If you ever worry about the microbes living unseen inside your own home, beware: artist Margarita Sampson has beautifully manifested your worst fears — but with good intentions. In a series of soft sculptures currently being exhibited at the Stanley Street Gallery in Sydney, Sampson upholstered found chairs with colonies of organic growth. All of the sprouting nodules and budding orifices are meticulously hand-sewn with brightly colored textile materials, giving the hairy and spiny lifeforms both an endearing and unsettling quality. Inspired by Sampson’s upbringing on Norfolk Island, the coral- and urchin-like growths seem to take on a presence and consciousness of their own; leave them for a few weeks, and they might consume the entire room.
Titled Infectious Desires, Sampson’s exhibition explores the false dichotomy of domestic sterility and messy, organic life. We often imagine our bodies as detached from the chaotic and “dirty” processes of proliferation and decay — indeed, separate from the microscopic worlds that breed and die on every surface we encounter — when in fact we are already enmeshed within those environments. As Sampson eloquently expresses on the Stanley Street Gallery exhibition page, the “glamour” of interior life is illusory:
“Glamour is the strict control of the body or the environment, sublimated to an ideal — there’s no body fluids or stains in glamour. It’s about boundaries, zones of comfort. We feel we are betrayed by our bodies — a lot of this work is about my own aging, my body, about death and disease, about fear and surrender, tightening and release” (Source).
With their hyperbolic size and sexually suggestive shapes, Samspon’s sculptures boldly encounter us with the material realities of our bodies. There is no need to fear the lifeforms inhabiting our favorite furniture — we (and anything we shed, ooze, or excrete) are already hosts to invisible, microbial landscapes.