David Wills


There are too many things in the cupboard

Stretching 26.25 metres wide and 4.5 metres tall, this Wunderwall is the largest of the four installations. It formed a component of my PhD research Cultural Mulch that was broadly interested in the significance of collections.

While researching for Cultural Mulch, I scanned and pulped hundreds of mass market magazines. Particularly in fashion titles, celebrities were shown next to wardrobes packed full of clothes, handbags, shoes and other desirable objects. Elsewhere, fashion editorials presented the latest must-haves for their readers. I used this data to design the stack and begin the image selection process.

The title references the residue of mass  consumption; the things that sit forgotten in our cupboards. On the street, they’re eventually discarded and it is these data sets that begin to speak about fads, waste and ultimately, futility.

Grid of images from Wunderwall

The process was a piece of performance art in itself. Watching what was chosen and, more importantly, what was not. The beauty of the rejected. Four beautiful pieces for me to take home and a terrific memory.

Exhibition visitor

Talking about Five or Free, the closing performance/deinstallation process.

Magazines as catalogues and consumer tendencies

My original idea to layout the images was to plot them using data harvested from the March 2008 issue of Australian Harper’s Bazaar.

I began a page-by-page process of entering each item mentioned editorially into a spreadsheet including price details and product category. It revealed a total value of goods and services of about AU$6.2 million for the issue. I ignored advertisements, advertorials and POA (Price On Application) listings. I used this data to determine where peaks and troughs were in the grid, though the audience would need to work hard to find the clues.

I juxtaposed this data with the publisher’s rates sheet. At the time, they reported that their typical reader had an average annual income of around AU$42,000.

A green chair in Paris

I was intrigued by the cost of keeping up appearances and the effect of aspirational mass-market magazines. In a typical year, you could expect to see around AU$75 million worth of products targeted to you in just one magazine.

A tempting bombardment awaits on every page in every new issue. Sexy figures to obsess or lust over and the perfect potions, lotions and fashions to give you the impression that you may just be able to nab one of those unattainable distractions. And that’s not including advertising that ups the anxiety-inducing ante even more.

I aimed to bring into focus the detritus of consumerism with There are too many things in the cupboard and the ongoing production of single-use items designed to enslave us.

This work says ‘wow’. All the effort you have put in shines out. Love the colour composites and the links between the images as they lead into each other. I love it!

Exhibition visitor

Acknowledgements etc.

There are too many things in the cupboard, 2009, was exhibited in Next at the ANU School of Art Gallery in March 2009.

It comprised 3,254 self-printed non-archival UV images printed directly onto foamcore board. Each image measured 15 x 20 cm.

This article by Ron Cerabona appeared in The Canberra Times on Thursday, 19 March 2009.

Thank you to Megawood and Blu-Tack for their support. My sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who helped me to realise this ambitious work. There were many of you.

related projects

Cultural Mulch

Cultural Mulch