Temporality and Fragility in Kristi Malakoff’s “Skull”

One of Kristi Malakoff’s current pieces at the Vancouver Art Gallery, entitled “Skull” brings together two opposing feelings, that of life and death, and through looking at celebratory ideas of death Malakoff is also bringing together the global with the local. The piece covers a large white wall in the gallery, and at closer look one is able to see the fine craftsmanship that Malakoff has put into this work. A labour intensive piece the work consists of over 12000 cut out paper flowers, mounted on the wall to form the design of a skull. Fifty different types of flowers are displayed, and have all been photographed by Malakoff, and then cut out one by one, and reassembled in the gallery space. The work speaks of death and beauty, both through the initial design; flowers into a skull, as well as the fact that the piece itself is so delicate, and ultimately will be destroyed once the exhibition is over. Life is fleeting, just as this project in fleeting, in the temporality of it, the bright colours and impressive detail will all be taken down, therefore the work must be celebrated while it is still here.

Also in terms of celebration this work brings up ideas around celebrations of death, such as The Day of the Dead, in Mexican culture. This is where Malakoff’s work leaves the local space of the Vancouver Art Gallery and becomes a global piece of work, that cross-culturally can be talked about, and understand in the same, yet different ways as well. Celebrations of death are something that happens across cultures, not just in Mexico, similar celebrations occur in Spain, and the Philippines. In this way this large skull allows viewers to think about death, and how it is celebrated in their own culture compared to other cultures. Malakoff uses a beautiful design to show off the beauty in life, and juxtaposes this with an image that is understood globally to be one of death or destruction, in this way she is speaking to a larger audience, and making her point more globally understood, instead of only understood for the space of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

A common theme of fragility and temporality occurs throughout Malakoff’s pieces, and she is able to use a theme such as this to provoke cross-cultural discussion around her work, as well as aesthetically, the fragility of her work can be appreciated for both its beauty as well as the hard work that evidently went into it. A large-scale piece such as this screams to be talked about, and that is exactly what “Skull” achieves, discussion around the beauty of the work as well as discussion around the larger themes the work represents.

Kristi Malakoff’s “Star” and “Target” (both on the floor)
Two other Kristi Malakoff pieces are currently being displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery now, both her piece “Target” which is made of layers and layers of crate paper, as well as “Star” which has been constructed with actors tape in the shape of a star on the gallery floor, can also be seen in the “How Soon Is Now” exhibit, running until May 3rd, 2009.

By Heather Palmer