Katrine Borup

Gyldenløvesgade 21, 4th
1600 København V — Denmark

+45 53 34 83 89
katborup@gmail.com

Danish Back

LIFE STAGES (2005)

"Life Stages" is an exhibition project inspired by an old image of life – the so-called life stairs. Since the Renaissance, the progression of life has been depicted as a stairs, and from the 18th century, the life stairs was a popular image that might be present as a print, drawing or embroidery in many homes. Typically, people would receive a life stairs image in connection with one of the milestones in life, like births or weddings.

The 11 pieces of jewellery in "Life Stages" illustrate some characteristic features associated with being 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 years old. The jewellery resembles the signs, symbols or props that are used to mark the person's age in many of the old representations of life stairs, such as a high hat and a cane. The jewellery is placed on 11 podiums that form an ascending and descending staircase.

The podium steps of "Life stages" are dimensioned in relation to the human body, the podium heights dictating the objects' placement on the body: For example, for the 50-year-old, I created an object for the head, because the 50-year-old is at the top step, at head height. For the 100-year-old I did a piece of toe jewellery, because the 100-year-old is placed by the outside edge on one of the lowest steps, at toe height; and so forth. The skin-coloured podiums stand in for the absent body, exhibiting the jewellery at the appropriate body height and forming a three-dimensional life stairs.

Life Stages (2005)
Col xl livsaldre 1a

Life Stages

0: IDENTITY BRACELET
Col xl 0 identitetsarmb nd

0: Identity Bracelet

Photo paper and silver

0: IDENTITY BRACELET

"Identity Bracelet" reflects the fact that most children in our part of the world are born in a hospital. "Identity Bracelet" resembles the standard armband that is used to mark newborn babies in many hospitals, but unlike the hospital plastic bracelets this one is made of photo paper and silver.

The white photo paper gives the impression that the bracelet is open to individual imprints. The bracelet indicates that we are simultaneously unique individuals and examples among billions of fellow humans. Furthermore, the materials used for "Identity Bracelet" suggest that we are products of the culture that we live in. In our culture, it is common to take photographs, and the events that we photograph are largely the same. It is also common to mark the importance of selected moments with gifts of valuable jewellery, often with names and dates engraved. The gold writing on the back of "Identity Bracelet" mimics these engravings.

10: UPS-A-DAISY
Col xl 10 op igen 1

10: Ups-a-daisy

Adhesive plaster, silver and elastic

Col xl 10 op igen 2

10: Ups-a-daisy

Adhesive plaster, silver and elastic

Col xl 10 op igen  krop

10: Ups-a-daisy

Adhesive plaster, silver and elastic

10: UPS-A-DAISY

"Ups-a-daisy” is a set of "knee pads" made of adhesive plaster. They are inspired by children's often high level of activity but also acknowledge the belief that scraping one's knees is a necessary part of life. Children apparently know this, as they constantly seek new challenges, throwing themselves headlong into life with a determination, power and energy that are fascinating, and the bruises they acquire along the way rarely diminish their drive. Parents, however, may find it hard to strike a balance between the desire to let the children make their own experiences and the urge to protect them from life's injuries, in a real as well as a metaphorical sense.

20: "DO WHAT YOU ARE"
Col xl 20 hvad kan jeg blive

20: "Do What You Are"

Ready-mades

20: "DO WHAT YOU ARE"

Jewellery history has many examples of rings associated with identity, such as signet rings or wedding rings, and this is the basis for "Do What You Are", a collection of ring-shaped ready-mades. "Do What You Are" may be viewed as a three-dimensional version of a career guidance handbook, but the "rings" also represent important life choices in a wider sense.

The character of these rings as pre-existing objects refers to the fact that someone in their mid-twenties usually does not have a great deal of life experience and may therefore make relatively cliché-like choices among a set of familiar options. But since the "rings" are not actual finger rings, they also suggest the urge to reject existing norms and the expectation that young people will abandon the values of the parents' generation.

