Using imprints in porcelain or rubber of prehistoric Venus figures, Bastienne Kramer searches for information in different directions. She sets out to investigate how the representation of a woman may have affected the maker’s decisions about form and size, and distinctions between images of a god and those of a mortal. Why do most famous Venus figures have no face, while their jewellery or hairstyles are modelled with great precision? Is an item of jewellery a hierarchical sign, a mark of respect, or a pre-sexist expression of a ‘pin-up’ model?
Kramer constantly encounters different reproductions of the same figurines in which each one highlights a different aspect. Sometimes it is the skin, the size, the colour, and sometimes it is the mode of presentation: on a stick and a small pedestal in a museum, as a souvenir in the form of a key ring, or processed into a piece of jewellery. Who decides about the representation of the object? Who interprets the subject? What transformation takes place when she makes moulds from the impressions and casts them in porcelain, apart from the fact that porcelain shrinks by a factor of 15% in the kiln? As a series, these figurines represent yet another re-use of a thing, in this case of a significant artefact.
Besides the Venus figures, IDOLS XS also includes images of women from the ‘fun industry’, here mainly sexist designs of lighters with fire-breathing tits, women with their pants down, women with noise-making, luminous genitals, preferably women without a head or face and usually without arms and legs cast in the same porcelain or rubber, if we omit the lighter function the figures are scarcely distinguishable from ancient figurines of Venus. Some lighters are adorned with jewellery similar to those seen on images of Venus. Here too, questions arise regarding the client who commissioned the object, and the producers and users. It is conceivable that someone actually commissioned the item, for instance the designer/stylist of a company that supplies tourist shops around the world with knickknacks, but who made the original, and what were the examples or criteria according to which it was modelled? It seems unlikely that the Museum of Natural History in Vienna would have sent its prehistoric Venus collection to China to have casts made of the figurines there. However, it is quite likely that Chinese women, men and children have made casts of female figures en masse in synthetic materials and used them to make lighters. Sociologically speaking, we can only hazard a guess as to what kind of cultural exchange such activities represent.