Artist Leonor Antunes was born in Lisbon in 1972. Currently, she lives and works in Berlin. Antunes mainly creates site-specific sculptural installations strongly influenced by the modernist style, with references to geometric shapes, specific structures and models created by architects and designers of the 20th century. She often starts from an artist who contributed to the affirmation of modernism internationally, particularly choosing female figures whose practices were artistically, socially or politically radical. From this perspective, the artist’s work can also be read as an archive of references to modernist female artists who, although they often facilitated the evolution of the style, remained outside the canonical narratives of art history.

The way Leonor Antunes approaches a theme is almost always dependent on the space where the installation will be displayed. Her works are a response to the context and are in permanent relationship with the space they occupy even temporarily. The Homemaker and Her Domain, the installation shown at the Maria Theresia Bastion under the Chronic Desire exhibition, starts from the work of two female artists who contributed to the cultural exchanges between Europe and Japan in the last century: Michiko Yamawaki, who attended the Bauhaus art school in Dessau between 1930 and 1932, and Charlotte Perriand, who worked for a time in Le Corbusier’s studio and lived in Japan briefly on two occasions, between 1940 and 1942 and between 1953 and 1955. Antunes sees sculpture as a collaborative practice. She borrows the formal and technical characteristics of design works created by the two artists, and using her own aesthetics, she translates and transposes them into new installations.

When Michiko Yamawaki (1910-2000) enrolled at the Bauhaus, out of a total of 170 students, only 50 were women. After the preliminary courses, she chose to study in the weaving studio, where she drew a parallel between the modernist philosophy promoted at the Bauhaus and the Japanese tea culture, both focusing on simplicity, functionality and materiality. Upon returning to Japan, Yamawaki became a successful textile and fashion designer.

The first reference to Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) is visible in the title of Antunes’ installation. It was borrowed from a text written by the French architect in 1936, La ménagère et son foyer. Conseils pratiques sur l’équipement du logis (The Homemaker and Her Domain. Practical Advice for Home Furnishing). Perriand studied furniture design and worked with Le Corbusier on some of his best-known items of furniture. She is often called a feminist and activist, protesting against pollution, inequality in wages or long queues for bread. In 1940, she was officially invited to Japan to help the state “import modernism”, adapting the international design style to traditional organic materials such as bamboo or rattan.

The Homemaker and Her Domain consists of sculptural pieces made of ceramic, wood and brass. Their design centres around Japanese minimalism, with a tatami-like floorwork that includes modular geometric elements. Another work in the installation, 2 Willow Road, appears as a screen that divides the exhibition space, guiding the visitors, and can also be considered as a reference to one of Perriand’s most famous objects, the Nuage Bookcase, but built vertically. Antunes’ practice involves measuring design objects from which she draws her inspiration, using the results as units of measurement that she later translates into her own sculptural pieces. Starting from her research of the life and work of Yamawaki and Perriand, who designed objects, furniture or textiles that were meant to make a home more beautiful, but also to be functional, Antunes’ installation recomposes and gives a new meaning to the domain of the homemaker, who is traditionally a woman.