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Schinkel Pavillon

Janette Laverrière: La lampe dans l'horloge

Nairy Baghramian and Janette Laverrière


The designer Janette Laverrière has been producing mirror objects since 1936. Although they never completely renounce their function, some of them privilege allegorical content over utility. This is especially the case with more recent works which, in contrast to almost all of her earlier works, are noncommissioned and thus subject to no external specifications. The functional value of these mirrors is slight and gives way to a wealth of relations and references untypical of most of contemporary design. Jungle (2003), for instance, consists of a mirror that is far too small for one to look at oneself in, set in an oversized frame. Sourire (2001), in the shape of a broad, smiling mouth, alludes to the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, while the inside of the hinged lid of Cocteau (1989) carries a quotation from that author. By means of both mechanics of the lid and literary reference, the object calls to mind a book and an amulet at the same time. Laverrière conceives many of her works as homages. La Commune, hommage à Louise Michel (2001), for instance, with bullet holes in its folding visor, alludes to the bloodshed of the Paris Commune of 1871 and to one of its key figures, the anarchist and feminist Louise Michel.

In the context of the 5th Berlin Biennale, Laverrière’s mirrors were displayed on the outside of an exhibition structure in the Schinkel Pavillon, designed by herself and Nairy Baghramian. Inside the structure one could find a shelf system, which was a copy of a similar one designed by Laverrière and a small library with books that have influenced her throughout her life. The display structure elaborated the importance of literary references as central in Laverrière’s practice, while the hanging of the mirrors on the outside called into question their status as "interior" design.