Kelly Mollenido Robson creates complex fictional products, in which fairytales are moulded, vacuum-packed, and marketed for contemporary consumers. Robson was commissioned by Wheelock Art Gallery in Singapore to undertake a residency and stage a solo exhibition during the Singapore Biennale 2008. She used this opportunity to ‘internationally franchise’ and launch the Singapore branch of The Plant. Robson’s precision moral compasses, free range harvested fairy dust, and 24-hour multi-worry absorbers, form part of her ongoing series of products and therapeutic tools for the consumer.
Peril: What are some of the ideas behind your ongoing series of hypothetical products?
“I developed my range of products after several years working on projects about personal coping mechanisms and vehicles for reaching a centred and calm state of mind. In recent years I have shifted my focus to the possibilities of creating therapeutic tools for others.
“What interests me with traditional ‘spiritual technologies’ is that essentially one is tapping into information and abilities available from within oneself. The objects or the ritual, facilitate this process.”
Peril: How do your interests in consumption and identity inform your work?
“I grew up in Singapore, which is an unashamedly commercial and consumer society. The Great Singapore Sale, once a year is looked forward to by all citizens – shopping is a greatly encouraged past-time and there’s not much respite from the commercial landscape with the city stretching right up to the waters edge.
“I find the evolution of us, as individuals in urban environments where there is often no unifying group to belong to, extremely fascinating and subsequently what results is anxiety, loneliness, boredom.
“In terms of consumption. It alarms me the extent to which individuals now piece together their sense of self, their values, beliefs and ideologies from media culture. So eager to consume even the virtual and intangible, we hardly object when it pervades ever further into our personal and private spheres.”
Peril: Can you talk a little bit more about some products from your range?
“The original worry dolls come from Central America. The idea is that you tell the dolls your worries before placing them under your pillow at bedtime so that they can do the worrying for you while you sleep. My interpretation of this concept was developed into a final product called Worry Dolls: 24 Hour multi-worry absorbers (ITEM NO 00053). They come in various shapes, sizes and colours and are accompanied by instructions for use.”
“The Moral Compasses (ITEM NO 00117), are designed for precision moral navigation and engage with the notion of simplified binaries. The notion that a complex and agonising decision – such as whether to end a relationship – can be simplified, is extremely appealing to people.”
Peril: Why do you insert yourself into your product campaigns?
“I decided to insert myself into my work as I developed an interest in campaign figureheads, be it a political, religious or product marketing campaigns. Although different in nature, they all have the exact same objective, which is to sell something. This developed into an interest in quackery and charlatanism, as well as celebrity endorsement and the power of an engaging character.
The product range I have developed as the figurehead of The Plant is very personal to me (even though the mass production implies that our hopes and dreams are generic) and so I thought who better to get behind my products than myself. I see my Eurasian heritage as beneficial in the endeavour of ‘selling’, as we find in many marketing campaigns now, the race of the characters in the advertisements is becoming more and more ambiguous to appeal to a wider demographic.”