Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Work from Points in a Room Condensing.
“Sofia Hultén tries in her work to repair things that are broken, or alternately, to make them disappear. Rarely are these two objectives achieved independently, so that the focus of her videos and photographs becomes instead the circular process of making and unmaking of a series of objects and scenarios. She dramatizes a certain longing to blend in with the environment that is yoked to a doomed urge to remake the world in her own image, even for an instant. Her attempts never quite pan out, but this doesn’t seem to deter Hultén. She carries on despite her awareness that simple repairs can hardly turn back the clock on the original injury.
In fuck it up and start again , for example, Hultén shatters the same guitar on seven different occasions, each time acting alone in an empty room. Whereas she begins the video by whacking the instrument on the floor and leaping onto it, she ends by simply tossing it in the air and letting it fall, rather like a majorette who has gotten fed up with her duties. Try as she might to make it go away, she also can’t seem to resist her impulse to mend it again, and the guitar just keeps coming back.
It’s not the first time the artist has tried, unsuccessfully, to make things go away. In getting rid of stuff, Hultén uses the closing of a Berlin gallery as an opportunity to disperse the motley, forgotten contents of its storeroom around the city. None of these objects really goes away, although they all disappear into the environment, just below the register at which a passerby might notice them.
This represents the other side those intractable things that don’t go away: the things themselves that Hultén handles and transforms. These objects, or the idea of them, might stand in for the ritual catalogue of human disappointments, failures and compulsions that plague us all, but the fact remains that Hultén is fascinated by their physicality and how they might make a go of it in the new world she bestows upon them. Instead of words, she puns with prosaic, unspectacular objects, setting up a series of associations that are subtle, sly and undoubtedly the product of an extreme attentiveness to the physical environment.
Not-quite-fitting-in is a theme she picks up again in the photo series Blending in, in which, for example, Hultén crosses the street carrying an orange bag that mimics the color and dimensions of the trash can she will pass two seconds after the exposure. These works attenuate the already fleeting connections Hulten makes between her chosen objects and draw the viewer ever deeper into her secret, associative world.
How then are we to understand these images of Hultén, alone but for her bastard trinkets, traipsing around Berlin on what looks like an endless gray morning? No one seems to bother the artist or pauses to wonder at her uneasy admixture of a child’s delight in discovering the secret relations between objects in the environment and an adult’s knowledge that these relationships, if they exist at all, are transient. All the world might be Hultén’s imaginary friend on those mornings, but only for an instant, and then the time passes and the logic crumbles, leaving behind only the object but not the relation.
Hulten carries this strange predawn privacy indoors in grey area. With a sort of headstrong despair, she tries to disguise herself in the pallid world of the corporate office. No one has yet arrived to begin the day’s drudgery, so she has the run of place to herself. She uses the occasion to take a stand against the dismal hours in front of her by hiding in closets and under desks, in the process drawing attention to the sculptural quality of that overlooked pile of rubbish next to the photocopier she’s disappeared behind. Like her other schemes, in the end her rebellion doesn’t quite work out, if only because we know that she’ll lose her job anyway if she keeps up these antics.
So it seems as if the artist goes around setting up scenarios in secret that fall apart anyway. As much as she tries to make things disappear or fit in or to re-do them altogether in videos like fuck it up and grey area, she never really succeeds in any meaningful way. Crucially, Hultén herself never conveys that sense that she expects success. More than anything else her work is characterized by a methodical, deadpan sort of forging ahead in the face of abiding failure. Why? Because one has to try-not necessarily out of hope that this time it will all work out-but simply because one has to do something or resist something, even if that resistance is pointless. Especially if that resistance is pointless. Hulten is an artist working inside a closed circle, and she knows it-with every failure and every unraveling she winds herself up to start again. By displacing her existential anxieties onto a series of objects and actions, she parodies compulsion while at the same time showing that she won’t go down without a fight. ” – Suzanne Dieter