Nina Canell - Otic Pit (2019)
The Swedish artist Nina Canell (b. 1979) works with sculpture, or actually with a concept of sculpture that extends far beyond the boundaries of traditional notions of this art. A work might consist, for example, of cement slowly absorbing water and becoming hard. Or a piece of spat-out chewing gum alongside an exact replica made of concrete. Canell wants to make visible unremarkable or invisible processes and the way in which these
change the form of matter.
Some processes occur quickly, while others cannot be perceived by the one-time visitor. This is the case with the blocks of gum that Canell has placed on shelves on walls on various occasions, in such a way that the substance protrudes just beyond the edges of the shelf. Very slowly, the gum stretches, until eventually pieces fall to the floor. Visitors will experience the work as static, unless they return and see that it has changed.
Gravity was responsible for the transformation of objects in that case, but usually it is the result of a process that is set in motion by the artist. Combining material forms with immaterial forces, such as the electrification or heating of wood, copper, plastic or glass, results in chemical or physical processes that make the material move or change form. Canell once exhibited a wooden stick nailed at both ends to a museum wall and then sent electricity through it. A black line appeared on the wood, a visible trace of the invisible electricity.
The apparent invisibility of electricity and also of the internet is a recurring theme in Canell’s body of work. She physically gives this shape in the form of many pieces of severed, disconnected fibreglass and electricity cables of various lengths and thicknesses, with the colourful collection of internal wires clearly visible, all beautifully
exhibited on typical white museum pedestals, like ‘traditional’ sculptures.
For DELIRIOUS, Canell has once again taken something that is normally hidden and made it visible: the human cochlea. She reproduced this tiny part of the inner ear, responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical nerve signals, and made it into a bluish-black sculpture, cast in basalt, concrete and pigment. Canell consciously chose a location for the sculpture where a relatively large amount of noise was perceptible in the usually very quiet park; at a pool on the edge of De Oude Warande, where you heard the continuous croaking of frogs and the rushing of trains.