Variations in form - Anja Johansen, Babel Art Space, Trondheim
March 23 – April 1, 2007
Anne Sara Loe “t i d”
Takashi Mitsui “Story of the module 12,5”
The term “Form” may be, as well as e.g. “nature” or “culture”, one of the most complicated terms in our language. Form can among other things refer to shape, figure, beauty, craftsmanship, rituals, images, order, structure, connections, identity and character. Works by two artists, who share a background from architecture, meet at Babel this week. Anne Sara Loe’s digital works share a space with Takashi Mitsui’s architectural artifacts, and offer a rich spectrum of shapes, organic as well as mechanical.
In the works of Anne Sara Loe, her fascination with form appears in several ways. She gets her inspiration from nature; from past and present life forms; and from germs that carry within them the potential for future life. She uses images she finds in periodicals and professional literature, or which she obtains from botanists and medical doctors. These may be x-ray- or MR images of animals and human beings, as well as microscopic images of grains of pollen, algae, etc., which are processed further in photoshop. The subjects of her images may give associations from the immense to the minuscule world of nature. The artist refers to the works as a kind of digital paintings, in the sense that she works with electronic layers: with filters, adjustments, colours. The shades are in cool blue, gray, and green on a white background, which gives the pictures a subdued and floating character. In other words, this is not pristine nature, but rather natural shapes mediated and manipulated through diverse visualization- and editing technologies. The fact that her view is aesthetic rather than scientific allows her to play with relative sizes. In the pictures, plant and animal forms constitute transitions to our own human forms. The round shape of the moon (here vaguely reminiscent of a pale blue fruit) is in the world of her pictures of approximately the same size as a gauzy and testicular-shaped algae. The order of nature appears through repetitive, at times ornamental, forms, yet tell simultaneously of endless variations over the same structure.
However, it is not always easy to recognize what one sees in Loe’s pictures. An example: a spine makes a curve across the pictorial plane. From some kind of vertebrae, my reason tells me. But which? I have to give up, and lose myself in the fine details of the skeletal structure instead. Other pictures have small tactile shapes in green and pale blue which may be seen as being from inside the human body, as well as between the petals of a flower. The relatively recognizable shape of a bird, with the half-distended skeleton of a wing, appears on one wall. The gray skeletal structure in the inverted x-ray image fills almost all of the picture. Yet it also seems slender, as bird skeletons tend to be (they must, after all, be suited to flight). In another picture, we glimpse the cranial shape of another animal – another bird perhaps? The form unfolds as bluish whirling smoke across the pictorial plane, which helps create a feeling of elusiveness. A breath, and it disappears in the air.
On the other wall, three pictures are combined, each with a rounded white shape. Are they bones? I choose to believe that one of them displays a half of a cranium - white, hard bone. The other shapes are also suspiciously like bone structures. I can almost feel their rough and perhaps slightly brittle surface. I am quite convinced that they are bone, until I am told that they are enlarged images of porous little grains of pollen. But the similarity in form was there!
It also strikes me that the fragile forms look like fossils – organisms which have left their imprint in stone, and have been preserved underneath the ice or in rock formations. Traces of forgotten zoological or botanical life which still appear very much alive, preserved in the hard stone. A pterodactyl from a bygone age, caught in flight with its wings distended. The temporal aspect is, however, also a part of the photographic process. The photographic image has the ability to preserve visually a section of reality for the future. When photography was still in its infancy, many imagined that the real world stuck to the plate, like a fossil. Still, although the pictures touch on the idea of the transitoriness and vulnerability of organic life, there is something very light and poetic about the depictions. The bones and cranial forms do not appear as grotesque: this is a long way from Morten Viskum’s dead rats in jars. There is rather something playful about them, as when an x-ray image of seal flippers enter into a conversation with a photograph of human feet.
While Anne Sara Loe may be said to work with organic and fragile forms in all sizes and variations, Takashi Mitsui’s project takes as its starting point the mathematical measurements of a video cassette and its strips of film. However, the two artists still share the exploration of form and the fascination with variations within a form. Mitsui often works conceptually, and chooses media and materials according to what can best bring out his ideas. This time he lets himself be inspired by the architectural idea of the module, and lets a 12.5 cm strip of film constitute the module of the structures, their conceptual point of departure. This relatively restrictive working method can be compared with minimalist tendencies, e.g. Daniel Buren, who in a period only made paintings with stripes of 8.7 cm. However, the limitations Mitsui has set for himself allows him to produce varied geometric forms in folded and cut coloured cardboard hung on the wall. Based on the module and the two-dimensional sheet of paper he thus creates three-dimensional objects which can give associations to small models for futurist architecture. Yet their juxtaposition to Loe’s organic forms makes me think of rib-bones; ribcages and bird skeletons. The transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional form is something Mitsui has explored in previous work, and he can therefore be seen as in some ways linked to the minimalist artist Frank Stella. What we take to be two-dimensional objects must after all inhabit the same three-dimensional space as we do.
Innermost in the room, the artist has created a ‘video installation’. However, this is in fact simply a pun. The installation is not what we normally associated with video installations. Here, there are no screens or flickering images. He has stretched the strips of film from floor to ceiling as a kind of pillars in geometric shapes. A kind of distant, geometric relation to the grooved pillars of Parthenon in Athens? In spite of their static form – as we move around them they give an optical illusion of movement, and the reflecting film flickers softly in the light.
Both mechanical and organic shapes can generate innumerable variations of form. If we consider that an organism, as well as being life caught in its unfolding also can be understood as consisting of nature’s building blocks and structures, the distance from Mitsui to Loe’s works may not, perhaps, be all that great.
Translated by Kjetil Myskja and Birgit Kvamme Lundheim