Art in the slow cooker Six artists simmer in the Plava Laguna Crock Pot
This is the second installment in a new series of collaborations between Kunstbygningen Filosoffen and Funen Art Academy with the intention of providing a more public showcase for the art students.
FAA Project Room is already the site of ongoing student solo exhibitions, and one can visit the end-of-year shows and graduation exhibitions to get a sense of each generation of artists at the academy. But this new setting promises to exhibit more fluid, open constellations; groups of students collaborating, experimenting and influencing each other. A veritable "crock pot", as the title of this exhibition suggests. A slow simmer of debris, fragments and in the pot has resulted in six works by as many artists. And the objects are best approached with a sustained simmer of attention, too.
And "Plava Laguna"? It means "blue lagoon" in several slavic languages and is the name of a paradisical tourist destination on the Adriatic coast. Not much lagoon in sight when one first enters the exhibition; there are no tropical plants, no water. The walls are white, and there are a lot of cords lying on the floor, among a variety of other objects. Television sets from the late nineties. A white garden parasol. Several visitors to the museum come and go without stopping in the exhibition while I look around. They scan the room and decide against entering this confusing collection of barely-beautiful objects. Yes, it takes patience to discover the sensual richness that lies hidden in these works. But it's there. I've seen it.
I get help from Jakob Nilsson, one of the artists, who is applying boating glue to copper pipes on his work "Plant" as I arrive. On Tuesday, he plans to pour vinegar trough a funnel placed at the top of the parasol, and the fluid will travel through the copper pipes (or branches) to plastic cassettes attached with more boating glue and heated by electrodes. The heat will make the vinegar evaporate. It is a kind of pointless photosynthesis; a "pale and desperate" imitiation of what a green plant does, Jakob tells me. I see it. As he talks, I see the object transforming before me. There is a plant in the room.
Also suddenly visible as Jakob tells more anecdotes about the other works: the abundance of materials and textures present in this small space. Screens, wire, fabric, soft and hard plastics. Tin, copper, cotton, silicone, wax, beans, stone, wood, paper, ceramics.
Over there is an alien life form deconstructed in the shape of a still life over the pebbles of a beach. A hesitant flag on the wall, a vertical gathering of space debris on a string. Two television sets engaged in conversation, their cords trailing behind them like tentacles on a monster.
My mind has settled on a dynamics of the earth-bound and the extra-terrestrial after it occurs to me that "Plavalaguna" is also the name of the space diva in Luc Besson's science fiction film The Fifth Element, an alien opera singer who memorably performs an aria from Lucia de Lammermoor, before getting shot and revealing that her body harbours the very elemental stones that the hero has been searching for. The hero then digs his hands into her stomach and pulls out the stones, covering in her blue-green blood. Remember?
This image prompts me to revisit every object in the room with renewed attention. Their titles suggest a preoccupation with the unfinished; all drafts, preliminaries, impurities and by-products, and their use of material sets forth an open hierarchy of the organic and the inorganic. A kind of speculative materialism.
These objects only gradually open themselves up to the visitor, but once they do, they are both eloquent and sociable. I understand that the aesthetics of conceptual art like this often includes being a) not "pretty" and b) not "orderly", as in purposefully leaving the wires and cords for electronic devices out in a deliberate mess instead of gathering or hiding them, and as in not providing any information about the pieces apart from the brief list of works. Yet this exhibition is intent on communicating something and it doesn't seem to translate immediately to most people passing through Filosoffen on the Sunday of my visit.
Every visitor should be so lucky as to run into on of the artists at the exhibition and be let on the conversation. These works are talkative once you get the going. Ideally there would be artist talks during the week, but I know the students are busy. Maybe guided tours could be a part of the collaboration on Filosoffen's part instead?
Plava Laguna Crock Pot opened on February 10th and stays open until Sunday, February 19th. Opening hours are 11 am to 5 pm every day.
Works by Jakob Nilsson, Kate Sterchi, Elina Bergmark Wiberg, Marie Vedel, Alberte Westergaard and David Monberg.
Link to the event Front page