Malleable solidity

By Anne Helen Mydland

Notes on ‘Deposit’ Erna E. Skúladóttir & Karin Blomgren A site developed exhibition at KRAFT – Rom for kunsthåndverk, Bergen 27/3 – 3/5 2015.

A collaborative project by Erna E. Skúladóttir and Karin Blomgren, presenting slowly performing sculptures and disintegrating installations interacting with the architecture of the gallery. By drawing upon the building ́s banking history, the works play with weight and transition.

Out of the mud comes clay. What can clay form? Clay can form anything. It can mould the whole of nature. Clay is a mineral. We are minerals.

                               Ester Leslie: See with a feeling eye: Feel with a seeing hand 2014

In her text Ester Leslie asks: ‘What can clay form?’ And answers- ‘clay can form anything.’  The transformable, malleable quality of clay is intrinsic. Erna and Karin even use the word ’shape shifter’ adding on a magic layer- a magic resonating in science- clay being the ’ur-material’. ’That clay minerals are likely originators of life in a pre- biotic environment’ to continue Leslies argument.’

In art this malleability the plasticity and lack of ’essence’ have also been the suspicious property of clay- making it to immediate, to old, to difficult, to grounded?

The later years clay as a material and medium, in its own right is to be seen ‘everywhere’- its re-discovered, re-interpreted by new generations and new environments re-acting to this material out of the now– what is resonating in the now? Maybe our times need a more malleable medium, a medium that embraces change and uncertainty but still has a solid presence?

In our artistic research project Topographies of the Obsolete which Erna and Karin have been a part of we are questioning: Within the context of site specific artistic practice: what is, and how can ceramic and clay be understood as both material and subject in contemporary art. How can we perceive the material (clay/ ceramics) to be or constitute a site? Moreover, how do ceramics and clay form and construct our understanding of the site?

By engaging with the solid bank architecture, steel, concrete, brick (I would guess) humans have been making all sorts of safe structure, safeguarding solid values in all meanings of the word.

By engaging with this particular architecture and the process of the piece: the intense labour, and time spent, Erna and Karin is questioning and making us see these layers in the building the history and in the current state of a gallery- what does Labour and Time mean today? What value do they have?

And the soft clay, the smelly organic mass, which of course, as the shape shifter it is, have no problems incorporating both the walls of Jericho, mud huts, castles, fortresses of all sorts around the world, and through the times, insisting on the softness and the solidness, that as malleable and changeable it can withstand anything- and as dried and solid it becomes fragile, crumbling.

The slowly performing sculptures and structures is still a super speeded version of geological time- the eternal cycles of making and destruction- from dust till dust the structures and the actions of the artists are making a deposit, a layer, and investment in this particular site and time.

Anne Helen Mydland

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