Melbourne-based artist Kathy Temin is best known for her indoor monuments made out of synthetic fur. By toying with the dichotomies of kitsch and formalism, solemnity and playfulness, Temin engages with personal and universal experiences of memory, history, and loss.Read More
Temin first gained recognition for Pet Corner, a performance project staged as part of the group exhibition Wish You Luck at MoMA PS1, New York, in 1998. For the work, Temin recruited non-union actors to perform as a pair of mating koalas. Of the 14 actors who auditioned, only one was Australian and none had seen a koala in person; the performers had to rely on their ideas of the animal's habits to embody a way of being that was completely foreign to them.
Soon after Pet Corner, Temin began a series of works about the Australian pop star Kylie Minogue and the phenomenon of fan culture. Drawing from her own experience as a fan of the star since adolescence, Temin explores the notion of celebrity and the ways in which Minogue's fans express their appreciation for her. My Kylie Collection (2001), the first of this series which was installed at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, took on the appearance of a teenager's pink bedroom that was also an obsessive shrine with its vast collection of CD albums, posters, and magazine covers featuring the star.
That immersive and painstakingly personal shrine can be seen as a prototype of the Holocaust 'monuments' Temin went on to make and for which she is most widely known. Using black or white stuffed synthetic fur, Temin creates large sculptures with a minimalist and kitsch aesthetic that often directly or indirectly refer to her family's history—both her father and stepfather were Holocaust survivors. My Monument: Black Cube (2009), for example, looms like a dark forest, consisting of a 3.55 x 3.7-metre collection of soft and bulbous synthetic fur 'trees'. The work overwhelms the viewer with its solemn presence, the fur's colour connoting both mourning and sexuality. While the overall structure recalls other approaches to Holocaust memorials, such as Sol Le Witt's large rectangular Black Form Memorial to the Missing Jews (1988/1989) and Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2005) in Berlin, made of thousands of grey stone stelae, Temin's use of fur—reminiscent of the emotional relationship a child holds with his or her soft toys—allows the monument to enter a visual language that is distinctly her own. Embracing the material tension between innocence and tragedy, Temin's monuments embody private and collective psychological spaces.
Temin has occasionally extended her synthetic fur repertoire to other projects, notably Pet Cemetery (2014). For the installation, Temin created a series of mock tombs for deceased pets from orange synthetic fur and concrete. One of the works titled Pet Tomb: Csilla (2014) comprises a concrete cast of a tall upholstered plinth, sitting on top of a thin fur board that peeks out from underneath the concrete's weight. Similarly, Pet Tomb: Tina (2014) is an upholstered fur cylinder topped with a large pompom of shaggy fur. Applying practices that are commonly reserved for humans to commemorate animals, Temin considers the significance of pets in our lives while suggesting such grand gestures are for the satisfaction of the owners. The title of the work possibly takes a sinister turn in its similarity to Stephen King's 1983 horror novel Pet Sematary, in which the refusal to accept loved ones' death results in extreme consequences.
Temin attended the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, for her undergraduate and postgraduate studies. She subsequently received her PhD from University of Melbourne in 2007. She is a professor at Monash School of Design & Architecture, Monash University.
Temin's work is held in public collections such as Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Auckland; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne; and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2019