“WHEN U INSTAGRAM MY DEAD BODY, USE WALDEN BUT TAG IT #NOFILTER”
Catharsis (2016) is an incredible piece by Andy Holden which consists of a large white plinth crawling with 180 ceramic cats, collected over multiple decades by Holden’s grandmother. The figurines very in pattern, vary in value, vary in size. The cat collection includes an Egyptian style figurine, a phallic totem, and charity shop finds. This collection is accompanied by a 20 minute video of the artist unboxing each cat from its protective packaging (wrapped in paper and placed in cardboard boxes). Holden gives us a detailed description of each cat, outlines its pros and cons, explains where is has come from. The piece is so funny because the ceramic cat collection is just so stereotypical - this is a feature of a white grandmothers living room that should always be anticipated. This feature is so expected that it goes unnoticed - perhaps not on such a large scale as this. These cats have just become this comforting figure in our lives, whether we are a fan of the actual creatures or not.
Despite the dullness of the collection, Holden reminds us that each object we touch and encounter is rich with information. Even the mass produced object has a personal and singular story. These cats, bought because they are comforting and nice to look at can actually be linked (closely and also rather tenuously) to historical and culturally significant events.
I found that this laborious process - which only involves the artist taking out the ornament, unwrapping it, speaking a little bit about it - was so incredibly engaging. Holden makes his awareness of the mundanity of the task very clear, although his extensive knowledge of each object indicates otherwise.
Holden attributes a substantial context, a life and a meaning to a collection of objects which were acquired solely because they were “sweet”. This is really funny.