On Basel's historic Münsterplatz a group of tall straw figures perform gestures like pointing, spreading out their arms as if to call for a stop, striding, crawling on all fours, and stretching, among others. Reminiscent of traditional ceremonies, folkloric customs, masks, and even scarecrows, they seem familiar and yet strange. Made entirely of natural, raw materials, the sculptures were built by hand as an ephemeral, site-specific, and temporary installation.
As a material, straw sparks myriad associations. Considered within the arc of Müller’s practice more broadly, which looks at the relationships between economy and craft, straw possesses a dual status as a practical commodity and nonfunctional decoration. Its uses as bedding, building materials, and animal forage are practically engrained our historical DNA, while also making it one of the earliest commodities. Not merely a by-product, straw remains highly in demand as part of agricultural economies and is still widely used today.
Recreating the human form in such an unceremonious and time-worn material emphasizes the feelings of empathy that people tend to have towards abstract, inanimate figures—a sort of reaffirmation of the condition humaine as both an abstract and existential term.
Müller’s sculptures spark curiosity and elicit interaction, not only through their familiar postures but also through their bodily empathy, and above all, their sculptural quality. These figures long to interact and play with the public in silent communication and complicity. They have an absorptive capacity: they soak up the space around them and, like the metaphorical straw man, divert your attention.