A World of Substitutes

The term Makeshift is formed by piecing together a word denoting a process of creation, and another which means change. Together they imply producing something for the sake of replacement, and such concept bares a fertile ground for multiple levels of associations and significations. In this solo exhibition by Johanna Helmuth, she plays around with the idea of creating substitutes—presenting various scenes and compositions drawn from its literal and figurative instances to navigate a range of possible meanings suggested by the singular act of coming up with replacements. Makeshift is situated in the exhibition across a variety of objects, people, connections and relationships—from images of dolls and mannequins to skeletons, vehicles, and shelters.Various tropes of the idea of makeshift are explored throughout the works crafted from a variety of media. First, it is figured through the discourse of authenticity, opening up discussions on the fake and unreal. Images of dummies, toys, and replicas become recurring motifs and presented as taking the place of humans, interactions, and relationships. These objects posed as real persons offer substitutes for authentic experiences, such as affection and pleasure. Also signified by these figures is in sincerity and pretention, the masks or facades worn by those to intending to deceive and fool. Second, makeshift is framed in relation to sense of time, highlighting its temporary and transitory nature. Here, it becomes synonymous to “for the time being,” not intended for longevity and meant to work only in the present as a sudden need arises. Lastly is the character of ingenuity that makeshift implies, and in this sense the word turns into a positive response to the challenge of scarcity and deprivation, a sort of handy tool that has allowed humanity to survive and flourish across time.