30: "ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH" (X/Y)
Col xl 30 til kamp  krop bag

30: "Once More Unto the Breach" (X/Y)

Cotton, silk and plastic buckles

Col xl 30 til kamp  krop for

30: "Once More Unto the Breach" (X/Y)

Cotton, silk and plastic buckles

30: "ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH" (X/Y)

"Once More Unto the Breach" is a body object with a front and a back – two parts that make up one whole. The front of the object is a tie, and the back is a copy of a Baby Björn baby carrier with original buckles. "Once More Unto the Breach" is an image of the division that men and women alike may feel when they become parents, torn between the desire to have a work life and a family life. "Once More Unto the Breach" also refers to the gender struggle and the struggle over the distribution of chores in the family.

The tie and the baby carrier refer to gender stereotypes like Dad the Breadwinner and the nurturing Stay-At-Home Mom. Since the tie is Y-shaped, and the back of the baby carrier forms an X, the object also refers to the question of whether the male and female character are biologically or environmentally determined – is it the number of X and Y chromosomes that decides who we are, or is the male or female character an acquired role?

40: STATUS
Col xl 40 status

40: Status

Cotton and buttons

Col xl 40 status 1rev 1

40: Status

Cotton and buttons

Col xl 40 status 2rev 1

40: Status

Cotton and buttons

Col xl 40 status 3 rev 1

40: Status

Cotton and buttons

40: STATUS

"Status" was inspired by the phenomenon of forty-year crises and takes its point of departure in a classic sign of workplace success: the white shirt. "Status" is a "collar" of starched plackets that are buttoned together and fit almost chokingly tight around the neck but which can also be unbuttoned and re-buttoned in countless variations. Thus, the object lets the wearer take stock and reconsider existing norms and values. "Status" invites the wearer to define their own criteria for new ways of buttoning, and some of the new buttoning options inherent in the object have the potential of becoming future signs of status and a source of inspiration for new success criteria.

50: GREY OR GOLDEN?
Col xl 50 gr  eller guld 2

50: Grey or Golden?

Golden thread and cotton wool

50: GREY OR GOLDEN?

"Grey or Golden?" is a headdress related to the allonge wigs of the 1700's that was an exterior sign of distinction that also disguised balding, with no apparent sense of contradiction between these two functions. At the same time "Grey or Golden?" resembles a helmet. The object is ambiguous and open to interpretation, depending on one's specific associations to existing helmets.

Through its resemblance of a soldier's helmet, "Grey or Golden?" may be seen as an encouragement to fight – for example to stand up for the value of an age-appropriate appearance or for greater recognition of the knowledge and experience that middle age is supposed to bestow. The golden brain-like folds refer to the wearer's knowledge and experience. The similarity to skaters' helmets, bicycle helmets or scooter helmets may be interpreted as an indication of vulnerability or as an expression that the wearer of "Grey or Golden?" is attempting to appear more youthful.

60: TIME (RETIREMENT)
Col xl 60 strikket kalenderstruktur

60: Time (retirement)

Cotton yarn

60: TIME (RETIREMENT)

"Time" is a knitted scarf with a structure resembling the layout of the pages in a calendar book. "Time" refers to two different senses of time: The way the work calendar slices time into hours and minutes differs from the sense of time associated with knitting. Most people who are familiar with knitting, crocheting, embroidering etc. will have experienced the way this type of pursuit can make time "flow" or "stand still" – it can make us forget time completely.

Many people retire from work in their sixties, and thus become less dependent on the clock. Still, it may be difficult to give up a rhythm that has been established for years. The scarf "Time" encourages the wearer to challenge the calendar structure. Due to the large stitches, the structure can be deformed if one pulls on the sides (in the picture, the calendar structure is deformed in one end of the scarf). If one pulls lengthwise, the calendar structure is re-established.

