Maggý b. 1981 is an Icelandic artist and composer based in Reykjavík.
Her practice centres around research of time-based media ranging from
formal studies of the structural relationship between the visual and
the aural to exploring the ethereal qualities of video, sound and
music. A reoccurring theme in her work is the pursuit of giving form to
perceptual experiences. Producing audio/visual installations, purely
sound based work, musical compositions or silent moving images Dodda
Maggý attempts to externalize the internal dimensions of the sensorial
and the fantastical.
Dodda Maggý holds two BA degrees from The Iceland Academy of the Arts,
in Fine Arts and in Musical Composition, and an MFA from The Royal
Danish Academy of Fine Arts. She was also a participant in the Nordic
Sound Art program, a two year MFA level study program in Sound Art at
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Malmö Art Academy, Oslo National
College of the Arts and Trondheim Academy of Fine Art.
Represented by BERG Contemporary and Vane
selected press, texts & reviews
Every Vibration, Every Sound, Hangs in the Air:
The Sound and Video Works of Dodda Maggý
Tina Rigby Hanssen, PhD in Art History and Media Theory
Icelandic composer and artist Dodda Maggý’s ten-minute video and sound
installation DeCore (venus) (2015), we are immersed in flickering,
undulating patterns as they build up from a single element to a cluster
of overlapping elements which looks like a parallelogram. The elements
then slowly dissolve, and new ones appear in a perpetual process of
transformation. The intricate designs, which are digitally animated,
evoke natural elements and processes such as the fractal or repetitive
patterns associated with foliage, mountains ranges, raindrops,
snowflakes or coastlines. It is evident, however, that despite the
apparent repetitiveness of, for example, a snowflake’s hexagonal
symmetry, there is a variety and depth to Maggý’s projection. Both the
images and the soundtrack consist of certain small elements which
together form and regroup into shifting entities. There is something
fragile and organic about the whole installation, as it pulses and
circulates its patterns. This flow is rendered as both audible and
visible signals, creating an ambience from these raw materials for us
to experience as part of the unfathomable mystery of life.
As we enter this
exhibition space, our bodies become part of Maggý’s ubiquitous play
with shadow and light, introducing an additional ‘pattern’ to the
constantly shifting structure of the artwork. We become part of this
‘living’ organism and its pulsating, flickering images. Standing in the
beam of the projector, we can even cast a purposeful shadow onto the
projected image and in this way become part of the narrative. Maggý has
installed a transparent curtain in front of the projected images, so
that the visitor can move between it and the projection. Using our
senses in the room is, in other words, a crucial element of this work.
In the accompanying soundtrack, Maggý explores the multiple layers of a
single sampled cello sound, converting the frequency spectrum of the
pitch into a host of subtle overtones through a strictly controlled
reverberating drone. This sound gives us little to work with, but it
lodges itself in our ears and minds nevertheless.
The ambient use of the
frequency spectrum of a single note rather than a more complex or
varied soundscape forces us inward. Maggý’s soundtrack shares qualities
with the genre of electronic music known as drone music, which is often
discussed in terms of its physical effects. As Joanna Demers notes:
drones, dub techno, and noise, the use of stasis and noise runs counter
to habitual expectations for how elements of musical syntax interact
with one another. These elements last too long and are too loud, and
they disrupt the sense that music functions as a language by calling
attention to physical aspects that music usually asks us to ignore. The
liminal quality of this music – the stresses it places on the body and
the attention span – all wrest music out of a reasoned, ordered plane
and thrust it back into the world of objects and raw materials.1
Maggý’s use of extended
durations and loud volumes not only impacts the work’s environment but
also tests the limits of our concentration and tolerance. Drones, after
all, affect our bodies in unique ways, transmitting ‘sound’ not only
through the ears but also through the whole body. The assumption is
that hearing and touch are closely connected, and that they ‘meet where
the lower frequencies of audible sound pass over to tactile vibrations
(at about 20 Hertz)’.2 We listen with our ears as well as with
our bodies – our skin and bones function as excellent sound conductors,
to ensure that our bodies respond more effectively to sound stimuli.
This is why even deaf people can sense sound, and Maggý draws upon
these associations via the sustained drones in her work.
The repetitive qualities
of these sounds not only challenge our conception of listening to music
but also engage us on their own terms.
Maggý’s use of sustained
sounds and repetitive animated patterns recalls the avant-garde music
and experimental psychedelic scene of the 1960s – think of artists such
as the American minimalist composer La Monte Young, best known for
pioneering the concept of extended time durations in contemporary
music, and in Tony Conrad’s flickering films, as well as Terry Riley,
Phill Niblock, Marian Zazeela, Meredith Monk, all from the USA, and
Bridget Riley UK, known for the optical illusions of her famous op-art
paintings of psychedelic patterns.3 The artists of this era all
sought to explore various perceptual effects, and Maggý’s use of the
multiple layers within a single sampled cello sound recalls, in
particular, Niblock’s manipulation of recordings of long tones played
on acoustic instruments to create dense compositions of sound.
While Maggý’s soundtrack
does not feature much noticeable variation in intensity, it is not
static but rather subtly variegated. It begins with the fading in of
the single sustained but undulating pitch; then, after a short time, we
hear another sustained tone entering above the initial one, and this
process of aggregation continues over the course of the work. Still,
these changes are only perceivable if we listen very carefully, thus
introducing a pointed ambiguity to the experience of Maggý’s work: was
there a change in the tone we heard just now? Did we imagine that sound
or was it real? Can we trust our ears?
Whereas images have a
tendency to keep the viewer at a distance from what is going on, sound
pulls us in, positioning us at the centre of it all. We engage in a
continuous process of filtering and absorbing sound as we attempt to
distinguish between different sounds and assign respective meanings to
them. We experience the world as much through our ears as through our
eyes, and the two sources of information do not always cohere –
listening can even challenge the way we see and participate in the
world. But it is, at the same time, as Salomé Voegelin observes,
[...] an experiential fact full of playful illusions, purposeful errors
and contingent idiosyncrasies. Listening is not about the physical constitution of sound; as little as
seeing is about the physical constitution of the seen, it is the
perception of those physical constitutions, fraught
with the uncertainty of an erroneous, unreliable ear.4
Listening is always
tinged with uncertainty and unreliability, thanks to what we cannot
hear or are afraid that we might have misheard or misunderstood. Nor
does it harbour any physical evidence, because it is always in the
process of becoming. Maggý’s work prepares for us, with these qualities
and characteristics, a new audio-visual environment, which enables us
to sink into our inner associations and memories. It even allows us to
reflect on the ways in which the human perceptual system functions as
it acts to enlighten, betray or seduce our minds.
The suggestive qualities
of Maggý’s sound open her work to alternative interpretations, as
opposed to specific associations or motives. When there are few sonic
cues with which to connect certain associations or sources, one’s
auditory imagination tends to kick in, which opens up a new set of
questions related to sensory and perceptual processes and subjectivity.
This kind of exploration of drone music and repetitive sounds, of
course, again recalls the sound art pioneers mentioned above, as well
as the various Fluxus artists from the 1960s, who experimented with
sound processing and recording.
Lucy and Rainbow: the
Murmur of Voices
In the short video and sound installation Lucy (2009),
we encounter a captivating female singing voice before we see any
images. The voice has been recorded close up in order to capture its
physicality, and we hear breathing noises and register even very small
changes in tone and pitch, which ranges from very low to very
high.5 Every tone is sustained for several seconds before
changing. Suddenly, a silhouette emerges fleetingly from the darkness,
and then we experience brief flashes of a female figure in a shimmering
gold dress, her dark hair and pale skin surrounded by a black field.
The identity of this woman is never revealed although the work’s title
indicates that her name is Lucy. At first, the voice seems to align
with the appearances of the character on the screen, as though to
represent her as a person. When the soundtrack changes from a single
voice to a choir, however, the character’s behaviour promptly changes
as well. This sudden shift in the installation’s aural and visual
elements disrupts the relationship between the voice we hear and the
figure we see. The character now appears to be desperately struggling
to control and embody the voice which, in contrast, effortlessly
sustains its quality of sound, breath, volume, pitch, and tone. The
character’s erratic behaviour adds a sense of strangeness to the work,
and, in tandem with images now reminiscent of a movie by David Lynch –
that is, mysterious, weird, and hard to grasp – seems to suggest that
we are witnessing a dream sequence, or even the collapse of the
character’s mind. At first, then, it may seem that nothing much is
happening, given the simplicity of the narrative but, beneath the
surface, very deliberate attention is being paid to the psychological
shift or transformation in the protagonist. The emotionally intense
images ex- press something of the vulnerability and frustration that
characterises the female character’s imprisonment in her own mind, and
the sound adds a particularly unsettling quality to the installation,
especially as its layering becomes more complex.
In Performing Rites,
Simon Frith presents four characteristic ways of listening to the human
voice: as an instrument, as a body, as a person and as a role or
character. In other words, we can listen to the abstract qualities of
the voice – its materiality – or we can connect the voice with a
particular person or character. Either way, of course, the voice
sustains its link to the world that surrounds it, and we hear it within
the context of established cultural rules and norms.6 Frith even
concludes that its authenticity is typically constructed – that is, it
derives from a staging of expected norms within which the voice is
understood as a ‘real’ expression of one’s personality. In short, your
voice comes from your body and tells the story of who you are. Steven
Connor describes its essential paradox:
voice defines me because it draws me into coincidence with myself,
accomplishes me in a way which goes beyond mere
belonging, association, or instrumental use. And yet my voice is also
most essentially itself and my own in the ways in
which it parts or passes from me. Nothing about me defines me so
intimately as my voice, precisely because there is
no other feature of my self whose nature it is thus to move from me to
the world, and to move me into the world.7
Indeed, we tend to take
the voice for granted and make an issue of it only when it fails us.
Think, for example, of an opera singer whose voice suddenly disappears
during a performance or a news announcer interrupted by a coughing fit.
In Lucy, the character seems to be confronted by a voice which takes on
a character or identity of its own separately from her. In discussing
the not (yet) visualised voice in film, film theorist Michel Chion (and
Pierre Schaeffer before him) relies upon the term acousmêtre – that is,
a voice which is able to ‘be everywhere, to see all, to know all, and
to have complete power’.8 He also connects the power of voice to
a form of panoptic fantasy, or total mastery of space through vision
and concludes that the intervention of an acousmatic voice, or a voice
heard in the absence of a physical body visible on screen, often makes
the story into a quest of anchoring this voice there.
When the voice is not
localised but separated from the body, then re- turned as an
acousmêtre, it often speaks from an ‘I-voice’ position, in particularly
close proximity to the spectator’s ear.9
Lucy raises questions
related to situations where there appears to be a struggle or
psychological interruption between one’s understanding of one’s self
and the voice which is expressing it. People recovering from a stroke
that causes aphasia often experience a change in the language centres
of the brain – they may find, perhaps, that they are unable to
articulate or pronounce the words they want to say. This inability
leads to a sudden collapse of linguistic structures, so that words
become meaningless and may block communication. Other voice-related
situations can be even more complicated. What if one does not recognise
one’s own voice while one is speaking? This condition, known as an
auditory hallucination, is one of the many disabling symptoms
experienced by people diagnosed with schizophrenia, who are believed to
have a defect in the circuit which allows one to recognise one’s own
voice.10 This failure can also happen to non-schizophrenic
people, during spiritual experiences or times of trauma, sensory
deprivation or emotional dis- tress. The voice one hears at these
moments is immediately recognisable, but it may not be one’s
own.11 It could be that of a family member, a friend or someone
from one’s past. These voices can be as real as hearing a person
speaking in the same room, or they can be a constant mumbling in the
background. They come from inside us and engage with our whole psyche –
our fears, strengths and weaknesses.
In this sound
installation, the materiality of the voice, that is, its repetitive
qualities, sustained overtones, duration, and pitch – combined with the
layered recordings to contribute to the presentation of fragility and
vulnerability in the singing voice, or something between a scream and a
moan, a cry and a sigh. At the same time, this work obscures the pas-
sage of time, because we are unable to situate this voice in any
particular place. As such, the recording and processing of the voice
contribute to a deprivation of the senses. While the voice in Lucy is
always clearly human in nature, the voice in Rainbow (2011) dissolves
into an unrecognisable mass of sound. Maggý created this installation
from more than one thousand recordings of a single voice, producing a
monotone hum which spans a range of pitch levels. The initially fragile
voice gains strength as it is layered, and both volume and tension
increase as the work progresses. Presented via two 5.1 surround-sound
systems, this mass of sound circles around an al- most completely
darkened space until it becomes a drone of singing voices, a thick
blanket of sound which ends in a crescendo of voices at a high volume
and with great intensity.
The sound designs of
Dodda Maggý demand a visceral engagement with her works through
enhanced vibrations not only in the eardrums but also in the resonant
chambers of the body. With the help of specific drone frequencies and
digitally animated flickering images, she creates new ways for us to
interact with both her art and our own inner spaces. We are forced to
fall back on the human perceptual system and the continuous processing
activity of our brains – a network of connections which sometimes gets
lost in a fluid zone between reality and hallucinations. Maggý enables
us to face the intangible, including what might otherwise exceed our
limited sensory experience in the world, by presenting installations
whose content we can think both with and through as it unfolds.
1 Joanna Demers,
Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic
Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010: p. 91.
2 R. Murray Schafer, The Tuning of the World, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977: p. 11.
3 See Brandon LaBelle,
Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound
Art, New York: Continuum, 2006;
Alan Licht, Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories, New York:
Rizzoli international Publications, 2007.
4 Salomé Voegelin,
Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, New
York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010: p. 54.
5 For more on the
physicality of the recorded (whispering) voice, see my article,
‘Whispering voice: materiality, aural qualities and the reconstruction
of memories in the works of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’, in
Music, Sound and the Moving Image, 4 (1), 2010: pp. 39-54.
6 Simon Frith, Performing Rites: Evaluating Popular Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998: pp. 191-8.
7 Steven Connor, Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000: p. 7.
8 Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema, trans. Claudia Gorbman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999: p. 24.
9 Ibid.: p. 49.
10 Eliezer Sternberg, NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale behind our Irrational Behaviour, New York: Pantheon Books, 2005.
11 Simon McCarthy-
The Histories, Causes and Meanings of Auditory Verbal
Hallucinations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
ARoS FOCUS // NEW NORDIC: The Sound and Video Works of Dodda Maggý
Interview with Dodda Maggý
Lise Pennington, Chief Curator at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum
LP Where do you find inspiration for your works?
DM I think that I
find my inspiration in film and music. And literature, actually. Music
is sort of my background. I first studied music and then when I started
working with visual arts, I sort of found ways to create my own
language using a musical sensibility combined with films. Some of it
comes from my interest in phenomenology, especially from reading Gaston
Bachelard and Jean-Paul Sartre. But also lyrical filmmakers such as
Maya Deren and Sergei Parajanov. Even though I studied art and, of
course, look at art and follow what’s happening in the art world, I’m
more inspired by cinema and music. When it comes to what I read and
research, it’s mostly connected to cinema or film theory and music or
sound design rather than visual arts.
LP The animations you compose, do they create a base for the music to grow or is it the other way around?
DM Well, it’s a bit
funny because it’s both ways at this point. I find it hard to say
whether it’s more the music or more the visual arts. For example, first
I studied music and then I started working in visual arts and, in
particular, video. There’s a connection between video and music, as
they’re both time-based, so you’re constructing something on a timeline
and, to put it very simply, it deals with build-up and tension.
When I started working with the visual arts, it was sort of the
combination between film and music and how the two mediums combined
created a new space, somehow. When I was in art school studying visual
arts, I was working with both music and video and then, after my
master’s degree, I went back to study- ing musical composition. After
returning to the musical department, I felt my musical language had
been ruined, somehow. I could feel that my brain had changed after
studying visual arts. When I talked to my fellow classmates, I realised
that I saw mu- sic from another perspective. I’ve been wondering if I’m
more of a visual artist than a composer. Sometimes I feel that I don’t
belong to either. I feel I’m really somewhere in between in my creative
thinking and how I process ideas.
LP So your work isn’t a visualisation of music? It’s much tighter than that?
Yes, it really is. In my recent works, I’m working much more formally
with these animations and, in a way, I’m exploring compo- sition and
music visually. But I’m still composing when I create images; they’re
made with a musical sensibility. And, actually, in some of my older
works, I was using music as a narrative tool to drive the underlying
‘story’ of the piece, as the music was paired with video. I’m composing
a visual language of music appealing to all senses, somehow.
So when you say that you’re also very inspired by films, how does that
relationship work, then? Is it from well known classical films or is it
more from film theory that you get your inspiration?
I use a lot of technical elements from film theory in the way I work
with video. There are some technical devices in the cinema that are
quite underestimated. Like the power of audio. We sort of forget about
it, we forget about the sound design, and we forget about the music;
we take it for granted that the sound is just a natural component of
the image when, in fact, it’s constructed and added after filming. If
you remove the music and sound de- sign, the film would collapse.
As a viewer,
you become familiar with the language of moving images through popular
media. For example, it wasn’t until I was in art school that I really
started to study video art and, even at that time, in the early days of
YouTube, you could only see video art in museums and galleries. I could
only read descriptions and see stills of a lot of the pieces that I was
learning about. Today, you can find almost anything online. So I use
these structural devices that viewers understand to create my work, but
I don’t necessarily use them conventionally. I’m not a tradition- al
filmmaker. I play with the devices, sometimes skewing and twisting them.
LP So, it’s more on a technical level than on a story line level?
Well, I think it’s both. I think that a significant part of the story
is portrayed through sound. It’s just not always obvious to the viewer.
Through sound, the viewer experiences another level of the narrative,
and the sound contributes a lot when creating the energy of a film. I’d
say that we, as viewers, underestimate the power of sound design. My
earliest influence was David Lynch and particularly the old Twin Peaks
series. I’d go so far as to say that a lot of his work really is the
sound design, the way he uses music. The sound is really what creates
the energy in his visuals. For example, he sometimes uses a very low
bass, almost so low that you cannot hear it, but it moves the air, it
sort of creates another dimension of something you can’t see, which, I
think, is a theme he often works with.
I recently heard a documentary about how David Lynch collaborated with
the composer on creating the theme tune for Twin Peaks. How they did it
as a mix of everyday recognisable sounds, which fill our daily lives
without us noticing it, but still carry a huge part of the meaning.
Yeah, totally. Even in the new series, I really do think that David
Lynch is very much working like a sound artist. David Lynch and Angelo
Badalenti used the music technique called
leitmotif, which comes from opera (Wagner) and denotes a short, musical
phrase associated with a particular person, place, or idea. Now it’s
standard use in the cinema. But in the old Twin Peaks, Lynch gave each
individual main character their own theme song and he then wove these
themes, these leitmotifs, together with the overall music. He used
leitmotifs to indicate something that’s happening ‘below the surface’.
For example, when we hear a theme of a character not appearing on the
screen, the viewer can’t see him, but his presence is looming.
Let’s move on to your kaleidoscopic works. In some of your works, the
symmetrical visual patterns are constantly transforming into
‘kaleidoscopic’ compositions. What do you intend to show your audience
by using this approach?
Well, I’d like to start with the first one I did entitled DeCore
(aurae). That piece represents a new way of working. I was really
interested in sound art – I feel that I’m always working with music
even if it’s in videos. It started with me filming plants and then I
began manipulating and sampling the images into new organic shapes and
putting these back together in a new structure. It took me four years
to work out this piece, since it was so tricky to turn it into
something interesting. There’s a fine line when working with something
that you want the eye to engage with, something that could be viewed as
merely decorative. It’s really tricky because it’s so easy to label it
decorative and thus redundant. I’m playing with this line and poking
fun at it, hence the title DeCore, a play of words for something that’s
perhaps decorative and something that’s hard core. I’m pushing this
idea of constant rapid movement; the eye is almost always unable to
catch the image as it is forever changing.
What I found
was that proportions are the key. They are the key elements in our
experience of something as being visually pleasing or displeasing. With
DeCore (aurae), I’m transferring the way I work with sound art and
field recordings into visuals. I’m recording images and
sampling/manipulating/changing the recordings and layering them whilst
creating new structures. When I did this piece, I was thinking of
music. I really approached it as if I were making a sound piece – even
if it was silent. I was working with the proportions of the shapes in
the image, structuring them proportionally as you do when composing
notes; creating intervals which are basically just notes structured in
certain proportions. I’m making harmonies, structuring the rhythm of
the movement and creating colour combinations. But there’s another
level, too; usually when I am working, there’s a personal approach and
a formal approach. So you can often enter my work from different
perspectives. In this instance, the personal connection to the visuals
that I started creating really resembles an experience of migraine
where I lose my sight. I gradually go completely blind and, as I lose
my normal sight, I start to see these colourful organic shapes. A lot
of people experience this and it’s called an aura. Each individual
experiences it differently but, in my case, it’s like these flashes of
lights and colours and shapes that sort of take over my field of vision.
LP Like looking through a prism?
DM Yeah. Exactly. But it’s never the same shape; the shape of the image or the hallucination changes each time.
LP Could you please try and explain to me how, technically, you compose the visuals?
Like with DeCore (aurae), it starts with recordings of plants and
flowers. Then I take this material and I manipulate the images with
filters and effects to create new organic shapes. And then I do it
again, and again, and again. This is often how I work. It goes through
many different stages of change until I achieve the final shapes. I
actually created, like, two hundred new visual flowers that I then used
as a base to create new shapes by layering them into new combinations.
In DeCore (aurae), you can see the visual flowers as both really big
and really small. I manipulated the video so many times, layering it,
that I was able create the final structure from a sort of patchwork of
So you create this composition as you would a piece of music and then
there’s a personal level that refers to a health condition that you
have: the migraines. The formal element that you mentioned is the rules
or the rhythm that you’re incorporating into the repetitions, so to
So there’s a structure of forms and colours, of movement and rhythm.
There are different things and ideas behind it. One is that I formalise
the structure of the visuals in the way I would compose sound on a
timeline. For example, the structure of elements moving in a repetitive
motion is the same that I might use when constructing a sequence of
musical themes or melodies in a musical composition. Another is that,
with the continual rapid movement, my idea was to represent the idea of
‘energy’, something that’s never still, constantly moving and changing.
Also, the movement is reminiscent of the way I experience the visuals
in the migraine hallucinations, the shapes flashing and moving.
LP Yes, but the rhythm is also in the repetition of the gesture that you copy over and over again?
DM Totally. And that’s actually sort of a recurring theme for me, this repetition of patterns.
So when you’re fascinated by something that looks like a kaleidoscope,
does that refer to your migraines or does that fascination stem from
DeCore (aurae) comes from these kinds of hallucinations or what you’d
call it. That sort of led me on to exploring geometry and sacred
geometry that goes even further, to these alchemist graphs where you
have forms or shapes which, when puzzled together, all fit into
different combinations. Sacred geometry led me to explore alchemist
graphs, which go into a sort of mystical space. The graphs are used as
symbols for hidden knowledge in the occult or mystical groups and my
fascination with hallucinations comes from the shapes I see, these
fractured shapes which are somehow everywhere in nature. This
fascination led me on to exploring fractals and from there on to
(rosen), which is the silver piece, I’m really exploring sacred
geometry and the main visual motif is actually created from an
alchemist graph. This is the first piece that I created from something
else that is not conceived within my own self, but from an image that I
found. I’ve actually been collecting images of alchemist graphs for a
long time. I didn’t really want to, you know, understand them or try to
find a meaning in them, but I still wanted to access them and make them
my own. I wanted to absorb the images and then create my own output
from those images – and in that way try to understand them. Not by
reading exactly what it was supposed to mean, but by assimilating it
into my own work. My own process of working with this material.
LP And in what way does Curlicue (spectra) relate to DeCore (aurae) and DeCore (rosen)?
They all connect. They all sort of paddle along some road that I’m
exploring. In DeCore (aurae), I’m working with these images of plants
which exist in the real world. In both DeCore (rosen) and in the
Curlicue (spectra), I’m working with an idea of artificial material,
material that doesn’t exist in the real world. While in DeCore (aurae),
the base material is images of plants, the base material in DeCore
(venus) are pearls. In DeCore (rosen) and Curlicue (spectra), the base
material is created in a 3D software where I created 3D circular shapes
that I used as the material for new constructed shapes used in a more
traditional animation technique developed by myself. So the source
material is computer-generated, one might call it a non-existing
material, but the way I work with it is by using an animation
technique. As in the other works, the images and shapes are created
through multiple processes.
(spectra) is a reference to the migraine hallucinations. This is, so
far, my closest attempt at portraying these hallucinations. They are so
colourful, almost like bright neon lights. Like if you compare it to
the resolution in a video, it’s like 1000K. The resolution is so fine
that it’s utterly impossible to portray. Last time I had one I was
thinking, “Okay, I’m going to grab a pen and paper and I’m going to
draw it.” But when I was actually about to do it, I looked at my pencil
and it was like I was drawing with a crayon compared to what I was
seeing. It was just impossible to try to capture the colours and the
speed of it – as it moves very quickly – it’s almost neurological. It’s
very colourful, the whole colour spectrum. There’s also a meditative
element to Curlicue (spectra), both in the image and visually. The
spiral grows continuously but still contains its shape. There’s
movement but still nothing changes. It’s slightly similar to Minerva in
terms of dealing with ideas of time and space.
I think we
all have an internal visual world that it would be fascinating to shape
out in materials, so that we could see each other’s inner visions,
which is what I’m really fascinated with. I actually very rarely talk
about these hallucinations, because it’s so personal and somehow it’s
easier to talk about the formal aspect.
I would like to ask you about the women in your films. They look like
archetypes in Hollywood productions and you’ve chosen to work with a
certain kind of female figure in your films. Could you tell me more
about the kind of woman or kind of female figure that appears in your
films? For instance, what fascinates you with the crying woman in
That’s a very direct Hollywood reference. In Madeleine, I was re- ally,
as a performer, taking on the role of the actress. The idea comes from
a split desire within myself – as with everybody – to be desired. Women
have been portrayed in certain ways in the media and we have an idea of
what it is to be desirable. And this stereotype of the desirable woman
is something I both want to embody, but it’s also a stereotype that I
despise and want to reject. And I despise this desire in myself. As a
performer, I’m confronted with this issue and I’m often dealing with my
own desire of wanting to be presented in a certain way.
Madeleine the character is quite ironic, I think. She is glitzed up
with the lights, this Hollywood lighting, and make-up, and this pink
glittering dress, and then she’s crying. It’s almost like a fetishist
kind of crying. It’s almost like she’s enjoying it.
LP Fetishist crying, you call it?
Yeah, you know. It’s so over-sentimental that, to me, it’s totally
ironic. It’s a character that we know, especially in old Hollywood
films – the helpless woman that needs to be rescued.
in the film Notorious by Hitchcock, Ingrid Berg- man starts out as this
strong rebellious female character hunted by the secret service, and
then at the end of the movie, she’s giving away all her power and needs
to be saved by the male hero. This is the scene where she’s the most
beautiful and one experiences the ending as romantic, it’s like the
perfect movie ending. It’s quite disturbing to me that we’re so used to
these female characters.
LP Does that relate to the female person in Lucy, too?
Lucy is a bit different, actually. But they’re still connected, because
in there I’m portraying an opera singer. In Madeleine, I’m taking
on the role as an actress and, in Lucy, I’m taking on the role as opera
singer. In both, there’s this very embarrassing desire that I want to
be the actress, and that I want to be the opera singer. It’s really
role-play, and it almost goes back to this sort of playing, you know,
when you were a kid taking on all these roles. Well, I was just sort of
role-playing in my studio, and I just thought, “Okay, I’m not an opera
singer. But I want to be an opera singer, so I’m going to make it
happen. I’m going to create the space for myself. I’m going to create
this world. Nobody else is going to hire me as an opera singer.”
LP But what’s this fascination with opera singers about?
I’m really fascinated with tragic heroines and Maria Callas,
especially. She’s such an extremely tragic figure. I’m fascinated with
these really strong females, like Maria Callas and Jacqueline du Pré,
the cellist. I can’t really say why, but I’m just sort of fascinated.
Actually, I love Maria Callas so there’s a basic desire in me; I want
to put myself in the shoes of Maria Callas and, at the same time as I
did that piece, I was really exploring the voice as a phenomenon.
And now it
goes into film theory; in the cinema, the voice is often used as a
character. Especially when it’s a voice that doesn’t have a body, like
a narrator, or you hear a voice, but you never see the person. This
sort of voice almost becomes supernatural. It has the same qualities as
a being that is otherworldly, because it doesn’t have a body. It comes
from a writer called Michel Chion. He’s one of my favourite writers. He
has a name for this bodyless voice. He calls it the acousmêtre. It’s
French and doesn’t translate.
LP What does it mean?
The word comes from acousmatic and it actually goes way back to
Pythagoras, who used to teach his pupils behind a curtain. So his
pupils weren’t allowed to speak, and he used to stand behind the
curtain and teach, so that they wouldn’t see him. They could only hear
his voice. So it refers to this ancient way of teaching. The followers
of Pythagoras were called acousmatics and this bodyless voice is called
the acousmêtre. I was really exploring the voice and, at the same time,
I created a musical composition. I was working with the voice as a
material and as this ‘semi’ being’. When I was developing the piece, I
really had to find this voice. The way I’m singing in Lucy is not my
usual voice. It was, like, a voice that I had to find or create within
myself. I had to look for it and I found this voice within my body, an
entity that wasn’t really mine. I’m focusing on the voice as a
material; so when I recorded the voice, I did it in close to try and
find the grain – the physicality. The physicality is sort of the
structure. And then the way that I composed the piece in terms of
chords, the way I layered the voices together, I was really trying to
create a feeling of light. I don’t know if it makes sense? When I was
composing it, the chords and the sonic affect, that I was trying to
portray, was light. It’s mastered in surround sound. It’s the
experience of a voice floating in space. It’s the voice, it’s like this
bodyless entity that moves around the speakers and, as a viewer in
space, you’ll feel the voice flying around you.
The story of
the opera is really about this character that has a voice, a voice that
seems to be always escaping from the character – or possibly
embodying the character. And we can only see the character when the
voice, the sound source, is actually coming from the image. It can feel
as if you can only see the character when the voice is where the body
is, and then it escapes. It’s the drama about this character trying
to embody and hold on to this voice. But it’s all disappearing in
Now we’ve been talking a lot about sound and the underestimation of
sound in visuals, but you have a film in the exhibition that is
soundless, Minerva. Could you please tell me a bit about it and why
it’s without sound?
I think that silence is as important as sound. I also use silence as a
device. I never put sound to an image ‘just because’. Or an image to
sound ‘just because’. There always has to be a reason. So if there
wasn’t like a purpose for it, then I would rather have it silent – or
the other way around.
LP So why is it silent with the owl in Minerva?
First of all, I don’t think that sound adds anything to it. But the
thing about Minerva is that there’s this owl that’s sort of continually
flying, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s in this sort of dark space.
Or not even space. It’s out of time and out of space. There’s no sound.
It’s this other dimension which is outside of out of time and out of
space. Minerva is really about time and space. Or the absence of time
and space. The way I approached Minerva, actually, is how I would
LP How is that?
Often when you draw, it comes straight as an idea and you draw it down.
The drawing is a bit more spontaneous. I think it took me 2-3 months to
create Minerva, working day and night, which is like the fastest piece
I’ve ever done. Timewise, if you compare, like, a drawing with a
painting, to me, Minerva is like a drawing, even though it took, like,
2-3 months. Like a quick sketch.
Variations at BERG Contemporary
Dr. Valentino Catricalà
From painting to moving image, from sound to painting, from cinema to
sound, and from past to present—these are the traditions on which
Stephen Herbert’s definition of “time- based visual media” is based. We
find these transitions in precinematic media such as the
phenakistoscope or the zoetrope: early examples of animated images,
often mixed with sound, creating a loop and formal structure. This
time-based visual media also belongs to the tradition of avant-garde
artists such as Walter Ruttmann or Hans Richter, exemplified in their
sound moving paintings that form a loop and an ongoing formal
arrangement. The avant-garde tradition then continues with the
emergence of structural filmmakers such as Michael Snow, Hollis
Frampton, and Tony Conrad, who utilize a fixed camera and the
aforementioned repeated loop structure. Dodda Maggý re-exemplifies this
tradition, using it as a key for understanding the role of image and
sound in today’s contemporary art.
Dodda Maggý is an Icelandic artist and
composer who employs the methodologies of musical composition and
filmmaking within her unique work that is strongly influenced by a
cross-disciplinary approach. It is difficult to affix her work within
one field or artistic genre. It can best be described as lingering on
the verge of cinema, sound art, video art, and music composition,
belonging in between them all.
In addition to her visual arts
background, she has studied music and cinema. She carries a strong
passion for narrative cinema and experimental documentary filmmaking
into her artworks that bear strong references to both disciplines.
Dodda Maggý’s work emerges from the observation of the relationship
between an internal and an external image. The artist analyzes the
development of internal images that are born from personal dreams and
imagination, putting those experiences forth as the fundamental basis
of the work. Dreams, fantasies, and memories become the core subject
matter of an audiovisual composition that gives the audience the
possibility of becoming part of new perceptual experiences.
Exploiting the potential of digital
technology, Dodda Maggý divides the image into different elements, each
encompassing a specific structure. As within a soundscape, the motion
of each element creates a self-organized organism. This is a structure
we would find in a cultural context, such as music, as well as in
nature, such as the growth of a human being’s mental images or the
developmental processes of plants. It is therefore safe to state that
the connection between cultural and natural processes is important in
Dodda Maggý’s work. The artist’s work develops a new way of
understanding mental and physical evolutionary phenomena through a
visual music narration.
The notion of narrative is important for
understanding Dodda Maggý’s work. If we look at the videos in this
exhibition we don’t see a conventional cinema-like example of narration
or a linear story, but an unorthodox unveiling of an evolving process,
a playful constellation of creative elements. The formalistic narrative
work that bears striking methodological evidence of musical and
cinematic influences is evident in Étude Op. 88, No. 1, one of the
three main pieces in the exhibition. The work is composed of 88 opal
stones, each stone representing a note of a piano, creating a direct
correlation between the image and the sound of the stones. The work
encompasses seven prints materializing possible harmonic combinations.
The structure of Étude is based on a concept of “visual music” that
harks back to the 1910s and ‘20s, inspired by the John Whitney method
of composing, creating musical compositions with visual imagery.
Dodda Maggý’s formalistic approach to
image and sound is evident in her work entitled C Series, this time
using video as a tool to compose music. The series relates to Étude in
that it examines a single instrument, in this instance the flute,
choosing fifteen notes from the instruments range that correspond to
fifteen circular images that are animated into fifteen video loops,
where each form represents a note and the forms create a complex visual
layout. The sound is made to stand independently, with the video
removed. This is the foundation for further musical composition within
the piece, starting through the process of structured visuals, sourced
from the carefully chosen initial fifteen notes. When the musical
composition was complete she created a new video animation, titled Coil
(C series). It is made from the same source material as the 15 animated
forms, but presented in a new structure that is intended as a visual
focus point accompanying the sound. It was later also detached from the
audio as the working process progressed. The videos are therefore
evidence of an artistic process—not a direct visualization of the sound
heard in real time, but simply a material suggestion of what sounds
might look like. Each note is presented in a wide range of tuning,
interacting with one another in endless ways, each revealing the many
temporal layers of the artwork’s creation. Dodda Maggý focuses on the
relationship between mental and actual phenomena. Transforming mental
images into audiovisual ones, the work of the artist produces the
perceptual experience of the audience. In that way, the exhibition
space becomes an organism in which the audience faces new cognitive
Such is the case in DeCore, a series
started in 2008 that reflects on mental phenomena such as hallucination
and synaesthesia, as well as concrete objects. The artist creates new
organic forms by recording flowering plants, applying recording and the
methods of sound design to video. The flowers are detached from the
background and resampled. The concrete objects in this case are the
flowering plants: phenomena in motion. The work is an ongoing organism
composed of many different little elements (or frames). Every single
frame is in constant motion creating a fractal structure.
The exhibition is therefore composed of
three main pieces, not conceived separately and, just as in Dodda
Maggý’s artworks, the exhibition combines different self-contained
elements. All together these elements create a complex organism that
can be perceived from different points of view. The three pieces are
designed to allow the audience to move freely in the exhibition space,
to navigate within a myriad of cognitive possibilities, without any
obligation to follow a fixed trajectory.
Variations by Dodda Maggý at BERG Contemporary
Dodda Maggý’s exhibition Variations is on view at BERG Contemporary
from August 18th to October 21st. The artist was recently awarded the
ARoS – Aarhus Art Museum’s Young Talent Award. Using sound and music as
departure points, the artist further compounds their intertwining by
using rhythm and narrative to engage the senses. Her animated
symmetrical compositions explore the experimental possibilities of
translating sound into visual form with a technical mastery of the
formalities of harmonics and how these form the basic formations of the
universe. With a dynamic interplay between the parts and the whole in
the image, the patterns appear as though in perpetual evolution, like a
kaleidoscope. In an in-depth interview, the artist explains her complex
working methods as we walked amongst her work.
Erin: Can you tell me about this piece (DeCore (etude))?
So this is an ongoing series called DeCore that started in 2008. When
it started as a video I was working with methods of applying field
recordings and sounds to video. I basically went around with my video
camera and filmed flowering plants and trees and then started to
manipulate that material to create new organic forms. The first
version, which was called DeCore (aurae), took me three years to figure
out the right form. I was thinking a lot about visual music as well as
synesthesia, the state of having your senses crossed that causes people
to see music or experience forms as colors. I was applying these
methods and sounds to video and also thinking about how to represent
music. DeCore was then installed as a large silent installation,
followed by another version, and now I’m showing two of the newest
versions here, DeCore (etude), and DeCore (loom). It’s the same source
material of trees and flowering plants, actually.
I’m continuing to resample in this
exhibition. However, I’m not re-sampling the works themselves but going
back into the source material and making new manipulations- almost a
remix of the original recordings. With this piece, I actually wanted to
take the source material and create print stills. It’s another thing to
really create the image rather than take a still, so I created the
video in order to take the still image.
There is a lot of crossing of mediums in the show. I wanted to create a
technique in order to create prints as this is my first show exhibiting
prints. Usually, I’m only working with video, music, and sounds so I
had to create a technique that I could relate to in order to create
still images. When you’re used to working with time-based art, which is
always moving, you have to recalibrate how to translate this movement
into a still image.
Erin: It’s going from 3D to 2D, so of course, it’s a huge recalibration.
You have to think about it differently. So this is like the DeCore
series but evolved. I’m still thinking about music here and I think
music is still the understory of everything I do. I start with music
before visual arts.
Erin: You studied both right visual art and composition, right?
I studied both. Before I went to university I felt like I had to make a
decision between going further into music or visual art and I chose
visual art because I felt there was space for both. Later, I finished
studies in composition as well. I think as a visual artist, I really
connected with video and this time-based medium because I understand it
as it relates to music.
It’s as though your process of making videos is an image of harmonics
itself, so your work is both in the medium and the resulting image.
That’s my aim, but we can debate whether it comes forth. In this piece
with these small sorts of flowers, each flower is made out of many
recordings of flowers, so there are many details combined. In just one
little flower there are multiple processes happening at once. I like
the size of it because you can see the details.
You’re making your own language, it seems, by working with each note in
itself and making them work together to become its own vocabulary. What
programs are you using?
I use a lot of programs of all kinds and am mixing all of them. It’s my
own method of layering that I developed with many variations.
The last exhibition here at BERG was of Steina and Woody Vasulka, the
video art pioneers. They were some of the first to make tools that
would manipulate audio into visual and vice versa.
There is definitely this link. Steina actually was also trained as a
violinist first. Having a background in music seems to be the case with
a lot of video artists, especially in Iceland.
Erin: Narrative and rhythm seem to be two intertwining themes in the exhibition, each carrying the other forward.
That is definitely the case with the videos, especially this one that
I’m making to create prints from. I’m making the videos with this
musical application and thinking about proportions. Just like with
different chord combinations and sounds that make major and minor
chords, we also have these proportions visually which create tension or
harmony in the image so there is also geometry involved. I’m applying a
set of movements to this, as well as colors obviously. This is much
more monotone, I would say, but maybe baroque monotone. The first
DeCore had each frame changing and was more chaotic but this is more
still. It holds the shape but it still changes in color. This looks a
lot like rhythms, almost like beats.
I was reading another an early article about your work about how your
work engages the viewer visually but the rhythm engages your body, so
it somehow traps you between these two states of being when you’re
watching it. Perhaps this was more the DeCore installation when the
viewer could be part of the projection and be very physical, but I
think it still has a very mesmerizing effect on both body and mind.
I’m very interested in these sensorial effects. My earlier work was
more portraying these different states while now I’m more interested in
creating this effect for the viewer. I know I can never estimate how
the effect will be on the viewer, but I can stimulate some senses,
Erin: Where does the name DeCore come from?
DeCore comes from something on the verge of being decorative, which is
a total taboo. When I starting working on DeCore in 2008, to do
something decorative or visually appealing was almost like porn. So I’m
playing with crossing that line and questioning if it being visually
appealing makes it less interesting. I’m playing with these aesthetics
about how the proportions and harmonies bring affects. It’s also on a
fine line to do something flowery so there is also a play on that.
There is so much information in each frame, really, so I’m just pumping
Erin: Isn’t it like that with music? Why is music allowed to be harmonious but not visual art?
It goes in circles. After the Second World War, Romantic music was just
not allowed. So, really serious, atonal music came into fashion because
this Romantic music was connected to nationalism and it was totally
out. It really just goes in circles depending on what is accepted at
the time, beautiful music or atonal music. I think there’s been a shift
in the last ten years, although it’s almost hard to say this out loud.
I feel a shift from a focus on very theoretical to a slightly more
Romantic, or more spiritual aesthetic. I think the themes I have been
flirting with are actually being more accepted whereas before they were
a little bit ‘outsider’.
Erin: I think it is definitely a noticeable shift.
I don’t know if it is a trend, but it is definitely more accepted. Even
before, to talk about energy, was a bit out there. It wasn’t really
what my teachers were going for when I was in school, either. I can’t
generalize it but I can definitely feel a shift in the atmosphere of
what is going on and what is accepted.
Erin: The new age needs a new age, it seems. Is all of the work in the exhibition a variation of DeCore?
No, there are three variations. We have three main pieces: DeCore, C
Series, and Étude. Moving from DeCore to C Series, I am really
continuing to investigate this relationship between the visual and the
aural. I was interested in making a technique of composing using video
and music but here I am much more in composition mode. I’m studying the
flute as an instrument. I picked fifteen notes to work with and
composed them in this one composition that is part of the exhibition, a
nearly 18-minute long piece.
I made these video forms, a circular
form with different proportions, for each of the 15 musical notes.
Then, I connected each note to this form and I created a video
animation with the music corresponding to what is happening in the
video. With each composition, I pair a note to a form, which creates
the musical composition. Later, I decided to remove the video and
compose on the base of sound. I have one video from this process, but
I’m only going to show the notes. When I was making the composition, I
made another video from the same source material which became Coil, a
part of C Series.
C Series is the focal point for the
composition and so the accompaniment for the music, but then in the
working process, I realized I didn’t need it. I’m just showing the
music, like a work in progress, that shows how I composed this piece.
If we go into the purely musical side of it, it appears as though I’m
working in music. However, I’m not that interested in just composing.
I’m interested in detuning.
We have this modern way of tuning
instruments at 440 hertz. All instruments are tuned after that, but
there is an older tuning at 432 hertz. When we tune after that the
harmonics are a little more balanced. There are a lot of different
theories about why we changed it, mostly conspiracy theories, but no
one is really sure. So the tuning today is a little bit harder. You can
see in visuals of chords how the frequencies make different forms.
I was thinking about how interesting
this conflict is and wanted to start to detune my notes. I’m working
from the range of 440 down to 432 up to 448 hertz so my instrument is
mistuned. What happens when you have these fine misattunements is you
get these frequencies that meet and give off all these vibrations,
overtones, and new frequencies that erupt. Even if it is fifty notes,
and three octaves, they are all in a different tuning and when they
meet they create this friction. I also took the notes I created and
manipulated into each of these movable forms. I changed the speed of
the vibration, so it was shaped by how quickly the note reverberated.
As you can see, I’m really going into
the material and treating musical notes as material. Each note is
carefully created and then manipulated. Afterwards, I layer them and
compose them together. You can hear this piece on the record and you
can also see these two projections in these two projections on the
wall. They are still part of the piece and part of them will be in the
daylight, so they kind of disappear into the light in a mystical way.
Erin: Can you explain this visual (the animated projection in C Series) a bit and how it correlates to your vertical investigations?
So the music is a vertical investigation and that’s the translation
from lyrical film where I’ve been working in video with this vertical
investigation with video that I’ve been applying to music as well. This
piece is the one I made after the composition was finished and is
actually a result from starting DeCore and investigating proportions,
going into geometry, and alchemist’s graphs. This is actually created
from an alchemist’s graph and shows an Egyptian energy key. I don’t
make my work after other images, though, I have three works where I’m
working with alchemists’ graphs. Usually, I never use outside material
but I was just interested in these geometric images that have this
visual energy to them. There is some message being told and I’m not
exactly interested in finding out what it is supposed to tell me but
I’m interested in the energy of them. That is why I wanted to
assimilate it into my own process.
The name of it even, ‘alchemist’s graph’, sounds like a parallel
investigation to the work you’re doing. What an alchemist does is tries
to transmute gold out of these chemical elements.
But it’s all symbolic in the end. When they’re talking about gold
they’re actually trying to find spiritual gold. It’s spiritual, not
material. Alchemist’s search for gold was sacred knowledge.
Erin: Even that transition between material and spiritual knowledge and matter is like a parallel investigation to what you’re doing.
Especially in this one because I’m working with the base material in C
Series which is actually these 3D computer generated spheres. I
basically took snapshots of 3d images and took them through a very 2d
way of working, almost to this old school level of animation. So I’m
working with this artificial form to create this alchemist’s key. To
me, it feels like energy plugged into this loop. It also reminds me of
the music symbol where you have an F key or G key and you ascribe a key
to your composition.
I’m also breaking a lot of musicology
rules here by playing with terminology and using it inaccurately on
purpose. The tradition is such a long one and can be quite fixed, so it
is perhaps good to playfully skew it a little. I also did this with
Études by really playing with the terminology. We’ll be releasing a
record on the opening, a limited edition vinyl of 30 editions that will
also be on Spotify. I’ve been working with music for such a long time
and it has been such a nice experience, materializing these prints, so
releasing the prints and materials and music as materials is quite
Erin: You’re working in such an immaterial realm, so I can imagine it is exciting to have such a material outcome in an exhibition.
It’s a new development in my work for sure. Here are the different
forms of the notes for C Series, screened as just a small projection in
the exhibition. I find the musical compositions much more interesting
than the visuals actually. The original animation I made doesn’t add
anything to the composition so when I’m working with video and music
together there always has to be a purpose. If there is no reason I
usually take it out as I would rather have silent videos or stand alone
sound pieces. You can see this is just how a material note might
materialize. I’m just opening up ideas of what music might be. This
almost could be presented as a sound piece as I’m working with sound
ideas even though it is silent.
This is a similar shape to the Mandelbrot set, a fractal named after
the mathematician. Anytime you zoom in or out into one specific part
you come out eventually into the same shape for infinity.
You can find it in nature and in the cosmos. The environment is just
the basic building block of everything around this fractal
relationship. Even in these snapshots of planets of stars, it’s always
fractals. Even the path Venus moves around the sun is a fractal. It
makes one wonder how everything is connected to these forms.
You can look at your work very formally. You don’t have to go there,
but it’s laid out for you if you want to, however you can also just
recognize the mathematical and musical harmony in the formalities.
If people are interested in certain subject matters they pick it up or
they don’t. There are different perspectives of looking at my work-
very formal, very sensorial, and sometimes working with more mystical
ideas. I’m always questioning and never offering answers.
Erin: You’re still very technical in your mystical notions, which is a beautiful combination.
The last part of the exhibition is called Étude for which the basic
building blocks are these Opal forms. There are different
investigations into visual music which started in the 1910s and 20s by
visual artists trying to find ways of composing music visually. It’s
hard to define as a genre because it crosses all these styles between
animation and structural film, but the umbrella term is ‘visual music’
which began in Europe and was developed later in California. One
experimental filmmaker, in particular, was intriguing for me, John
Whitney. He regarded himself as a composer but his instrument was the
camera. He spent his career trying to develop ways of translating
visuals into music. So I was quite inspired by his technique and wanted
to experiment with his technique to apply it to my own experimentation.
So I’m not duplicating but I am interested in how he structures
entities together in a visual. I think there is definitely a visual
reference to his work in Étude. Étude pays a little bit of an homage to
him in the name Étude, which is usually a musical composition that a
skilled composer creates for his student to practice. I’m using it as
an exercise for practicing visual music.
I want to make a visual music piece in
this tradition and so I regard this as my practice piece in visual
music with a certain methodology. I’m also making a wordplay between
the use of “Opus” in music which stands for the “work number” and is
written as Op. In Étude, Op. stands for the number of opal stones, so
the first piece is actually 88 Op. I’m also examining the piano in
particular by working with 88 stones which represent the 88 notes of
In the Étude series of prints, you can
see the full 88 notes, as well as compositions with 22, 33, 44, 55, 66,
and 77. So I’m making up these rules, imagining how to materialize
chords into a visual. I created these seven structures that are in the
composition and I these as my elements in the installation. So this is
a very formal piece but the idea actually came from a dream. In the
dream, somebody took me up to the cosmos into black space and showed me
opals growing in the darkness. I was being told that they have energy
and frequency. So I was quite intrigued by these stones mined from the
earth that have a measurable frequency. So even if it was a dream, it
is still quite formal, personal, yet very formal. I was also interested
in working with the relationship between the visual and the
sonic/aural/musical in this piece and exploring perceptual experiences
involved in translating internal experiences into the external to
represent different states of consciousness.
This cultural critic named Gene Youngblood wrote a book in the 70’s
called Expanded Cinema about how all of these expansive techniques in
film have been parallel with the expansion of consciousness.
Compared to where video was in 2000, you had to have a video camera and
know how to use it, but today it’s totally part of our daily life. It’s
so interesting how video is the same material as our memory, like our
current state of consciousness.
SOUND AND VISION - DON’T YOU WONDER SOMETIMES?
Anette Lindbøg Karlsen
Som det sidste led i udstillingsrækken ARoS FOCUS // NEW NORDIC
slog ARoS i september dørene op for en udstilling med den islandske
kunstner Dodda Maggý. Magasinet Kunst har talt med hende om
drømmeuniverser, bevægelsesidéer og om følelsen af, at der bag
overfladen gemmer sig andet og mere end dét, som øjet umiddelbart kan
se, og øret kan høre.
”Skal vi tage interviewet på dansk eller engelsk”? er mit første
spørgsmål til Dodda Maggý. Jeg ved ikke meget om hende, udover at hun
er født og opvokset i Island og er uddannet fra Kunstakademiet i
København. ”Lad os tage det på engelsk”, svarer hun og tilføjer, at hun
på dansk er bedre til det skrevne ord end det talte.
Det er da heller ikke talte eller skrevne ord, der præger Maggýs
kunstneriske arbejde. Hun beskæftiger sig nemlig med audiovisuelle
værker og installationer i et felt mellem kunst og musik. Stillestående
såvel som bevægelige billeder med og uden lyd, drømmende og sanselige
billedsprog, visuelle virkemidler og kompositoriske processer er
centrale omdrejningspunkter i Maggýs værker, hvilke bl.a. kan ses på
hendes hjemmeside og videotjenesten Vimeo – og i øjeblikket i ARoS’
Når billede og lyd smelter sammen
Tilbage i 2016 blev Maggý inviteret til at deltage i ARoS FOCUS // NEW
NORDIC sammen med otte andre yngre kunstnere fra norden. Maggý var med
det samme begejstret for udstillingskonceptet og den danske interesse.
”Udgangspunktet for udstillingen har været at præsentere de mange
facetter i mit arbejde. Derfor afspejler de udstillede værker på
forskellig vis min praksis, der beror på at undersøge det sprog, der
knytter sig til billeder og musik,” fortæller Maggý og uddyber: ”Mine
performative værker belyser ofte forskellige mentale og psykologiske
tilstande eller erfaringer, der f.eks. knytter sig til minder og
drømme. Dem forsøger jeg at give en form, således de kan blive oplevet
som levende billeder. I det formelle arbejde interesserer jeg mig for
at skabe sansemæssige oplevelser, bl.a. ved at udforske de strukturer
og fortællende kvaliteter, der knytter sig til video og lyd – ofte i en
kombination eller sammenstilling.”
Beskueren for øje
I værket ”There, there” ses et udsnit af et landskab, der fastholdes
som et statisk billede. Nøgne træer med spinkle grene indrammer et
bagvedliggende bjerg, der sløres af en røg, der over de 4:30 min., som
videoen varer, skiftevis tiltager og aftager i styrke. Ligeledes gør
lyset i billedet – snart er det stærkt, dramatisk og farvestrålende,
snart svagt og dystert. Billedet ledsages af lyde, der som fare- eller
advarselssignaler skaber en fornemmelse af, at der foregår noget under
overfladen. Hvad holdes skjult? Forløsningen udebliver og som i mange
andre værker af Maggý står man tilbage med en følelse af, at det
handler om andet og mere end dét, vi umiddelbart kan se eller høre.
Derfor bliver man nødt til at sætte sig selv i spil.
”Jeg stiller spørgsmål uden at have svar. Derfor er beskueren vigtig
for mig. Man kan sige, at mine værker afhænger af ham; hvad han føler
og relaterer til, og hvordan han ønsker at ’være i’ værket,” siger
Maggý og påpeger, at hendes mål med sin kunst er skabe en oplevelse.
Beriget af oplevelser bliver man da også i mødet med Maggýs værker, der
ikke kun beror på mystificering eller suspense, men som også påkalder
sig beskuerens ubetingede opmærksomhed og tilstedeværelse i særegene
universer, som man ikke kan undgå at blive fanget ind i – fysisk såvel
Et indre liv i mange farver
Et af udstillingens iøjnefaldende værker er installationen ”DeCore
(aurae)”, som består af en projicering af funklende psykedeliske
farver, der spredes som kalejdoskopiske formationer i et mørkt rum,
hvor beskueren enten kan stå stille eller bevæge sig frit rundt.
”Værket handler om mine egne oplevelser af migræneanfald, hvor jeg går
rundt i blinde. Her oplever jeg neurologiske forstyrrelser, og jeg ser
kun blinkende farver og former,” forklarer Maggý. ”Værket er således et
eksempel på, hvordan jeg søger at materialisere indre, immaterielle
oplevelser i mit arbejde.”
Om værkets tilblivelse fortæller Maggý, at hun har filmet blomstrende
planter og samplet billederne. Derefter har hun fjernet blomsterne fra
baggrunden, reorganiseret dem og skabt nye organiske former ved brug af
spejleffekter. Denne omdannelse er blevet gentaget igen og igen og på
den måde tager de levende ”blomsterbilleder” nu form som en art
”Værket er en struktureret form for visuel sammensætning, der er
redigeret på samme måde, som var det en sang, hvor man tager hensyn til
timing og flow,” siger Maggý og uddyber: ”Med værket ønskede jeg at
skabe en energi, hvor hver ramme var i konstant bevægelse – hvor
billeder skifter hvert sekund. Selvom der ingen lyd er, er den ikke på
ingen måde fraværende, idet den tager musikalsk form af farve,
bevægelse og rytme. På den måde kan man sige, at værket handler om at
gøre lyd visuel og at få en synæstesi mellem lys, farver og lyd til at
Når lyd bliver visuel
Lignende tanker kommer også til udtryk i værket ”Lucy”, hvor en ung
kvinde står i et mørkt rum iført en kort pailletkjole. Vi ser hende kun
glimtvis, men hendes stemme er konstant i en ren og klar toneklang.
Efter ca. halvandet minut støder flere stemmer til, høje som dybe. Men
stemmernes ejermænd er fraværende – den unge kvinde er helt alene.
Gradvis akkumulerer stemmerne, og efter fire minutter slutter de i en
Hvad man som beskuer måske ikke lægger mærke til ved første øjekast er,
at lydens styrke og intensitet er bestemmende for, hvordan billedet
lyser op og toner ud i det mørklagte udstillingsrum.
Maggý fortæller, at med ”Lucy” har hun arbejdet med tanken om, at stemmen er egenrådig og bruger blot kroppen som et instrument.
Kendetegnende for ”Lucy” såvel udstillingens andre værker er, at de
beror på en gennemarbejdet billed- og lydside, et filmisk eller
teatralsk formsprog samt at de indgyder umiddelbare sanseligt
øjeblikke, hvormed Maggý understreger, at hendes arbejde beror på en
fænomenologisk tilgang til sin omverden – altså til en tanke om, at
vores oplevelse i kraft af sansemæssige erfaringer.
Kunsten at udvide ørerne og øjnene
Maggýs værker er tidsbaserede og bygger altid på idéer om bevægelse. Og
så har de en stærk reference til musik, der på mange måder er det
centrale virkemiddel i hendes praksis.
”Fordi jeg er en kunstner, som har en musikalsk baggrund, er det
naturligt for mig at bruge musikken til at få mine idéer til at komme
til udtryk. På den måde har jeg skabt mit eget kunstneriske sprog”
siger Maggý og fortsætter: ”Nogle ville måske kalde det, jeg laver for
musik eller lydkunst. Nogle gange synes jeg selv, at det klart
defineret, andre gange falder det imellem begreber.”
Det er tydeligt, at det for Maggý ikke handler om faste begreber eller
principper. Det handler mere om at kredse om, at betone lydens
strukturelle lag og lade dens former og potentialer som materiale og
betydningsskaber komme til udtryk.
”Som komponist har jeg altid været fascineret af at udforske lyde og
åbne op for idéer om, hvad musik kan være, hvorfor den kan få os til at
blive følelsesmæssigt overvældet og give os fornemmelser af at være i
en anden tid eller på et andet sted end vi faktisk er,” siger Maggý og
forklarer, at hun er interesseret i at materialisere lyd ved at
udforske, hvordan den bliver til og kan fremtræde foruden udforske,
hvordan musik kan blive oversat til samme visuelle kvaliteter, som
bevægelige billeder har.
”Man kan sige, at jeg gerne vil udvide ørerne og øjnene lidt” siger hun og smiler.
I sit arbejde bruger Maggý forskellige metoder og teknikker.
Processerne er vigtige, fordi det er hér, at lyde eller billeder
arrangeres, transformeres og manipuleres inden et værk kan nå sin
”Det hele starter med en idé eller følelse, som kan være visuel eller
auditiv. Den forsøger jeg så at materialisere ved at gøre den til en
struktur eller form, der opstår eller udvikler sig i selve processen.
På den måde kan jeg nogle gange føle mig som en videnskabsmand eller en
opfinder i laboratoriet,” siger Maggý og forklarer, at hun hele tiden
udvider sine arbejdsmetoder for bedre at kunne skabe, hvad hun kalder
for sine ”lyriske universer”, som er meget personlige. Blandt andet
arbejder hun med en animationsteknik, som hun selv har udviklet, og som
kun hun kan bruge.
”Mine videoer er ret ’håndlavede’, selvom jeg arbejder ved en computer.
Mange tror fejlagtigt, at videoerne er computergenererede. Det er
faktisk animationer, der tager måneder at lave.”
Det er også en af grundene til, at Maggý foretrækker at arbejde i sit
studie. Hendes arbejdsprocesser strækker sig over lang tid, og det er
ikke usædvanligt, at nogle værker tager op til et år at lave – måske
endda længere. Derfor arbejder hun også med flere værker på samme tid.
Det giver en god variation, samtidig med, at det også kan berige
processerne. Det er et langsommeligt arbejde, men altid spændende, da
det også bringer overraskelser: ”Når man arbejder længe med et værk,
hvor man er fokuseret på de mindste detaljer, fjerner man ofte fokus
fra helheden. Derfor kan man også pludselig opleve eller se en effekt i
sit arbejde, som man ikke havde forudset. På den måde er det en rejse –
fra idé til det endelige værk.”
Til mit spørgsmål om, hvordan det er at arbejde med digitale eller
elektroniske medier som grundlag for sin praksis, svarer Maggý: ”Vi
lever i en verden, hvor medier spiller en stor rolle i vores daglige
liv. Vi overbelastes med billeder og lyde, og vi kan alle skabe videoer
og musik, f.eks. via apps i telefoner og computere. Men for mig handler
det om, hvad man ønsker at sige med disse medier, og hvordan man som
kunstner skaber noget meningsfuldt og engagerende.”
”For mig handler om at være nytænkende
og om at tænke over, hvordan man præsenterer noget visuelt for
beskueren, som er andet og mere end blot mere information. Dét, jeg
gerne vil er at skabe et rum – en pause fra omverdenen – hvor vi kan
opleve og reflektere på egen hånd.”
Dodda Maggý er født i 1981. Hun har
uddannet sig inden for musik og kunst og har studeret på The Iceland
Academy of the Arts og Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi. Siden midten
af 00’erne har Maggý været aktiv på den internationale lyd- og
kunstscene og har med sine værker bidraget til udstillinger, events,
messer og festivaller. I dag bor og arbejder hun i Reykjavik.
I marts 2015 slog ARoS dørene op for en
ny udstillingsrække ved navn ARoS FOCUS//NEW NORDIC. Fokus blev rettet
mod den nordiske samtidskunst og havde som udgangspunkt at vise en
række yngre nordiske kunstnere med meget forskelligartede produktioner.
Dodda Maggý er den niende og sidste kunstner i udstillingsrækken. Hun
modtager i den forbindelse legatet Young Talent, som gives med støtte
fra Det Obelske Familiefond.
|20 March 2013|
Interview in the HuffPost Arts
& Culture with Tanya Toft co-curator of Nordic Outbreak
'Nordic Outbreak': Curator Tanya Toft On How Nordic Art Extends Far
What do you
know about Nordic art? If your knowledge begins and ends with Bjork we
suggest checking out "Nordic Outbreak," an
exhibition illuminating the
Northern region's influences and aesthetics. The Streaming Museum
exhibition features over 30 moving image works from Nordic artists that
will be projected on screens in public spaces
throughout New York City - including a "Midnight Moment" with Bjork in
Times Square. Many of the works on display that
were selected by co-curators Nina Colosi and Tanya Toft respond to
the clashing identities in our new digital age. We reached out to Toft
to learn more.
HP: The press
release for the show mentions the stereotypical Nordic aesthetic as
"minimal, melancholic and naturalist"... something this exhibition aims to change.
Which artists were influential in casting Nordic art this way?
artist like Olafur
Eliasson is a contemporary Nordic artist whose work with light, space,
fog and sensitive play with colors of nature’s elements, reveal an aura of something Nordic. It conveys certain
that reveal symptoms of romanticism and a seeking after the sublime
rather than the beautiful. There is a
melancholic feel to that meeting between
man and nature, which we also find in the works of Jesper Just for
example, who is in the Nordic Outbreak program
with his work “Llano” (2012). In
selecting the works for Nordic Outbreak, we were also interested in renegotiations of nature and landscape, which artists like
Dodda Maggy, QNQ/AUJIK, Jette Ellgaard and Magnus Sigurdarson enact.
HP: Do you
think there is a more accurate driving aesthetic of Nordic culture
today? If so, what is it?
don’t think there
is one driving aesthetic, but the artworks in Nordic Oubreak show
symptoms of improvisation and play, which is somewhat “new” in a Nordic art context that might have been characterized
control and high quality. Some of the artworks express aesthetic
cultures that were not “born” out of a Nordic
context. There is a struggle between
introspection and extroversion – following a right wing and
nationalist political period in some of Nordic
countries up through the 2000s, financial crisis, and in
response to the digital age. There seems to be a clash between looking
in and looking out, guarding and departing. In
quite a few of these works,
existential questions are brought beyond the invidividual and psyche –
which has been a tendency, perhaps – and
pointed toward one’s role in a greater
context. It is also characteristic that these artists express and
awareness of the medium they are working with,
and in many of the works the audience is
addressed as individual viewers whose optics are shaped in a
contemporary world. That we find in the works
by for example Marit Følstad, Mogens Jacobsen, and Iselin Linstad
HP: What was
one of the greatest challenges of putting the exhibition together?
like: What does it mean to take ‘the digital’ as a curatorial premise - and wrapping your head and decisions around that. I don’t think there is one model. We wanted to instigate
logic to the
exhibition that would open up for questions concerning materiality,
originality, network, and questions relating to
the role of moving image in an urban context.
Also, working around the partnerships we established along the way has
been an interesting challenge - conceptually
and practically. We lost some
venues in New York that were ruined by Hurricane Sandy, which was
challenging but which eventually let to
exciting partnerships that we had not anticipated, for example with
Dumbo Improvement District and the
Manhattan Bridge Archway.
HP: What is
the age range of the 30 artists represented?
specifically looking for a selection of younger artists?
was not a
parameter. In fact, quite a few of the artists are quite well
established. We were looking for artists that experiment with moving
image, as a medium and thematic frame of
expression. This is why the
collection includes very ambitious animation works as well as classic,
documentary-style video works. The show is not
just about “new” aesthetics - it is very
much about the issues put forward as societal critiques, as voices of
“the happiest people” that are rarely expressed
in an international context.
HP: For those
of us who are huge Bjork fans, which artist do you think is following
in her footsteps?
think there is a
tendency of artists to become accepted for their multimedia talents, of
which Bjork is a pioneering example. We selected her for the Midnight Moment in Times Square because she is a
visual artist who completely brakes with the barriers of art,
technology, music and digital structure, which
she demonstrated with her Biophilia
album. There is no “next Bjork”. But there is a generation of young
artists who cross over music and media art
(e.g. Oh Land and Lucy Love, to name a
few from the Danish music scene), not just by hiring good stage
designers but by expressing their music
visually as well. That is really interesting - a new kid in the school
of fine art, I am sure.
|The Music of Vision
ARTnord Magazine no. 11
Paris, May 2012
By Rune Søchting
and music are the departure points in the work of Icelandic artist
Dodda Maggý (b. 1981). Besides creating installations, she veers
towards video as the medium for her work. A recurrent theme in her
works is the gaze and the act of seeing. The theme is brought to
presence by a staging of characters who are almost always named. Female
names entitle many of her works. The works often establish a charged
interplay between the gaze of the character and the audience, where the
character is the object under the gaze of the audience. It is also the
case in the video DE-CORE (Aurae), where vision is the central motif,
albeit in a more abstract way.
The silent video-projection DE-CORE is an animation of symmetric
compositions that unfold to reveal an extraordinarily complex living
and organic structure composed of constantly changing small mobile
elements. From a purely stylistic point of view, we are reminded of the
“visual music” tradition originating in experimental films and
animation. However, as we will see, it is more a case of a
mise-en-scene of the “music of vision.”
The concept of a visual music figures frequently in the history of art.
The idea of a “visible” music usually takes the form of a sound-image
that visually reflects features that we associate with sound or music.
Take the symmetrical patterns of grains of sand from Chladni’s
experiments, Klee’s movement schemas or Kandinsky’s experiments with
sound-color relations. The introduction, in the twentieth century, of
different image-producing technologies, such as color-organs and color
projections, created new possibilities for the concept of a sound-image
as a dynamic phenomenon. A moving sound-image can be found in the films
of many artists such as James and John Whitney, Mary Ellen Bute, Len
Lye and above all Oskar Fischinger (who has also experimented with
optic sounds, the transformation of graphic forms into sound). Under
the idea of a visual music an extraordinary series of works were
developed involving animation of light and colors in relation to music.
With the arrival of the digital image, new experimental possibilities
in translating sound forms into visual forms occurred, leading to the
presence of color “visualizers” in multimedia players, among
The animation presented in DE-CORE shares common features with these
historical examples of visual music. Although music as an audible
element is absent, the animated, dynamic forms presented in the work,
invite a “musical” reading of the visual pattern with its prominent
pulse and rhythm. The pattern’s various concentric circles give a
graphic impression of harmonic and structural relations.
Nonetheless, the work’s main emphasis is on the visual, with its
established dynamic interplay between parts and the whole as a key
element. The emerging animated pattern appears as an ever-changing
complex graphical perpetual mobile. The image’s global composition is
organized around a fixed center with multiple, crossing lines of
reflection, much like a kaleidoscope, but with more dynamic. The
overall pattern emerges and is changed by the movement and change in
the individual small elements. The movement of these multiple particles
attracts one’s attention and makes it difficult to focus on the
macro-level of the image. At the same time, numerous reflections
prevent one from maintaining attention on specific details. Attention
is once again drawn towards the global form. Visual attention
fluctuates between these levels without finding a state of rest or
resolution. There is something undeniably baroque in this fractal
principle of pattern formation.
The visual particle-elements in the pattern are all extracted from
hundreds of video recordings of flowers. Each of them were individually
processed, isolated and transformed through a special mirroring
process. The resulting, more or less abstract forms were then reflected
again and animated in order to create the elementary level of the
image, in which the original flower images tend to disappear.
Dodda Maggý acknowledges the parallel that exists between the minute
animation work with video recordings and her musical work with sound
recordings. In this approach one finds an echo of the idea of a music
composed from recorded sounds, as conceived by the French composer and
radio technician Pierre Schaeffer in the 1950s -1960s. Schaeffer
imagined a new music that could, in principle, contain all types of
sounds, not limited to the timbre of instruments in a traditional
orchestra. As an analogy, it is tempting to think of DE-CORE as a kind
of concrete visual music. Like the recording of sounds in concrete
music, the recognizable flower-images in the video-recordings is
transformed. What remains is a video material that is detached from
In DE-CORE, the question of the status of the “musical” is submitted to
yet another alteration, as suggested by the parenthesis (Aurae) in the
title. Aurae refers to a pathological state that appears just before a
migraine attack, in which flickering perturbs vision. This reference
opens for a possible interpretation of the visual pattern as a visible
music, which at the same time disturbs our vision of reality. Following
this line of thought, the visual music presented in DE-CORE is not
something that appears when one sees the world in a certain way⎯which
according to Schaeffer was a condition for the perception of the
concrete music in everyday sounds⎯but something that comes from an
interior vision. In this case, what is “musical” would be something
inherent to sight. The work thus moves the idea of the music of reality
to the eye itself, and makes it part of the logic of vision. Thus it is
no longer the music of the visual that is thematized in the work, but
rather a music specific to vision. Thus DE-CORE suggests a possible
difference between music of the visible and music of vision.
Rune Søchting, an artist, works on his doctoral thesis at the Royal Academy of Arts in Denmark.
From 2007 to 2009, he was the coordinator of the study program Nordic Sound Art.
Visuellt om och med ljud
Review on Horizonic in Ystads Art Museum
Sweden, 28 September 2012
By Carolina Söderholm
”Horizonic – unfolding space through sound art”.
missförstått konstprojekt sparkades han från lärartjänsten på Århus
konservatorium, dömdes för stöld och fick passet konfiskerat. Men den
färöiske kompositören Goodiepal lät sig inte begränsas av det.
Istället cyklade han från Köpenhamn till Moskva och sprider numera sin
radikala datormusik via nätet och föreläsningar, som gränsar till
Nu står hans hembyggda liggcykel, i vilken han vanligen arbetar, sover
och genererar ström till sin dator med, parkerad på Ystads konstmuseum.
Fast jag saknar möjligheten att lyssna på hans musik. Istället
presenterar han sitt arbete och liv som kulturell hacker med
anarkistiska skriftrullar och personliga ägodelar.
Om Goodiepals bidrag är det mest galna och roliga, rymmer
vandringsutställningen ”Horizonic” en rad verk tillkomna under rätt
extrema förhållanden. Temat är smalt, men fungerar genom sin tydliga
profilering: konst som på olika sätt förhåller sig till ljud samt till
det nordligaste Norden. Alla tio konstnärer har någon anknytning till
Färöarna, Svalbard, Nordnorge, Island eller Grönland.
Så blir också naturen, med sin stränga kyla, istäckta vidder och kärva
förutsättningar, en utgångspunkt för flertalet konstnärer. Grönländska
Jessie Kleemann och Iben Mondrup iscensätter en schamanistisk
performance i vattenbrynet där rytm och kropp, nutid och urtid smälter
Avsevärt mer intressant, med oroande politisk kraft, är svenska Åsa
Stjernas bidrag. I samarbete med forskare vid Internationella
Meteorologiska institutet vid Stockholms universitet har hon skapat ett
ljudverk som i realtid baserar sig på mätningar av hur Nordpolens is
smälter. En klirrande, gnistrande, dovt pulserande upplevelse av den
globala uppvärmningens konsekvenser.
Allt på utställningen är nu inte natur – eller ljud – vilket bidrar
till helhetens styrka. Ljudkonst, som lagom till hundraårsjubileet av
pionjären John Cages födelse uppmärksammas med satsningar i både
Stockholm och Köpenhamn, kan annars ibland bli en rätt torftig visuell
Men här agerar bland andra isländska Dodda Maggý motvikt, med sin
ljudlösa, psykedeliska videoprojektion baserad på kalejdoskopiska
speglingar av blomsternärbilder. Genom mönstrets växlingar,
transformationer och glimrande explosioner förmedlar hon känslan av att
se ljud, istället för att höra det. Ett av de mer spännande verken på
”Horizonic”, som lyckas ganska bra med konststycket att vara en visuell
utställning – med och om ljud.
Ystads konstmuseum i samarbete med tidskriften ARTnord, t o m 21.10.
Andinn í lampanum|
Review on Lucy in Reykjavik Art Museum
Reykjavik, 7. February 2010
Listasafn Reykjavíkur kynnir unga listamenn í D-sal Hafnarhússins; að
þessu sinni sýnir þar Dodda Maggý. Um er að ræða innsetninguna Lucy sem
byggist á hljóði og myndbandi. Með
tæknina að vopni skapar listamaðurinn skilyrði fyrir óvenjulega
skynræna upplifun sýningargesta. Fyrst er skynjunin rugluð eða
„afstillt“ með því að leiða gesti inn í myrkvað rými þar sem ómar
angurvær söngur. Hljóðið ferðast um salinn og er þannig skerpt á
skilningarvitunum, ekki síst heyrninni þegar „áhorfandinn“ reynir að
átta sig á aðstæðum. Og áhorfið fær sinn skammt; athyglin beinist
fljótlega að skjámynd sem í tilviki undirritaðrar virkaði í fyrstu sem
afstrakt litaflæmi, og stemningin fljótandi, óhlutbundin og andleg. Þá
tekur á skjánum að glitta í konu í skrautlegum búningi, sem leiðir
hugann að sirkus eða skemmtanaiðnaði af einhverju tagi. Fyrir utan að
vera blekking á tjaldi, býr þessi kona yfir talsverðum annarleika;
látbragð hennar er tregafullt og hún sést aðeins að hluta sem flöktandi
ímynd í myrkrinu, dálítið eins og logi sem leitast við að draga í sig
súrefni – en hér er það hljóðið, söngurinn, sem glæðir ásýnd
verunnar. Við rétt ákall birtist hún eins og andinn í ævintýrinu
um Aladdín. Dodda Maggý líkir hér á vissan hátt eftir bíóreynslunni,
sem fæst í dimmum sýningarsölum kvikmyndahúsa. Hún einangrar þó
„bíógestinn“, magnar og kemur óvanalegri hreyfingu á hljóðið, einfaldar
og dempar myndina. Ólíkt því sem gjarnan gerist í bíó – að áhorfandinn
gleymi sér í sjónarspilinu – virkjar eða lýsir Lucy smám saman
líkamlega skynjun og tilfinningu fyrir rýmislegri stöðu sýningargesta
sem umluktir eru ljósgeislum og ósýnilegum hljóðbylgjum. Hér er á
ferðinni fallega unnin sýning sem kveikir ýmsar hugleiðingar um samspil
skynjunar og tækni, efnis og anda.
Lucy í D sal
Listasafn Reykjavíkur, Hafnarhús
15. janúar - 21. febrúar 2010
Sýningarstjóri: Yean Fee Quay
From the Catalog for the Graduation Exhibition from the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts
Copenhagen, 1 May - 20 June 2009
The experience of fainting, waking up and realizing that one has been
in a parallel state has influenced Dodda Maggý’s artistic practice. As
a child she often fainted, and it became an occurrence to be caught
between different states of consciousness. The unbound connection
between the physical residence of the body and the mental universe of
the psyche has created an interest for the increased receptiveness and
emotional experiences of the situation.
To be confronted with an out-of-body experience paradoxically reminds
one that one is actually present in a sensing body. Dodda Maggý’s work
emphasizes this element and her works primarily materialize in video
and sound. Both the audio and visual components are lyrical and simple
structures, which compose a non-verbal emotional language. In her
videos she herself plays the female performer, who draped in colorful
costumes enacts dreamy and seductive scenes, enacted in imaginary
spaces outside time and space. Female figures with names such as Lucy,
Iris and Stella connote an element of inexplicable mystery like
characters from a David Lynch film.
Dodda Maggý’s works materialize trance-like states, and she works with
passing on and opening the experience to her audience. Via her
performative act she tempts the viewer to surrender to the same state.
The performer’s seductive gaze looks directly out of the video at the
viewer in the room. There is a hypnotic relation: To return the gaze is
simultaneously to try to see oneself see. The intimacy created by being
locked into the gaze of the artist is overwhelming, even though the
situation is staged and strongly theatrical. A tune is played and
created a sense of progression in the otherwise anti-developmental
narrative in the video and suggestive state of daydreaming. The
premise, to reach this female figure trapped in this displaced state of
reality, to lose control and look within.
Oplevelsen af at besvime, vågne op bagefter og indse man har været i en
paralleltilstand, har sat sit præg på Dodda Maggýs kunstneriske virke.
Som barn besvimede hun tit og det blev til en begivenhed at være fanget
mellem forskellige bevidsthedstilstande. Den løsrevne forbindelse
mellem kroppens fysiske forankring og sindets mentale univers har skabt
en interesse for situationens skærpede sanselighed og følelsesmæssige
At konfronteres med en ud-af-kroppen oplevelse gør paradoksalt nok
samtidig én opmærksom på, at man faktisk befinder sig i en sansende
krop. Dodda Maggý arbejder med at fremhæve dette element, og hendes
værker udfolder sig primært performativt i video og lyd. Både de
auditive og visuelle komponenter er lyriske og simple strukturer som
udgør kompositioner over et nonverbalt følelsesmæssigt sprog. I sine
videoværker spiller hun selv den kvindelige performer, der iført
farverige kostymer udfolder drømmende og forførende seancer, udspillet
i imaginære rum udenfor tid og sted. Kvindefigurerne med navne som
Lucy, Iris og Stella emmer af uforklarlig mystik som karakterer fra en
David Lynch film.
Dodda Maggýs værker materialiserer trancelignende stadier, og hun
arbejder med at videregive og åbne oplevelsen for sit publikum. Via sin
performative optræden frister hun beskueren til at overgive sig til
samme tilstand. Performerens fængslende blik kigger direkte ud af
videoen på beskueren i rummet. Det er en hypnotiserende relation: At
gengælde dét blik er samtidig et forsøg på at se sig selv se.
Intimiteten ved at blive låst fast i kunstnerens blik er overvældende,
selvom situationen er iscenesat og stærkt teatralsk. En melodi spiller
og skaber forløb i den ellers udviklingstomme fortælling i videoen og
den suggestive tilstand af dagdrømmeri. Præmissen for at nå denne
kvindeskikkelse, der befinder sig i en forskudt realitet, er at slippe
kontrollen og kigge indad.
Jeg ser dig, og jeg ser mig
Downtown Magazine 04 Vol. 2
Ida Marie Fich
Der er de mennesker, der taler til én med det samme. I hele deres
væsen, deres blik, ja, ned til den måde de går og taler på, fanges man
ind af dem. En virkning, der minder om den, kunst kan have på én. Sådan
var det at møde den 27-årige islandske kunstner Dodda Maggý. Hun er
lige så eventyrlig som sit navn, kan snart kalde sig færdiguddannet
kunstner og er dermed aktuel på udstillingen EXIT på Kunstforeningen
Gl. Strand. I mere end 250 år har Det Kongelige Kunstakademis
Billedkunstskoler dannet rammen for udviklingen af nyt kunstnerisk
talent, og hvert år udklækkes unge kunstnere med dugfriske versioner og
udtryk indenfor video-, billed- og installationskunst. Det markerer
Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand med den årligt tilbagevendende og
fremadskuende udstilling EXIT, som i år præsenterer 16 afgangselevers
vidt forskellige værker. En af dem hedder Dodda Maggý, og hun er i fuld
gang med at lægge sidste hånd på sit bidrag til udstillingen, da
Downtown lukkes ind i hendes poetiske univers af blide toner og
Toner og glimt
Charlottenborgs imponerende renæssancemure skærmer for Kongens Nytorvs
trafik- og menneskemylder. Her har Akademiet, som det i folkemunde er
kendt som, haft til huse siden 1753. Mangen en kunstnerspire har
betrådt den brostensbelagte gård, som nu også en lille kvinde i
lyserøde strømpebukser skrår smilende over. Doddas mørke hår blæser let
i forårsvinden, som i dag er utilregnelig nok til, at jeg inviteres op
ad de tunge trapper og ind i hendes lydstudie. Det er her hun
sammensætter de melodier, der tit akkompagnerer hendes små videoværker,
som hun næsten altid selv optræder i. Med en baggrund i klassisk musik
og som (snart afgående) studerende ved masteruddannelsen Nordic Sound
Art har det altid faldet hende naturligt at arbejde med lyd- ,video- og
performanceformer. Hendes pande får en lille tænksom fold, da jeg
spørger ind til hendes kunst: ”Mine værker er meget poetiske,”
fortæller hun på sit knasende islandskklingende engelsk. ”Det er svært
at beskrive, hvad de består af, fordi de ofte handler om at udtrykke en
følelse eller stemning non-verbalt, noget som man ikke ville behøve at
i-tale-sætte, fordi man forstår det rent intuitivt eller kropsligt. Jeg
er meget interesseret i det her følelsesmæssige sprog. Jeg tror, det er
knyttet til den måde, jeg fungerer på som kunstner. Det er nemmere for
mig at udtrykke mig gennem musik og billeder end ord.”
Musikken, Dodda komponerer i det lille, mørke lydstudie, er for det
meste klassisk klavermusik i flere lag tilsat kor, og den udvikles
sideløbende med den visuelle del. ”På mange måder arbejder jeg som en
maler i min måde at have kontrol over billedet på,” siger Dodda om sin
arbejdsproces. De første ideer får hun altid som ”glimt, der popper op
i hovedet ”, og er altså af visuel art, men herfra følges de og
musikken ad i en improvisations- og redigeringsproces. Musik og billede
er altså ligeværdige og ikke adskilte dele, der komplimenterer eller
bevidst står i kontrast til hinanden for at opbygge en særlig
Den stemning eller følelse, Dodda gerne vil have frem i sine videoer,
bliver typisk repræsenteret af en karakter eller stemme i en bestemt
situation. Det er den æstetiske og poetiske værdi af det situative, der
optager Dodda på flere planer. Hendes videoer fungerer som meditationer
over små øjeblikke som fx i hendes Iris (2006), hvor den enkle handling
at hoppe i en sofa og lade sig falde ned på en madras bliver undersøgt
fra alle leder og kanter. Man ser den hoppende Dodda fra neden og med
ansigtet i front og følger til sidst faldet i et loop, der gentages
flere gange. Det er dermed ikke deciderede historier, der udfoldes hos
Dodda. Karaktererne skal snarere forstås som billeder på identitet og
bevidsthed, forklarer hun: ”Jeg vil ikke kalde mine værker narrative,
men lyriske med en foreslået historie. Jeg er fascineret af den måde,
hvorpå mennesket oplever, hvem de er og af, hvad det vil sige at
eksistere. Mine karakterer har ikke en fast forståelse af sig selv,
forståelsen flyder tit ind og ud mellem en imaginær og reel
forestilling om identitet. Men selvet har stadig en base et sted, det
er situeret i kroppen. Og den fysiske handling, situationen i
videoerne, bliver et billede på det mentale rum, jeg gerne vil skabe
Som led i sin interesse for sammensætningen af identitet beskæftiger
Dodda sig også med, hvordan vi iagttager hinanden og os selv, og
hvordan vi eksisterer i kraft af at blive iagttaget. Gennemgående
for videoerne er tilstedeværelsen af det, Dodda kalder gaze: blikket.
Det kan give sig til kende i videoerne ved, at der bevidst leges med
roller, identitet og performance og altså med en bevidsthed omkring det
at blive iagttaget. I videoen Stella (2004) fx afslører to maskeklædte
piger på skift, at de ligner hinanden til forveksling. Det er da guf
for eksistentialister – ikke mindst når begge roller spilles af Dodda.
Selvet og kroppen bliver fremstillet som foranderlige og flygtige
størrelser, hvilket også er gældende for hendes nyeste værk, som vil
være at opleve på EXIT på Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand.
Now you see me…
Udover at markere akademielevernes afgang er EXIT særlig som
udstilling, fordi den ikke er ensrettet i sit udtryk. Den består af 16
vidt forskellige værker, der peger i alle mulige kunstneriske retninger
og bliver sat op på kryds og tværs. Dodda lægger vægt på, at den
version af hendes afgangsværk, som jeg får lov at se, er en ufærdig
skitse og fortæller, at den i forhold til hendes andre værker er meget
skrabet og minimalistisk i sin udformning. Den består ganske enkelt af
ét gentaget loop uden progression: Man ser Dodda i hvidt tøj mod en
hvid baggrund. Når hun tager hænderne op for øjnene, forsvinder hun
foran tilskuerens øjne og viser sig igen, når hænderne lidt efter tages
til side. Som videoens arbejdstitel, I’m not here, antyder, er det også
her den menneskelige som kunstneriske eksistens og spændet mellem
illusion og virkelighed, der reflekteres over. Denne gang især ved at
bringe kameraet i spil:
”Jeg udforsker konfrontationen med kameraet og det rum, der skabes
mellem kameraet, mig selv og tilskueren,” fortæller Dodda. ”På videoen
er jeg meget bevidst om mig selv som billede og om mit publikum på den
anden side af kameraet. Når jeg kigger ind i kameraet, kigger jeg
tilskueren i øjnene, hvorved blikket og selvbevidstheden bliver
iscenesat. Videoen handler om, hvordan man som menneske kan opleve sig
selv i forskellige bevidsthedsniveauer. Alle kender fx til følelsen af
at forsvinde ind i sig selv, og det leger videoen med.”
I stedet for at frygte at blive overset mellem de andre værker på
udstillingen har Dodda tænkt dens form ind i sit værk. Det er hendes
hensigt, at hendes video skal projekteres op på en hvid væg blandt de
andre udstillede værker, så museumsgæsterne ikke nødvendigvis opdager
den med det samme, men kan blive overraskede, når den pludselig dukker
op på væggen.
Åben og på egne ben
Samtidig med EXIT-projektet arbejder Dodda på afslutningen af sit
studie på Nordic Sound Art-linjen, et samarbejde mellem
kunstakademierne i Trondheim, Malmö, Oslo og København, som har fokus
på udviklingen af lydkunst. Afgangsprojekterne herfra kan opleves på
udstillingen Soundings på Museum for Samtidskunst i Roskilde kun to
uger før EXIT åbner, så blodet pumper hurtigt rundt i de islandske årer
disse dage. Hvilket dog ikke kan mærkes på det rolige gemyt, der ikke
et øjeblik panikker over fremtiden som finanskriseramt kunstner. ”Lige
nu er det bare crazy busy,” smiler Dodda. ”Jeg er i kapløb med tiden.
Men jeg er glad for at være færdig, jeg føler mig fyldt, klar og
tilfreds med det, jeg har præsteret under min uddannelse og synes, jeg
har fået rigtig meget ud af den. Og jeg glæder mig til at få ro på til
at arbejde mere selvstændigt. Jeg er ikke nervøs for at stå på egne
ben” Selvom det at være kunstner ikke er en beskyttet titel, ville
Dodda ikke være for uden sin uddannelse. Hun mener det er vigtigt at
engagere sig, være kritisk overfor og udvikle sig med sin kunst, hvis
man vil være en del af en verden, der kan være krævende både personligt
og professionelt. Og det kan en uddannelse hjælpe til. ”Men det er jo
hårdt,” fortæller hun. ”Det kræver en stor del selvransagelse, og man
går igennem en masse følelser, når man får kritik. Men jeg tror den
proces er vigtig, og jeg ville anbefale folk at gøre det. Det er
vigtigt at være kritisk og udadvendt og interesseret i at vide, hvad
der foregår i kunstverdenen, hvis det er det man vil vel at mærke. Der
er jo nogen, der laver kunst kun for dem selv. Men hvis man ønsker at
være en del af samtidskunsten, bliver man nødt til at have øjnene åbne
og vise man vil det.” Om kunst produceres med et politisk, æstetisk
eller personligt øjemed går Dodda ikke så højt op i. Men at kunst
må være ærlig og ikke lukke sig om sig selv for at nå ud til verden, og
at kunst er en væsentlig del af samfundet, har hun bestemt en mening
om. På EXIT vil man med sikkerhed kunne opleve den alsidighed og
åbenhed overfor kunst, som Dodda står for. ”Ligesom musik kan kunst
give mennesker meget og gøre livet rigere. Nogle kunstnere ønsker måske
at bruge deres kunst politisk, og det synes jeg er vigtigt. Politisk
kunst kan være en stemme, som ellers ikke ville blive hørt. Men jeg
mener ikke, man kan tvinge alle til at være politiske, det bliver det
ikke nødvendigvis interessant af. Kunstnere må finde ind til, hvad
deres stærke side er. Kun når man arbejder med sig selv, og det man
tror på og er, kommer der noget godt ud af det. Hvis det er ærligt kan
andre mennesker mærke det stærkere.”
Dodda Maggý, født 1981 i Keflavik, Island. Har gået på musikskoler til
hun var 19 år og siden studeret ved Kunstakademiet i Reykjavik og
København. De sidste to år af sin overbygning har hun desuden fulgt det
tværkulturelle og -faglige studie Nordic Sound Art, som er et
samarbejde mellem kunstakademierne i København, Malmö, Oslo og
Trondheim, der har fokus på udviklingen af lydkunst. Hendes
afgangsværker kan opleves på Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand og Museet for
Samtidskunst i maj.
Tid & sted 16.05-05.06, ti-sø samt helligdage kl. 11–17, on-to kl. 11-20
Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand, Gammel Strand 48 Kbh. K
Pris 0-55 kr.
Info www.glstrand.dk, tlf. 33360260
Tag hovedet under armen og fold
Soundings – Nordisk Lydkunst på Museet for Samtidskunst
Helle Bach Rungøe
13. May 2009
"bizzzzzzzz" , "bizzzzzzzz" (stilhed). Jeg kigger mig rundt. Lokalet er
tomt, bortset fra et papkrus med sugerør, der står
efterladt i vindueskarmen. Jeg nærmer mig afventende - ikke en
lyd høres. Jeg lægger forsigtigt øret til kruset,
og det giver et sæt i mig, da der pludselig lyder et kraftigt
"bizzzzzzzzz". Spyflugen i papkruset er ikke en drengestreg efterladt
på en rasteplads et sted på den tyske autobahn, men et
kunstværk af den unge finske kunstner Nestori Syrjälä,
på udstillingen Soundings - nordisk lydkunst.
Det er blot ét
bud af mange på udstillingen, der kredser om lyd som kunstnerisk
materiale og betydningsskaber. Soundings viser ni unge kunstneres
afgangsprojekter fra den nye lydkunstuddannelse Nordic Sound Art, der
er et samarbejde mellem kunstakademier i Danmark, Norge og Sverige.
Afgangsudstillinger lider desværre ofte af svingende kvalitet, og
denne er ingen undtagelse.
Fluen er, som man kan
læse i museets kunstneroversigt, en leg med det hverdagsagtige,
en udfordring af publikums traditionelle forventninger til hvad et
kunstværk er, og ikke mindst en fokusering på en undseelig,
irriterende, hverdagsagtig lyd, der normalt ikke fordrer den store
koncentration. Men det er også letkøbt konceptkunst, der
har sin primære berettigelse, som et humoristisk pauseindslag.
Til gengæld må det fremhæves, når noget
virkelig skiller sig positivt ud. Her er islandske Dodda Maggýs
værk Lucy, det absolut mest overbevisende. Hun har fuld kontrol
over såvel billed- som lydside. Værket består af en
videoprojektion, hvor en kvinde i orangefarvet palliettøj,
kontinuerligt synger "uhhh-ahhh".
Lyden er meget dominerende og bevæger sig rundt i det
mørklagte rum, så man som publikum føler sig
omsluttet af lyden, der veksler i intensitet og styrke. Lyden opleves
så kropsligt og nærværende, at det føles som
om den antager reel form i rummet. På den måde peger
værket på en fænomenologisk tilgang til omverdenen,
hvilket betyder, at vores oplevelse af verdenen sker i kraft af en
Hvor Dodda Maggý arbejder med det teatralske, stemningsfulde og
sanselige lydrum, finder man
i modsatte ende af skalaen bl.a. et
lavmælt 4-kanals lydværk af indisk/franske Tisha Mukaji
kaldet Metronome Series #1, effektfuldt installeret i Hussarstalden.
Her er ingen forstyrrende visuelle effekter, men blot musikalske
forløb reduceret til et absolut minimum. Lyden kommer som
små bølger fra højtalere placeret forskellige
steder, og giver man værket tid, er det som lyden af en taktstok,
der slår tempo og rytme an - tap, tap...tap. Mod forventning
forplanter rytmen sig til krop og fødder, i en sådan grad
at et fransk par ved siden af mig ikke kan modstå fristelsen til
at tage et par dansetrin rundt i den gamle stald.
Lyd som omslutter eller
frastøder, som lydlandskab eller
lydskulptur - alle former og hybrider har et vigtigt ærinde i
billedkunsten. Lyd er på én gang håndgribeligt og
diffust, til stede og ikke-til-stede. Et uendeligt æstetisk
råmateriale der i et sanseligt øjeblik kan opfattes som
dén fjerde dimension, nogle russiske kunstnere (Suprematisterne)
søgte efter i starten af forrige århundrede. Nok er lyd
retningsbestemt, men omsluttes vi, bliver lyden kropslig og
allestedsnærværende, stemnings- og billedeskabende.
Soundings - nordisk
lydkunst tager fat om denne dimension, og er
på trods af forskellige udsving et interessant møde med
kunst i et udvidet felt, og der er ingen tvivl om, at den nye
uddannelse falder på et tørt sted.
Feminism Now?! - A
two-part exhibition at Babel and Galleri Blunk
Trondheim, March 5 - 11 2007
Translated by Kjetil
Myskja and Birgit Kvamme Lundheim
We define temperatures
in terms of differences and oppositions; warmth
is seen in opposition to cold. Our conception of the world around us is
to a large extent structured by oppositions or dichotomies. The
relationship between two contrasts can be described by pointing out the
presence or absence of something. We are often not conscious of the
value judgements inherent in the oppositions. Almost always, a
hierarchy will be created, where one side is assigned positive
characteristics, while the other one tends to be described through
negative or less positively charged adjectives.
Both naturally and
culturally, the Man/Woman dichotomy is a central one
in the basic structure upon which our western society is founded. Along
with post-structuralism, feminism has tried to unsettle and make us
aware of the hierarchical thinking which to a very strong degree has
permeated our ideas of the sexes. The art exhibition “Feminism
Now?!” intends to find the bearings of feminism’s present
position. What is feminism today, and where is it heading? How hot is
the topic today? Have things cooled down? How will 18 young, Nordic
artists comment on feminism in today’s situation?
“To me, feminism
is a room, in which I am allowed to bring to
light problems, systems, structures, constructions, habits and norms.
Where I can criticize them, try to remake them, change them, cancel
them.” Thus says Thea Veronica von der Maase, one of the
exhibitors. She wants to “bring to light, criticize,
cancel”; she wants to show us the disparities between the sexes,
and she wants to deconstruct our habitual perceptions. Just as the
slash in the opposition Man/Woman, her artwork is a barrier, the kind
used to enclose an area and mark divisions. However, von der
Maase’s barrier is soft and limp; it is made from felt and
wadding and lies collapsed and useless on the floor. It no longer works
the way it is supposed to, and we can easily step across it. It is far
from virile. Should we perhaps lower the slash: Man_Woman?
Male artists were
encouraged to submit works for “Feminism
Now?!” (Are there others beside me that find the term “male
artist” irritatingly unfamiliar? “Artist” is
traditionally perceived to be a male, and we still haven’t got
rid of this expectation. It is never mentioned specifically that an
artist is male. “Female artist”, however, is commonly used
to point to the fact that, “Hey, this time the artist is a
woman!” As an exception from the rule.) However, it may not be
unexpected that the great majority of the submissions come from women.
One of the relatively few male contributors is Klas Hallerstrand, who
shows a baseball bat. Masculine – yes, certainly, a bat may stand
for something virile, sporty, active, and even for something violent.
On the other side of the slash stands the feminine and passive, and the
position of a victim. But Hallerstrand has decorated the bat with silk
yarn in soft colours. Thus,he has stepped across von der Maase’s
barrier. The bat gains a new dimension; it has been repositioned from
the masculine to the feminine sphere, and thus becomes a strange and
ambivalent element in the exhibition. A similar crossover between
spheres is made in Yvonne Normanseth’s works, which consist of
embroidered graffiti. It is hard to think of a greater contrast to
embroidery than tagging and street art. The rough, quick and dangerous
against the well behaved, painstaking and safe. Trend versus tradition.
And the masculine versus the feminine. Such associations lie just below
the surface, whether we want it or not, and it is difficult for us to
rid ourselves of our accustomed thought-patterns. Such art can, if
nothing else, make us conscious of our straitjackets.
The artists Naja
Lundstrøm and Troels Lundstrøm make an
interesting and sly comment on the exhibition concept. They have both
submitted photographs of themselves. Their applications are almost
identical. Troels writes, “Hi! I am interested in seeing what my
chances are as a male artist to be included in the exhibition
“Feminism Now”... Naja wants to see what her chances to be
included are as a female artist. Their pictures are conspicuously
similar... you choose for yourself what you want to believe. We can let
this be a comment on the topical question of quotas. What if 10% of all
artworks in all exhibitions had to be made by men? In this case, the
10% male representation is safeguarded by Klas Hallerstrand and Troels
We have so far focused
on stereotypical feminine qualities like
passivity, innocence, frugality and on women’s role as bearers of
traditions. However, the Femme fatale is another version of the
feminine. She is someone over whom man has no control, and she is both
frightening and destructive (we will here disregard the fact that this
female stereotype has also been also sexualized and objectified.) We
meet her in Hanna Paulin’s video works. An outdoorswoman aims her
gun straight at us and fires. And it is not at all Cupid’s arrows
that strike us. Here, we are drawn into the work of art, and into a
dangerous world in which girls shoot – watch out all men! The
femme fatale is also extremely flirtatious. In her video, Camilla L.
Haukedal flirts with Joseph Beuys himself. Beuys is the prototype of a
mysterious, masculine artist genius – active and avant garde.
Haukedal consults him on how to become a better artist. The encounter
moves in a slightly comical direction by and by, and it is Beuys who
becomes the comic figure: he is demystified and becomes almost cute.
Simultaneously, the artist plays so heavily on her feminine charm that
she limits herself, and thus questions how imbalanced patterns are
maintained by both camps.
Is it possible to escape
prejudices and culturally determined standards
for how to relate to members of the opposite sex? One of Lise
Stålspets’ videos chooses as a point of departure the Greek
myth about Apollo and Daphne. Apollo is head over heels in love with
fair Daphne, but she does not reciprocate his love. He chases her, and
she implores the gods to save her from being caught. They grant her
prayers by transforming her into a tree. She has to pay an unreasonably
high price for being left in peace. In her video, Stålspets
allows Dapne to escape both Apollo and the passive existence of a tree.
For many it is difficult
to avoid the cultural standards of femininity
when our popular culture is permeated by feminine ideals that only a
few may live up to. Listen carefully to ridiculous lyrics and see the
vulgarly wiggling bottoms in music videos. Maria Meinild Nielsen has
focused on Britney Spears’ lyrics. She transforms the pop lyrics
to texts dealing with serious existential questions by having real,
mature girls present them as if though they were their own thoughts.
The acting in this video is impressive, and the texts have gained a
vulnerable, solemn quality that the originals never possessed.
sense of vulnerability is found in Dodda Maggy’s powerful video.
Here the vulnerability is not anything weak or “feminine”
in a negative sense, it is rather something more forceful than the most
macho action painting. Iris jumps up and down in a bed, in slow motion.
Maggy has also made the accompanying music, music that underlines the
power of this poetical video. In the middle of the video there is a
black pause, giving emphasis to what follows: Iris falls sideways into
the bed, over and over again. She is virtually thrown into it. The
overall impression is that of playfulness. Or of violence. By and by,
it becomes impossible not to think of violence. The offender is not
seen, but his or her presence can still be perceived. Iris keeps her
mouth shut. We are never told about what goes on. Too often violence
and abuse continue without being discovered by the surroundings.
As the exhibition
demonstrates, feminism is still a hot topic. And if
art related to feminism, as Dodda Maggy’s video, can have an
influence on gender- related social problems, feminism should
absolutely continue to be a hot issue. We’ll see if the
temperature will rise to boiling hot in the course of the festival
week. It’s a pleasure to record the quality of the contemporary
art presented in “Feminism Now?!” So let us overcome the
fear that women often harbour, the fear of expressing ourselves
squarely and plainly; let us remove the hesitant question mark and
shout “Feminism Now!”
2 March – 1 April
creates a series of female characters based on personal experiences,
which are then enacted in front of a video camera, accompanied by piano
music composed and played by herself, sometimes re-worked using a
simple recording technique, building layers as if sculpting. She
creates audiovisual narratives that objectify the female body without
degrading it to the status of a mere object. Digitally manipulated in
post-production the characters are eerily illuminated and set within a
void space, adding to the theatrical nature of the work. She edits the
video in the same manner as one composes music; with highs and lows and
a certain rhythm designed to create tension and heightened emotions.
This method allows the work to communicate self and body as experienced
in a context where existence is challenged or threatened.
Both video and music
have the ability to construct narrative. Maggý uses both to
attract her audience’s attention and then hold it until the end
of the piece. She deliberately stretches the limit of how far she can
take a certain emotion, sometimes to the point of being over-dramatic,
leaving the viewer unclear as to her exact intentions – is she
being serious or joking? This ambiguity gives the audience space to
draw their own conclusions as to what the work is about.
brings together two video works by the artist. Stella (2004) consists
of two projections, back to back. In the first projection, a female
character is shown walking, aware of being watched. Initially, she
appears to enjoy the attention and flirts with the viewer. However, she
gradually becomes uncomfortable with the gaze and frantically tries to
escape it. In the second
projection, two girls hop up and down in slow
motion. As they take their bunny hoods off it transpires they are
identical. They continue to jump euphorically and end up on the ground,
touching and flirting with each other.
In Margret (2005), a
small monitor shows a girl dancing in circles against a black
background. She is reminiscent of a figurine in a music box, a
ballerina on stage, or a woman dancing in a peepshow. In between
advancing and retreating, she falls down repeatedly.
evocative of melodramatic scenes from the black and white silent days
of early cinema. The process is both enchanting and slightly disturbing
to watch. One might think of it as a metaphor for the process of
experimental creation: you begin somewhere, fall and stand up again,
fall, stand up and so on.
dramas and dilemmas
of the desiring gaze emerge as a main theme of Dodda Maggy’s two
video installations in this exhibition.
Stella (2004) comes in
two parts. Part one begins with two girls bouncing up and down against
a black background on
what is probably a trampoline. Slow motion and a
Debussy-ish piano score of tumbling scales and arpeggios (specially
composed and performed by the artist) combine to suggest the
intoxicating fun they are having. However, we soon discover this is not
just the Billy Elliot-ish fun of bouncing up and down; it’s also
the joy of simply being together. They clearly find each other
irresistible. And this is confirmed by the closing scene where the two
of them are shown sitting on the ground, gazing into each other’s
So what is their
relationship? Are they lovers? Are they identical sisters? Is one of
them the doppelgänger of the other – the kind of perfect
imaginary friend that some children like to invent? Certainly, although
they wear different coloured T-shirts and leggings, in many ways they
seem uncannily alike. Before we can get any answers, however, the
second part of the
piece on the wall opposite starts up.
The lack of a sound
track in part two seems to confirm that the young woman whose face we
watch has a very different mood. Like the ‘girls’ in part
one this character is also played by the artist. However, this is not
immediately apparent. On the contrary, initially she seems happy enough
to be the object of another’s (the viewer’s) gaze as she
walks along. Her jewellery, hair and make-up suggest she is at an event
of some kind, a film premiere perhaps, and she’s confident
she’s looking good. Gradually though we realize she finds the
viewer’s attentions intrusive, even threatening and the second
part of the work ends with her in obvious distress walking faster and
faster, and finally breaking into a run,
in a desperate attempt
It might seem therefore
from this description that Stella is a pretty straightforward exercise
in fetishistic scopophilia, albeit the narrative in each part
unresolved. Indeed, the moment when terrified and tearful the young
woman tries to hide from view might be seen as distinctly Hitchcockian
in character. However, it does not come across like that. This is
mostly because of the way the two parts are projected: not in a
conventional manner but one after another, on opposite walls of the
gallery. For what this does is ensure that at a certain moment we are
obliged to turn and face in a new direction: a simple device but one
that means that we feel estranged from the narrative; we have to engage
with it in a way which is active rather than passive.
A similar Brechtian
device occurs in the other work in the exhibition, Margret (2005). Here
what prevents us from becoming immersed in the narrative is the fact
that we have to listen to the accompanying soundtrack through
headphones and have to view the image on a monitor that is just a few
centimeters across. Because it’s so tiny all we are able to make
out is a tiny white speck in the dark. However, when, rather clumsily,
the camera moves in closer it becomes clear what this is. It is a young
woman in slightly childish clothes (the infantilized woman again)
spinning round and round, playing that game beloved of small children
where you spin round until you make yourself dizzy and cannot stand up
I say ‘game’
because initially, as we watch her spin round, fall to the ground, get
up, and start spinning again that is how it seems. Indeed, for a while
it is possible to imagine a smile playing on her lips. However, as the
sequence repeats itself not just once, but two, three times, this
hardly seems appropriate. It is evident she has lost control and is
continuing more or less against her will.
But why? What drives her
on? At one level it could be the music we hear on the headphones for
the impression is that this is being played by some invisible
piano-playing authority figure. It is melodious but the way it is
repeated over and over has a relentless, domineering quality. However,
perhaps it is not so much this as we ourselves who are responsible for
her ordeal. How come? Well, there is something about the business of
viewing her ‘game’ on a tiny screen that makes one feel
like a scientist in charge of an animal experiment or a pleasure-seeker
operating an end-of-the-pier peepshow or one of those pirouetting
ballerinas in a wind-up music box that you play with as a child.
Is Margret therefore in
some way a feminist reflection on the role cinema plays in the
construction of the image of woman? Interestingly, the fact that the
woman wears starkly black and white clothes coupled with the slightly
hammy, theatrical way she throws up her hands every time she falls to
the ground and the clumsy camera movement gives the piece a decidedly
archaic, early-cinema feel. It does seem therefore as if we are being
asked to consider the way in which during its history cinema as an
apparatus has served to manage pleasure for its viewers in accordance
with the psychic formations of masculine sexuality positioning woman as
image and man as the bearer of the look, as Laura Mulvey’s famous
essay puts it. Indeed, in common with Stella, Margret might be read as
an illustration of Mulvey’s thesis that in patriarchal culture
the image of woman is “bound by the symbolic in which man can
live out his fantasies and obsession through linguistic command
imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as
bearer and not maker of meanings”.
© Dodda Maggý