Coming Home or: Arriving on Foreign Shores
Some Remarks on Julie Hayward’s Works
Andreas Höll

The German philosopher Ernst Bloch once described the highly allusive word "Heimat" (= home, homeland) as „something which shines into the childhood of all and in which no one has yet been". This famous key statement taken from his main work "The Principle of Hope" (Das Prinzip Hoffnung) sketches the utopia of a fulfilled life – a person is able to find fulfilment in work and to overcome his own sense of alienation in the capitalist world. His promise for happiness: the process of history ultimately brings us – all of us who have been driven out of paradise – back home.

Being home in the world – or better: searching for home – also implies something unhomely or uncanny. In the familiar environment of home there always looms the unknown outside world, something alien. Something taken to be natural always also implies something unnatural. The sense of cosiness can literally be threatened by something unhomely, just as the soul and the animate are by the inanimate. This is the critical point from where Julie Hayward’s works take off. They play with the intricate tension between coming home and a sense of being forlorn, coming into one’s own and self-alienation, encounter with the familiar and something alienating.

First there is "… coming home". The object is reminiscent of a futuristic cradle promising security. But it could also be alluding to a biotech lab. In two bowls there are piles of balls resembling beads. Huge heaps of cells or artificially produced biomass? Both receptacles are separated by a sheet of glass with a hole that is shaped the same way as the bowls. This arrangement suggests a mechanized process. The guillotine-like apparatus could trigger off a sequence of movements. Possibly it is something like a sterile insemination where piles of cells are supposed to merge in a mysterious way. The bizarre device with its scifi look seems to be bringing forth artificial life. But at the same time it might be offering a protective realm where what has been created can thrive and grow.

The two separate bowls of beads could also allow a different interpretation. They could be balls that were carefully collected with this device, and stored perhaps for further processing. Instead of insemination the idea then would be to preserve something, to arrange or put together something. The sterile lab character of the sculpture is reinforced by white paint while the white plush lends it something organic.
A typical feature of Julie Hayward’s sculptures is this both appealing and irritating connection of technoid and organic forms. "TV-Baby" is also one of the hermaphrodites that evoke the mechanisms of a future biotechnology. It remains enigmatic how the plastic cyber-organism is to function. At the same time the piece is an allusive and ironic symbol for the dissolution of reality in the media. It is no longer clear who sends and who receives a message and what the message is. This diffuse power of the media emanates and infects the strangely amorphous mass of something that cannot be defined and is bare and defenceless. It is a repressive idyll that is revealed in the flickering light of the imagined moving images. The maelstrom of imagery seems to suck in one’s personal life, one’s own consciousness and to lead us to the total regression of mollusc-like existence. The world of appearances which feigns a reflection of reality only produces illusionary life in the pale reflection of television.

"Sweet Lullaby …" also embodies those mysterious laws. Two monitors – connected by means of tubes resembling umbilical cords – cradle a furry creature in a small basket. However, the sculpture has no secure ground below it. It drifts in the space and thus underlines the dreamlike and nightmarish qualities that are alluded to so ironically in the title. At the same time it might recall Goya’s famous etching "The Dream of Reason Produces Monsters", transforming it into the third millennium. Instead of following suit to the horrific images and demonic masks, presented by Goya with Enlightenment fervor, Julie Hayward directs our attention to the subtle terror of the consciousness industry and the manipulative strategies in the virtual age. A sweet lullaby is being sung. However, one does not know whether the hairy larva will prove to be anything other than a Tamagotchi which is kept alive through digital love and care. Or does it carry a virus that spells danger?

Julie Hayward’s objects offer surfaces for projections that deploy an allusive logic. Precisely because they radically dispense with all imagery that has been fed in, be it photographic, film or video material – in spite of all the monitors and screens –, they are able to function as a sort of black box for our imagination. Here one has dreams in site/time/space that flow between various dimensions, triggering an exchange between external and inner imagery and sometimes even relating a continuous story. The "Transformator", for instance, shows how the cuddly plush creature in the cradle is suddenly cut in two and locked up in two cube-shaped enclosures. Is it the "iron cage" of rationality, as Max Weber described the prison of western consciousness? Or is it an enclosure designed for dangerous organisms in a high-tech lab?

Cage and grid structures are in any case part of Julie Hayward’s fixed formal repertory. In "Oops" they create the construction for a phallus-like structure that hangs ominously in the room with its mysterious power in statu erectionis; the flippant title alludes to something both surprising and embarrassing.

The sexual dimension figures ambiguously in Hayward’s works – often only subtly, then more pronounced – when enormous phalluses dominate in the sculptures, and finally explicitly in a work that has been titled "Sublimator". The object is a sort of lab machine that thrives from the addition of pulsating energies which are ultimately "processed" after being transformed under a transparent skin. It is a subtle metaphor for Freud’s concept of sublimation according to which the intellectual sublimation of sexual drives is the basic requirement of all art and culture. It also reminds us in a very metaphorical sense that not everything brought forth by the human mind in cultural achievements will be able to leave behind the carnal realm. And perhaps it does not just literally mean that push comes to shove at the beginning but also at the end.

Even with all their irony and also humor, Julie Hayward’s sculptures do not just boil down to a shallow illustration of psychoanalytic, biotechnical, media theoretical discourses. They are open enough to create links with still unconscious manifestations of reality. They might be sensors for the future, as Walter Benjamin once noted in connection with his theses on the artwork: "To make mankind familiar with certain images before the ends for which the same images are being made have entered into consciousness."
It is in this spirit that Julie Hayward designs her sculptural installations. They reflect something futuristic and the memory of past utopia, the flair of the surreal and of the rational calculus. These are strange parallel worlds that evoke ambivalent feelings and unconscious fears. They alienate the allegedly familiar and thus also lead us to the uncomfortable insight: Home is where I hang my hat.

Printed in:
Julie Hayward, Skulpturen und Zeichnungen / Sculptures and Drawings, self-publication, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-200-00322-7