70: ALBUM
Col xl 70 album 2

70: Album

X-rays and family photos

Col xl 70 album  krop

70: Album

X-rays and family photos

70: ALBUM

It is a common stereotype that old people only talk about their children and grandchildren and about the aches and pains that increasingly affect them. The object "Album" addresses this prejudice with its photo pockets made out of X-ray images, where one might place photos of one's relatives. Twelve photo pockets are arranged in a circular object like the points on a clock face.

"Album" is an armband that can be strapped tightly around the upper arm to keep the photos close at hand. The placement refers to other armband such as the cuff that is strapped around the upper arm for measuring one's blood pressure, a mourning band or the armband worn by some blind people.

"Album" is made of images and thus related to vision, which typically deteriorates with ageing. Our vision of life typically also changes with age. Furthermore, many old people also experience failing short-term memory, while by contrast, details from the past are recalled vividly. "Album" plays with these changes in its blurry images that are pierced through with holes that allow glimpses of the family photos to appear in crisp focus.

80: BARCODE-REGULATED BATHROOM VISITS
Col xl 80 stregkodereg

80: Barcode-Regulated Bathroom Visits

Toilet paper, silver and elastic

80: BARCODE-REGULATED BATHROOM VISITS

"Barcode-Regulated Bathroom Visits" is thigh jewellery made of toilet paper. The object points to the decay and helplessness that we know will come with old age, but which in our society we do not have to confront, because we have professionalised the care for the old. The object does not show the decay, but with its nice, clean appearance it suggests that we may no longer be able to stomach the actual decay associated with old age. However, the aestheticisation can also be perceived as an attempt at attributing value to old age.

In recent years, the daily schedule of visiting nurses and staff in hospitals and nursing homes is said to have become increasingly tight. Some places have even introduced a barcode system as an efficiency measure. The old people's needs have been carefully mapped and recorded in barcodes that define what is to be done where, and how long it should take.

"Barcode-Regulated Bathroom Visits" is a sort of nappy, and the object mimes functionality, for example by being thicker where it is needed if the urge to urinate should occur outside the barcode-allotted times. "Barcode-Regulated Bathroom Visits" is also a decorative, jewellery-like object, which indicates that life is about more than the fulfilment of physical needs. The time it took to stitch the many pieces of toilet paper together, layer by layer, to a barcode-like band, is in stark contrast to the pace in the modern nursing sector.

90: CONTROL
Col xl 90 styring

90: Control

Hospital plaster

90: CONTROL

Growing old and frail and dependent on others' assistance does not necessarily mean losing the desire to control one's own life. The "Control" gloves combine the individual's desire for control with the need for outside professional control.

In appearance, the gloves are designed as traditional driving gloves, thus mimicking a familiar sign of vitality, strength and life. However, the gloves are made of white adhesive hospital plaster like that used by nursing staff, for example for attaching an IV-line to a patient's hand. In "Control", the plaster is arranged to look like a wrap, and the materials and the mummy-like appearance refer to disease and death. The traditional driving glove has a hole that reveals the back of the hand, as if the glove had been designed to make room for an IV-line.

In some older versions of the life stairs, the 90-year-old is depicted as bent over or slouched over – literally headed for the grave. In accordance with these versions of the life stairs, "Control" is placed on a podium below normal hand height.

100: TOE TAG
Col xl 100 t m rke

100: Toe Tag

100 photos, silver and string

100: TOE TAG

In our part of the world, most old people die either in a hospital or a nursing home, and they are therefore subject to the practical routines of these places. In hospitals, for example, the dead body is typically marked with a so-called toe tag denoting the time of death and the name and ID number of the deceased.

The "Toe Tag" in "Life Stages" consists of 100 photographs, one for each year of the life of the 100-year-old. In contrast to the hospital toe tags, which render the deceased anonymous, "Toe Tag" depicts a lived life. "Toe Tag" is related to "Identity Bracelet", and both refer to the almost ritual documentation through photography that we engage in throughout life.