Ambitious Toys

Gallery Karas
Zagreb, Cro, 2014
Interactive installation

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"We eat cakes. Will you? " Accepting Martina Miholic call to bite a cookie, or by answering ambiguously  and not at all innocent question. It might look at first glance, like Alice, we are falling into Wonderland. It's a psychedelic, saturated  pink, shaded land, covered in toys. We are entering the playroom, an oversized child's room. maybe even a dollhouse. There is a chance that we're not players, but pawns in someone's game. Martina is reversing the expected order of activities, making all options open. 1

We are offered to eat. We first step into the kitchen, where little cooks prepared us food. Afterwards we climb to the mezzanine. Here a set of children's warrior swords are erected on the wall. Warriors are either winners or losers.  Martina's sound work reminds us of various titles and names we use to crown or scold someone. Finally at the top gallery level there is a bedroom.  A girls area reserved for beautification Meanwhile the boys can observe jungle, spreading around gallery's walls, from their tree house bed.
The observer, drowned into self-explanatory stereotypes (subject usually present in Martina's work), is visually saturated with kitschy objects and toys. In a perverse way way we replicate real objects and vice versa. It is occasionally interrupted by the suprise of the unexpected.
 We are shocked by the provocative content which is not expected in a child's room, but it is still gently overlapping and complementing with each other. Due to unnecessary taboo's in society some of the messages children are given while growing up are unavailable to them. In Martina's work we are facing some of them.

Is there any sweeter reminder of our childhood than a toy? What's more alluring than the idea of a toy? A colorful, imagination-tickling object of desire which also strengthens the need to possess. Parents pack kids rooms, fill them with all kinds of toys that should build up their kids personality. These toys should prepare children for their upcoming, grown-up tasks. Such as cooking for little girls or adapting warrior and explorer skills for little boys. Of course those tasks sound like a normal or innocent type of activity for a child but that's when bitter reality hits us. We realise that the food little girls pretend to make, such as candy or pop corn, are mostly unhealthy and insufficient for child's organism development, just as little boys are encouraged to be aggressive and competitive based on physical strength. Sexual stereotypes are also suggested; little girls are prettifying themselves in their little private boudoirs, encouraged to cherish their beauty as an important precondition of success.

Chris Burden, the American artist, often reaches for toys in his work. In the project "Metropolis II" (2011.) he uses a giant kinetic sculpture which, in a grandiose way, mimics cars. He says that they fascinate him as a weapon that turns children into adults, making toys a reflection of a society. 2
Just as in "Ambitious toys", a sensation of infatuation and discomfort is achieved by stacking up these toys. Discomfort could be a result of a unintentional way of transforming a child into an adult. Of course, there are a lot of shades of pink - a fact of insisting that those stereotypes exist, is actually anachronistic. Or at least it should be. And then there is an open conclusion; to what extent is childish behaviour reserved and channeled? Does it protect an individual by creating a shelter from the strictness which prevails in the social interaction of the adults? Unconscious infatilism, at last, becomes a type of self-censorship, enabling further manipulation and casting into stereotypes imposed identities. By going back to the place where everything began, into those colorful children's chambers in which we give ourselves over to play, a path is opened for everybody individually, to pluck our own bitter and sweet memories, but also to enjoy in ourselves a play as it is and that is also in cakes.

Barbara Vujanović

1In her work 'Catalog' , for example, Martina has made an inversion. Iinstead of showing actual work, she has gathered and printed in a form of artist book, various reactions and interpretations from art historians her students , friends and acquaintances.
Exhibition, Project 6: 'An Instruction For Reapproachment', VN Gallery, Zagreb, 25 February – 15 March

2How Chris Burden Created Metropolis II, A Tiny City Where 1,100 Toy Cars Zoom, http://, 15. September 2014.

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