a range of ornate seashells from Thailand. In direct contrast to this, A Life Without Form doesn’t display any original seashells at all, but rather the highly sought after objects of desire & prestige are removed from the equation altogether. As such A Life Without Form is intended as a critical gesture on the concept of collecting itself. A remark on the behaviour of the past while simultaneously questioning our modern relationship, authenticity and perspective when dealing with natural objects of desire.