With her sculptures and objects Daphne Ahlers draws on elements and symbols of apparently firmly anchored patriarchal images and discourses and then takes these into alternative forms of expression. Her ideas and formal solutions alike address a space of thinking and action that separates the genders.
Ahlers works with the concepts of “soft sculpture,” in which mainly malleable soft materials are used, and “shell sculpture,” which is based on forms that are made to protect soft materials from external violence. She finds models and ideas for her own thoughts in historical contexts from the cultural sciences and popular culture. An example that Ahlers has used for her works is the motif of the “codpiece,” which on the one hand was an element in dominant male fashion in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and on the other hand is used as a protective item in the martial arts and sports today. She makes different new variations based on this original form, adding further elements to it.
The motif of the ribbon, another object with a long cultural tradition, is also further developed in similar ways. The characteristics of these forms and their appertaining constructs are adapted in multiple revisions and variations on a theme, while also being subjected to contrary feminine perspectives. In the ways she uses the malleable, soft, and adaptable features of textiles, foam, latex, and other synthetic materials, Daphne Ahlers operates within a material approach that metaphorically appeals to our ability to change and shape social discourses.