Mui Mui
Exhibition
2013,

Berlin, Germany


Material: rock, nail polish, reciept
30x60x14cm
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002-stone-2-b884639f7bd26c02117aa06206e312eb
003-stone_receipt-80db9c5481c7b39b8bea8ddedeb78ae5
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Mui Mui is a nail salon in Alexanderplatz, Berlin, named after the owner’s wife Mui and their daughter, also Mui. The family came over from Vietnam, and speak little German or English. It would be interesting to know whether they were aware of the ironic similarity of their shop’s name to the high-fashion Italian label Miu Miu, particularly given the high proportion of fake designer goods that are made in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the name is an in-joke and the family enjoy the idea that it is a talking point for the shop. Fashion brands are, after all, a universal language.

Downey commissioned the shop to paint a small, dirty rock he had found on the street in the same manner that they would a customer’s nails. He chose a range of elaborate graphic patterns featuring swirls, block colours and bubbles. They look like mini abstract artworks, and indeed the receipt – for 20 euros – describes the service rendered as ‘Kunstarbeit’ (art work). Does the term ‘Kunstarbeit’ refer to the nail art, or to the fact that the nail technician is aware of his role as the fabricator of another artist’s artwork? It is acceptable for an artist making a commissioned public artwork to delegate the fabrication of their piece, but what about the independent, non-commissioned artist – the graffiti artist, the street artist? Is there still a macho code that requires them always to work solo?

A piece of rock in Berlin is never a neutral object. Following the fall of the Wall, pieces of rubble were collected and sold off like precious relics to tourists. Those with graffiti left on them were seen as all the more covetable – and it was rumoured to be common in 1990s Berlin for faked graffiti-ed rubble to find its way onto the souvenir stalls.

Jennifer Thatcher