The Showcase

Das Ding

Choose a single object of special significance from your working or living environment

My studio is located in a former Bratislava factory where several thousand employees once produced thread. Although the building complex is now filled with studios and offices, many traces of its industrial past still exist. One day, I came across this old showcase, which was probably used to present products or for decorative displays. It was in quite bad condition, but I thought it would make a nice shelf for my two kids, who like to collect little souvenirs.

I turned the showcase into a sort of sculpture and hung it on the wall in our living room. But it doubles as a micro wall with little art works and very small objects, which used to be in shoeboxes or drawers and which bear some significance regarding my family’s travels. There’s some small sculptures from Panama, a rolled Mao banknote from China, an unused typewriter bobbin, a package of rationed cigarettes called Sputnik, which was a gift from a curator, and a number tag from my work Zone (2010): a huge cloakroom that included 1,600 number tags and a spare one that ended up here on a shelf. Although there are traces of my art works, this showcase will never be an art work. Filling it is a collaborative effort with my kids and my partner. Somehow, we all got addicted to bringing home these little things from our trips and putting them next to the other objects.

I like to look at something that can compete with the computer screen and other digital displays. When I’m tired of them, I gaze at the showcase and all these objects which are so miniature. Even a brief glimpse is like looking out of a window because there’s so much happening on the shelves. Looking at the showcase is just pleasurable. Maybe when you get older, you look for various objects to collect. Maybe it’s just a way to take a different kind of rest.

My aim is to pile up objects in every compartment until they are full. What you see here is an incomplete work in progress. In two or three years, things will probably look very wild. Someday, when the shelves are full, I will look for another showcase somewhere else.

—by Roman Ondák

Roman Ondák lives and works in Bratislava. He represented Slovakia in the Czech and Slovak pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. His solo exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin – for the Artist of the Year prize – opens 26 April 2012.