The objects, installations, films and performances created by Béna address the forms of representation inherent to cultural narratives. Her works juxtapose motifs from art-historical, theatrical and literary contexts with those from mass media and popular entertainment, in order to interrogate the social determinants of the production and reception of the material. Her Bielefeld exhibition opens up a space of play in which illusion and reality are taken to the point of indistinguishability. In the midst of this enchantment, the spectator becomes all the more aware of societal power relations.
Working across both levels of the Kunstverein exhibition space, Béna develops a scenario populated by spiders, mice, fools, butterflies and flying phalluses, in an installation which ultimately has symbolic significance. Resisting the unequivocal, the piece works around the specifications of the exhibition space, undermining its supposed functionality.
Here, the materiality of hand-made lacework collides with the technological nature of 3D-printed objects, while digital animated films are confronted traditional puppet theater. Béna’s field of reference extends to pilgrim badges, among the earliest of visual mass media, and to panorama pictures, an early technology of popular art. Les lèvres rouges subverts fixed cultural definitions in order to imagine a different world calling dominant norms and meanings into question.
Photos by Philipp Ottendörfer