In K-Lié’s vision of this project, she merges the ideas of the Torii Gates of Transformation and the image of a pure, naïve and agender being, with huge, fluffy ears. Having appreciated the necessary qualities needed in the character, we can come to the conclusion that Cheburashka was the perfect fit.
Cheburashka is a famous Russian character, that was even used as the mascot for the Russian team at the Olympics 2004-2010. it was first portrayed by his creator, Eduard Uspensky, in 1966, as a being with a lot of cuteness, heightened fluffiness, ear-endowment and general cluelessness. Uspensky had been inspired by his friend’s usage of the slang word ‘cheburakhnutsya’, which means 'to fall' or 'to stumble', later transforming into the name of the being.
And funny enough, the last half of its name, ‘rashka’, is now used by Russians as a slang to say ‘Russia’, further adding to its incredible impact.
Following with this theme, the head of the character, in K-Lié’s project, is elevated on a Torii gate, which in Japan is a gate one crosses before entering a Shinto shrine (place of the gods). The main purpose of the shrine is to house Gods and thus, the gate symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.
This, for K-Lié, comes together with the character, Cheburashka, as she sees the gates as a transition from a tangible, material world where gender and boundaries exist to a pure, boundaryless world. The theme of Cheburashka is used to show that this gate leads to an innocent and almost childish world, where there is ultimate unity with the universe and pure, untainted love.
The main sculpture of this project features deer antlers, as the gate’s pillars. They are upside down, by which K-Lié wants to express how this gate leads to a mirroring of the material world, here she is referring to ancient wisdom, the seal/ring of Solomon, also known as the Star of David, where 2 triangles are mirroring each other and on one another.
Sketch for Broomhill National Sculpture Prize 2012, short listed and exhibited for one year in Broomhill Sculpture Park, UK.