Overspill 2007- Rachel Lois – 'Covet Me Care for me’

‘Covet Me, Care For Me’ is Sheila Ghelani’s two room live installation situated inside the underground maze of Shunt Vaults. In comparison to the dirty industrial installation or performance spaces that surround it, Sheila’s space resonates with care and-hoping this isn’t too cheesy- love. The tiny rooms are well lit, snug and have music playing. In addition to that Sheila is physically present within the installation and tending to her room in a rather glamorous 1950’s silk housecoat. There is even evidence that she has actually swept up. But don’t be fooled. This attention to detail does not stem from Sheila being house proud, overly domestic - or a woman– it is carefully and deliberately constructed to evoke a sense of comfort, nostalgia and the maternal for her visitors. As such, the setting is dangerously seductive, what Sheila really wants from us is our participation in her plan.

Sheila’s agenda is stated upfront on a notice just inside the entrance to the installation “Will you wear me? Will you care for me? Will you covet me?, Will you love me?” and then the key question “Will you take me home?” The installation ‘Covet Me, Care For Me’ is hereby revealed as the cosy and respectable front for Sheila’s plot to influence the hearts, minds and homes of anyone who will agree to smash the heart-shaped glass casings, and then take home, one of the 100 plastic trinkets on display. Sheila’s agenda is, ultimately, to infiltrate the world of the precious, old and valuable with her small plastic ribbons and retro 1950’s nurses badges. The idea being that these cheap, low brow or ‘mongrel’ objects of questionable provenance will eventually- and rightfully - appear in posh vintage clothing stores, antique shops, ethnographic displays and museum collections.

Sheila admits it’s unlikely that her treasures will end up in such places. There are too many market technicalities to consider: when examined by future dealers or enthusiasts the dubious origins of her items will surely come straight back to Sheila and thus, as a nice aside, providing a powerful marketing tool and performance document for ‘Covet Me, Care For Me’. Nevertheless, it is subversive and fun to imagine these kitsch bits and bobs arriving onto the hollowed ground of The British Museum or The Antiques Roadshow. ‘Covet Me, Care For Me’ hints at discourses concerning the attribution of value and a gift economy but what matters most is the contract of desire: for those who took them, these objects must be loved and I’m sure they will be.

Rachel lois

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