At the start of the Meerbusch art action “Offene Ateliers” (=Open studios) at the beginning of July, they moved in with us. Material Collages of a new series of works, with which Laura Flöters large solo exhibition “Wasteland Villa” extended at our Hotel Villa Meererbusch.
“Wonderland lost”, a series of six smaller works (each 40 cm x 40 cm). Laura Flöter has applied them to the toy figures world of “My little pony”. In fact, the little ponies are the unambiguous “main characters” and central protagonists in their own little world. With their backgrounds in vibrant rainbow colors, these new works also appear much more colorful than the majority of Laura Flöter’s works in muted colors on tinted, beige-gray backgrounds.
Of course, there are the layers of highly different everyday objects and materials, which are typical for Laura Flöter. Rather childlike and playful things are combined here with technical, highly complex-looking computer components. Countless wires, coins, aluminium foil. Fashion jewellery chains, rings and brooches. Plastic flowers and nail polish bottles, eye shadow boxes (with small mirror!). All this melts into a sculptural background for the pony figurines, which stand out clearly from it. They almost float above this background.
As distinctly different from these material densifications are – on the other hand – the individual computer components, which remain completely separate from the “plodding” of materials. RAM bars and SCSI adapters for example. These elements stand in clear contrast to the seemingly disordered, almost chaotic background for the Pony figures. Actually, they seem to be defined simply by the strict order and “tidiness” of their surfaces. They are very carefully aligned parallel to the edges of the works, emphasizing the separate character of these elements.
This “Wonderland lost” series stands in clear contrast to Laura Flöter’s more scenic works. Not only the colourfulness, but also the peculiarity that with the Pony figures there is always a main figure in the picture that sets them in scene. They are less an integral element in the object’s collection than actually clearly separated from it. Only the painted manes and tails of the ponies, which are colored to match this background, represent a kind of bridge and connection to this background.
The pony figures themselves are no longer as colorful as in the original “My little pony” toy world with Laura Flöter, but only give an idea of the original color. They are rather greyish white tinted, with white blind eyes. Pale, like ghosts. How extensive and massive this arrangement by Laura Flöter stands in contrast to the original “My little pony” world with its iconic figures, can probably best be judged by those who are also familiar with this original toy world.
Twilight Sparkle, Apple Jack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity. Well, do these names look familiar to you? Yes? Then you – or your children – probably belong to the fan club of “My little pony”. A colourful toy figure series with countless characters around a core figure group of six ponies, which are also called “Mane Six” in sworn fan circles. The toy ponies were originally developed at the beginning of the eighties by the illustrator and designer Bonnie Zacharie. In the meantime it has become an entire pony universe of the American toy company Hasbro. With countless pony generations, which differ in appearance, equipment and character from each other.
The brand “My little pony” does not only include plastic figurines, but a whole world with bedding, plush toys, clothing and accessories. Of course, there are game sets and a cartoon series, several films or comics.
Experienced collectors know the colourful world of Ponyville very well. They know exactly whether a pony is a “playful pony”, a “ride-along pony”, a “shine bright pony”, a “glimmer wing pony” or a “so-soft newborn”. What makes the series so tempting? The individual colorful ponies each have special virtues and abilities, and they stand for friendship and harmony. They are sky blue, pink, bright orange or light yellow, with typical “beauty spots”. Symbols on the flank, which refer in their shape to a special character trait of the respective pony: for example a star, apple or balloon. They are cheerful, honest, clever, generous and friendly or faithful.
In countless episodes, countless ponies experience countless adventures in and around Ponyville, a charming small town in the Kingdom of Equestria. The focus is always on the theme of friendship, almost across generations. “Friendship is magic.” And at the end of each episode the ponies have learned something important about this topic.
The manufacturer Hasbro itself declares girls of preschool age to be the primary target group. And children are certainly the main users of these toys. In fact, an extensive adult fan group has formed around the pony figures, which probably peaked around 2011 / 2012. The “Bronies”, a suitcase word from “bro(ther)” and “pony”, are adult and predominantly male. With the German Pirate Party, the little ponies even moved into German politics. In fact, the Pirate Party used selected episodes of the series “My little pony” to relax the mood after heated discussions and to reassure arguable party members. They called the procedure “pony time”. After a corresponding motion by a party member and a vote, a thematically appropriate episode was played. The very big hype about “my little pony” has meanwhile subsided again. But certainly the iconic little figures still belong to the childlike everyday and play culture.
“Wonderland lost”. A lost wonderland. The readings are highly diverse. Laura Flöter is also concerned in these works with the process of appropriation and reinterpretation of everyday objects, with their transformation. An old toy that was previously lying unused in a box in the cellar or in the attic. Laura Flöter places it in a new context.
The pale ponies look like the ghostly shadows of a childhood. A time that adults still remember, but which they probably can’t bring back for themselves. The free, imaginative childish play in which the rules of the game could be creatively modified. It is no longer possible for most adults.
Laura Föter’s decision to paint over the originally garishly colored figures in pale gray reminds us a little of the sometimes radical measures with which children make their personal toys their own. Most of us probably painted their dolls or cut the pony’s hair. In this way, the “mass product” of an industrially manufactured toy becomes a highly personal, clearly identifiable object for the child. And for Laura Flöter, “her” own, unmistakable pony figure.
It is quite unusual for Laura Flöter that the Pony series has titles. The artist usually only marks and catalogues her works with her initials and the month and year of creation. But she explicitly calls her new series “Wonderland lost”. In addition, the individual works also have their own names. This reflects the approach of the original manufacturer and “pony figure inventor” to give the individual figurines meaningful names. But it is indeed also a clear element of the artist’s appropriation of the figures.
“Atomic garnet pony”, “Gamma carnelian pony”, “Plutonium beryl pony”. “Meltdown emerald pony,” “Becquerel topaz pony,” and “Uranium amethyst pony.” These titles, with their (semi-)precious stone names, refer on the one hand to the basic colour of the individual works. On the other hand, the references to the world of atomic physics allow for complex associations, which probably also include uncertainty and discomfort. Laura Flöter herself calls this mood “eery”, i.e. “fearsome, creepy, ghostly”. Also the “shadow character” of the ponies, their spooky design stands in this context.
The pony series “Wonderland lost” marks the beginning of a whole series in which Laura Flöter stages and reinterprets unmistakable toy figures. Laura Flöter does not give a binding “reading” for her works here either. Rather, the interpretation arises from the individual memories of the viewers, from their personal associations and connections.