Schmetterlinge - a journey of work by Mia Straka

by Mia Straka

Solo exhibition at St Paul St G3, Auckland 5 - 9 December 2019 resulting from a month long art residency in Berlin with Das Institut für Alles Mögliche -The Department of Anything is Possible.

Image credits: Liz Clarkson Photography

Schmetterlinge: (pl) Butterflies.

Working with limited tools and equipment during a month long residency in April 2018, exploring the creative hub of Berlin, liberated me from the usual parameters in my jewellery making.

Mornings and afternoons were spent exploring and collecting. Cast off materials and flea market finds were deconstructed and reassembled over long Spring nights under the fluorescent lights. Working with materials I perceived as symbolic of the German vernacular, I was excited to create something new out of these now superfluous objects and parts. I let myself be led by the materials, intuitively responding to my environment. In this work I hope to give the materials fresh life and new potential.

While not wanting to eschew wearability entirely, the work is not overly concerned with standing up to everyday wear and tear or personal comfort, it was made quickly and held together with filler, glue, and wire sourced from local hardware and art supply stores.

Drawing impressions from wanderings around my work/live space at the Hauptstadtstudio in Friedrichshain, I gathered materials and visited sites that seemed emblematic of the city to me, often sites with a violent history that subsequently metamorphosed into vibrant community spaces. The Schmetterlinge works are responses to Berlin’s layers of history and transformation at the hands of what I perceived as communally empowered inhabitants.

The residency programme Das Institut für Alles Mögliche supported me by organising meet ups with other practitioners under their custodianship around the city and a group collaborative exhibition at the end of my residency period, as well as enabling all area access to the wonderful Teufelsberg. Relationships built up as a result connected me to an international network of creatives in practices ranging from painting/mixed media, experimental film and performance art, sculpture, installation and music.

Although only four weeks, the residency allowed me the time and space to rediscover the pure joy in making and gain focus for my practice with a lack of everyday distractions and duties. The result was over 20 experimental works produced during the month and has brought new energy, knowledge and direction to my work.

Since April I've continued to resolve some of the jewellery pieces and objects, alongside embarking on a second generation of work. Extending beyond the specifically Berlin context, these new works link the ideas and material knowledge gained with my existing practice. I’ve sourced waste materials and am using these to work in a sustainable manner, viable for both larger sculptural and smaller wearable works, exploring themes that reach throughout my practice and including more techniques such as knotting, weaving and wrapping.

This exhibition was a chance for me to show the new work in NZ in a beautiful space I hadn’t exhibited in before, seeing how it might be translated and received here. St Paul St Gallery 3 is spacious and light filled with windows to the street and entrance foyer. Having full control of the installation in a relatively large space with no fixed display systems was both exciting and nerve wracking. Each piece is hung on safety pins in cardboard box ‘frames’ customised with black packing tape and white paint, carrying through the sustainable use of materials and allowing easy interaction with the works. The informal and makeshift installation echoes concerns of transformation, transience, mobility and accessibility. Reactions from a diverse audience including AUT staff, jewellery and art industry associates, family members and friends, and a passing homeless gentleman, were positive and engaged.

Being on site to ‘man’ the space, I was able to facilitate try ons with enthusiastic participants and photograph them wearing the works around the space. Handmade journals were displayed below each work for visitors to write their response to specific works. Notations and questions written sporadically in the pages asked for imagined histories, current reactions, or perceived functions and rituals the works may have been a part of. On later inspection I was excited to find people’s reactions and creative responses to the works and these now form part of the exhibition.

For more on the residency period see: