As its first exhibition of 2018, Museum Tinguely is showing sculptures, installations and videos by Berlin-based artist Sofia Hultén (born 1972 in Stockholm). Hultén’s works start with found objects – unremarkable everyday items or materials from the world of DIY stores and workshops. Via a series of methodical manipulations that sometimes verge on the absurd, she examines these things that are marked by their previous lives or processes them into new arrangements.
In many cases, she sticks to minimal surface interventions that focus on the object’s (supposed) past of usage and decay, shaking up the sequence of these phases. With forensic precision she replicates the wear and tear on a weather-beaten chest of drawers, for example, pulps discarded sections of particle board only to immediately cast them back into their original form, or uses the props from a tennis match to reconstruct the various possible outcomes of a situation on the side-lines. The shifts she imposes on these objects are sometimes based on fantastic notions from science fiction, but more often they point to concepts from philosophy and quantum physics that cast doubt on the constant, linear nature of time and matter.
Pattern Recognition, 2017, modified steel workshop walls, tools, each 180 × 125 × 5 cm, Courtesy the artist, Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Galerie Nordenhake Stockholm
© Sofia Hultén/2017, ProLitteris, Zurich; photo: Trevor Good
A series of wall-based sculptures based on Bongard problems, puzzles designed by the Russian computer scientist Mikhail Bongard in the 1960s, as a tool for machine learning. The pieces are a coming together of these puzzles of perception with workshop tool walls.
History in Imaginary Time, 2012, Five sections of chain-link fencing, five jumpers, five tennis balls, twenty cardboard corners with cable tie, dimensions variable/each 200 × 80 × 80 cm, Courtesy the artist, Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Galerie Nordenhake Stockholm
© Sofia Hultén/2017, ProLitteris, Zurich; photo: Sofia Hultén
A sequence of accidental events is re-enacted in varying order of causality.
In Hultén’s hands, such banal things as a broken cup, the contents of a found toolbox, a graffiti-covered rolling shutter, or a collection of used scissor jacks cause major questions to be addressed to a material world that may not be as solid as it looks. Her play on space and time is never free of (self-)irony and, besides a sense of rhythm and poetry, in its almost megalomaniac implications it displays an absurd sense of humour. With a feel for detail and the magnificence of the easily overlooked, Hultén’s works also encourage us to engage more closely with things that usually remain on the margins of our attention but which exert a decisive influence on our everyday lives.
Here’s the Answer, What’s the Question? is the largest solo exhibition of works by Sofia Hultén to date and is showing in cooperation with Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (13 September – 26 November 2017).
Opening: 23 January 2018, 6.30 pm
Curator: Lisa Anette Ahlers
“I am just changing one element at a time, out of a normal sequence of events. If it’s a complete nonsense then you lose the appearance of believability. That’s why I often choose to change just one thing. It’s the same with situation comedy, which informs a lot of what I’m doing in my work. Usually it’s a completely conventional set-up in which we are very familiar with what’s around, with only one salient thing changed. If everything is changed the situation becomes wacky, which is not so much fun.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue jointly published by Ikon Gallery and Museum Tinguely, with a foreword by Jonathan Watkins and Roland Wetzel and texts by Lisa Anette Ahlers, Chris Sharp, James Langdon and Sofia Hultén.
Sofia Hultén. Here’s the Answer, What’s the Question?, Birmingham/Basel 2017, 128 pages, English/German, 28 CHF, ISBN: 978-1-911155-12-6.
Mutual Annihilation, 2008, four-channel video, 85'22", chest of drawers, 95 x 73 x 50 cm, Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, © Sofia Hultén/2017, ProLitteris, Zurich; photo: Sofia Hultén
An old and weathered chest of drawers is restored to its original state. Paint is removed, broken parts are repaired, the chest is polished and finished. The process is then reversed and actions are performed which could have caused the found state. It is repainted, treated with various tools, splashed with coffee, kicked and scraped, until it is returned to the state in which it was found.