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Heimindustrie. Andreas Steinemann + Vicky Kim 


The first in a series of experimental two-person exhibitions, bringing together artists from contrasting disciplines to collaborate on a one-off project, ‘Heimindustrie’ by printmaker/sculptor Vicky Kim and ceramicist Andreas Steinemann, takes the Milchhütte Gallery, Zumikon, as the starting point for a meditation on artistic expression, labor, everyday experience and image production.


As its name suggests, the gallery occupies a building that was once a milk collection depot, where local farms would bring produce for consolidation before being loaded onto trams and transported down the valley into the city of Zurich. Only finally closed in the late 1950s, the Milchhüsli subsequently served as accommodation for workers during construction of the Forchbahn tunnel, and spent long periods unoccupied, until authorities agreed to its conversion to an arts centre in 1981.


Kim and Steinemann acknowledge this history, and expand upon it, framing their precisely considered interventions to the interior of the building, through an appeal to larger narratives of industrial change - namely the ‘Heimindustrie’ (or, “cottage-industry”) period of subcontracted workshop and domestic labour that preceded, and in many ways informed, the factories of the industrial revolution, when labour first became mechanised.


As a title, this reference points in several directions at once - the picturesque building at Dorfstrasse 31 (an image of which features on the exhibition invitation card), staged as symbolic of, not only the working practices of times gone by, but also the changing face of industry that has occurred since - the technological advances that have transformed the economic and social topography of Meilen, along with most of the West, to the point where the region is now a wealthy suburb, with little emphasis on traditional agrarian work.


At the same time, Heimindustrie is invoked against the present, prompting us to consider the ways in which this progress has also led to ever greater inequality, as capital continues to invent new exploitative forms of labour in the service of profit; the digital facilitating disenfranchised app-driven work, zero hours contracts, and remote surveillance of workers, while exporting manufacturing out of sight, to countries with cheaper labour and less stringent employment rights.

Layering their respective works together to produce a hybrid spatial installation, Kim and Steinemann approach these themes through the contradictions of artistic industry - finding common ground in their mutually labour-intensive ways of working, both of which address questions of utility in art and craft via the production of decorative forms. 

Kim’s silkscreen-printed wallpaper provides the backdrop to the exhibition, its irregular ‘pattern’ of swirling sponge marks - first executed in ink on acetate - both wistful and laconic, reminiscent of cartoon clouds of movement or unseen skirmishes of action. While these gestural motifs repeated ad-infinitum, poke fun at the self-seriousness of much expressionistic abstraction, the splatters, stains, scratches, and smudges also point towards the drudgery and toil of domestic labour (so-called “women’s work”), as well as the space of the body and its residues. Masking the walls of the gallery in the guise of ornamentation, Kim signals a profound ambivalence at the intersection of artistic production and everyday life.

Likewise Steinemann’s ceramic works, installed directly on the surface of the wallpaper, tease expectation of sensible utility within the register of the decorative. Inspired by natural forms and phenomena such as Wellenformationen (wave formations), that speak to our desire for systems as complex as nature, despite being a product of nature ourselves, Steinemann’s labour also finds expression in patterning - whether achieved through structure, texture, the application of coloured glaze, or a combination of these elements - his patterns exceeding the supposed function of each object, to the point where the object exists to fulfil the logic of the pattern. This radical hollowing-out of conventional utility is nevertheless consistently inventive and wide-ranging, the objects presented on unpainted wood shelves that accentuate their distinct sculptural qualities, or stuck to the surface of the wall in playful arrangements that, much like the marks on the paper behind, seem to challenge us to search for an image where there is none.     

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