Nina Beier, Shelving for Unlocked Matter and Open Problems, Detail, 2010
Of any artist working today, 35-year-old hyper-mixed-media artist Nina Beier is creating some of the boldest examples of the contemporary artwork in crisis mode. This has a lot to do with the unstable, in flux, usually-referencing-something-absent, often-crushed-or-pieced-together, and likely-to-change nature of her sculptural explorations.
Take her seemingly straightforward work, On the Uses and Disadvantages of Wet Paint, 2010, which may look like a large blotch of test paint on a blank wall; instead, it’s a savvy institutional critique on the art of backdrops, in which Beier raids a given museum’s paint stockpile to reapply a new color on the same spot intermittently. Another example of Beier using the system against itself is her photographic piece What Follows Will Follow II: Installation shots of works from a previous show become the work framed in the next one, an idea that could breed an endless chain of recycled and re-rerecyled imagery.
The Danish-born Beier gets much of her creative impulses from philosophy and literature (Heidegger and Lewis Carroll are recent touchstones). But for all of the theoretical uplift, the end result is provocatively tactile. Her most recent productions include dipping photographic stock images in glue and hanging them to dry on mass-produced household items, thus using an image to utterly envelop an actual thing. Another series involves found secondhand fabrics stuffed together inside a frame to create an almost Arte Povera-esque surface on the verge of busting open.
Beier has been living in Berlin for the past three years after starting her career in London. “I moved mainly because I was attracted to the qualities of an underpopulated city,” she says. “I guess the pace of the city is a little slower than other cities I have lived in, but I find the contrary to be true when it comes to the productivity of artists who live here.”
Saâdane Afif plays with notions of displacement, collusion and contrast. He uses objects, scale models and installations, sounds and writing to mirror in the work of art itself the dialogue arising between the artist and the viewer. This dialogue makes allusions to psychological, historical, social and cultural elements.
Thanks to this extended formal vocabulary, borrowed as easily from the history of art as from the world of the media and music, Afif creates installations made up of unexpected encounters between objects and disciplines. Power Chords, produced for the Lyon Biennial in 2004, and for which he won the International Prize for Contemporary Art from the Fondation Prince Pierre in Monaco, is a sound installation for eleven electric guitars controlled by informatics. Each guitar emits its own note at random, in order to compose “key” harmonies from Rock history that are the musical transcription of mathematical harmonies played by artist André Cadéré with the drumsticks.
Blue Time vs. Suspense is especially produced for the Xavier Hufkens Gallery. It makes a synthesis between two older projects: Blue Time and Suspense. Blue Time vs. Suspense comprises three guitars/black clocks hung like suspension points, attached to three amplifiers via audio cables. The sound produced is similar to that of three out-of-tempo metronomes.
“To produce a musical instrument related to time, is to recall that the mastering of the latter lies at the heart of an artist’s preoccupations”.
The lyrics of the two songs about the older pieces, from which this new work originates, are stuck on the walls in adhesive letters. They accompany a text created for the occasion referring to the new work. Playing alone, the musician Vale Poher performs these texts, accompanying the songs on electric guitar. This is broadcast via headphones placed on a stand upon which the visitor can sit.
The style of music and the instrument perfectly match the project.
A screen-printed poster features the titles of the album and by extension, the titles of the works. It is a kind of exhibition ‘credits’.
A CD, also produced for the occasion, is a recording of the exhibition in words and music.