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25 Mar 2008

Elín Hansdóttir at Maribel López Gallery


Elín Hansdóttir: Path
http://www.maribellopezgallery.com

Info

Opening: March 28th. - 18:00h.
From March 29th. to April 23rd.

Contact

info@maribellopezgallery.com
+493020054530
+493020054529

Address

http://www.maribellopezgallery.com
Holzmarktstrasse 15-18
S-Bahnbogen 54
10179 Berlin

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I IS ELSEWHERE

In her book, Installation Art (2005), the English art historian, Claire Bishop, describes different categories of installations in terms of the role played in them by the viewing subject. This option is both simple and evident, since a fundamental aspect of that discipline involves the spectator having to venture into a spatial structure, thus becoming a constituent part of the work. However, Bishop is still unique in not starting with the work (and only integrating the spectator at a later stage), as she places the subject in the very centre of her analysis right from the outset.

This slant is particularly useful for an understanding of Elín Hansdóttir’s works. This young Icelandic artist’s installations are grounded in the preconceived ideas held by the people that will enter these spaces. By contending she can only conceive of her artistic production as a process and that she does not work towards a finished object, Hansdóttir proffers an interpretive framework which is implicitly valid for the would-be spectator, too. By thus departing from the modernist advocacy for ?instant capture’—along the lines of Clement Greenberg, for example—Hansdóttir sets the time one spends in the installation at the very heart of one’s aesthetic experience of the work.

This procedure may be construed in the tradition of James Turrell—Hansdóttir proposes spaces which she fashions painstakingly and in great detail where minimal shifts in perception are generated, based necessarily on the passing of time. While spectators may initially appear to be an active element—they have to enter the installation, cross it and decide where to head, how long to stay and when to get out—her works are actually geared to the passive spectator. The latter does not create the experience but becomes its subject. Perceptive awareness of our own body is not heightened; on the contrary, it is dulled. Consequently, the experience shakes our faith in the stability of the world around us, and the control we exert over it, bringing home an awareness of our own ?decentralisation’ and ?fragmentation’ (Bishop).

In a 2007 work, Hansdóttir clad a whole staircase in white-painted planks at the ZKM, Karlsruhe, shifting the vertical plane and imperceptibly constricting the walls upwards, until they practically caved in at the top, thereby depriving visitors of perceiving space naturally and leading them to an awareness of how crucial space is in viewing themselves and their body.

For her exhibition at the Maribel López Gallery, the artist has designed a tunnel that tilts downwards and zigzags across the gallery space. It has sharp edges, and light filters in at irregular intervals through cracks in the tunnel walls, which have not been properly sealed. The direction inside it changes so markedly that spectators soon lose any notion of where they are, and where the exit lies.

In this work, Hansdóttir sets out to heighten awareness of our body through the loss of our usual spatial bearings. Visitors are thus persistently exposed to a spatial experience of decentralisation, disorientation, fragmentation and insecurity. Since there is no noticeable physical difference between ourselves and the objects without, our ability to conceptualize our surrounding space becomes jaded.

In this instance our customary points of reference, those we base our security on, become disconcerting—we are unable to focus on the sharp edges and extremely acute angles that mark changes of direction. Like some optical illusion, by attempting to touch and cling to them, we end up confusing the commonplace with the real.

Ellen Blumenstein