Focus Artistic Research

Expansion and development THIS BABY DOLL WILL BE A JUNKIE

Ulrike Möntmann

Institute of fine and media Arts

The project explores the use of art to affect social change. Specifically, it focuses on representations of female junkies, one of the most vilified marginal groups in society, in an effort to challenge preconceptions, by displaying, in the public domain, events that are generally concealed.

THIS BABY DOLL WILL BE A JUNKIE [TBDWBAJ] is an interdisciplinary 'community art' intervention incorporating audio-visual portraits of female drug addicts living in Europe. The project consists of several stages:

  • A preparatory stage including consultations with relevant experts;
  • Interviews are conducted with each inmate in the group, to absorb the specific facts of her background.
  • These facts are collated and presented using keywords and a specially prepared 'matrix', thereby distilling a biography devoid of overt emotional content. The participant checks this account and records it on audiotape.
  • Simultaneously with this process, the women produce identical porcelain dolls, which will serve as the 'receptacles' for the audiotapes.
  • The audiotapes are inserted into the dolls, each of which is labelled with a name and the project website.
  • The Baby Dolls are displayed for some time in an art institution.
  • Each Baby Doll is then 'dropped' at a predetermined location in the public space, somewhere of a certain resonance for those concerned, and abandoned to an unknown fate. The biographies are preserved in the project documentation and online.
  • In each country, the project concludes with an Expert Meeting (recorded and documented) attended by diverse academics, politicians, and other interested parties.

Collaboration is a core element of my artistic work at several levels: first, in working with female addicts who are being held in detention facilities; second, in my close cooperation with a wide range of related institutions; third, through programming and debate in the institutional cultural arena; and finally, through my intervention in the public domain. The use of different distribution channels and forms of disclosure in the public domain (online archives, debate) is not only an important vehicle in making my work known to a general public ? that is, the members of political society – but it also helps to connect target groups that would not otherwise have any contact, and confront them with each other. The debates broach themes such as the quality of democracy in a society whose public space is 'purged' of undesirable elements, the relationship between intuitive artistic practice and precise artistic action, and the implications of the knowledge generated by TBDWBAJ for other forms of community art intervention.