Why is the remote always so far away | Hans Rosenström
11 September – 24 October, 2015
Maria Stenfors Gallery, London
With his first solo exhibition at Maria Stenfors, Finnish artist Hans Rosenström outlines themes that have punctuated his practice in the past years. The exhibition presents recent works that address the notions of liminal and transitional states and study the limits of our experience of the world from a singular perspective.
The title Why the remote is always so far away clearly points at something unattainable ahead of us and at the same time paradoxically replicates the precision of a measuring tool. Nevertheless, the very question Hans Rosenström is raising lies in the position of the body itself in relation to the remote. The body stands in the centre, in the in-betweeness surrounded by unreachable far-aways. In this exhibition, the artist investigates the multiple nature and social functions of liminal spaces. Rosenström also strives to draw and mould the contours of the inside and the outside of the body as well as reveals its faculty of resonance that gives shape to its surroundings.
The House Divided: The One and The House Divided: The Other (2015) are installations initially commissioned by Pro Artibus Foundation in Finland that responded to their two exhibition spaces located in the cities of Helsinki and Ekenäs. Transposed to London, the video work The One and the sound installation The Other are at once intrinsically autonomous and complementary. They are tied by the body and the space which constantly interpenetrate and collide with each another.
In The One, Rosenström collaborated with two dancers. At the core of this work is the language. However, the body sets a system of signs defined by the dancers. The artist has assigned a series of words as score or script for the moving body to inhabit the space as well as to create individual identities. ‘How do language and rhetoric affect one another, how can they change the way we see or experience our surroundings?’ asks Rosenström. In this work, the artist argues that one is always alone in a space, entrenched in one’s interpretation and imaginary making it difficult to reach out to someone. In return, the bodies in motion seek to settle in the space in between, where the dancers challenge one another’s experience of the world. They perform the tension, rejection, indecision, dependence and desire engendered by their encounter until finding a fragile common ground or unity in the repetition of the movements.
The video displayed at Maria Stenfors is a critical element that reunites the two locations where The House Divided was initially exhibited. The photographs Together (2015) and Apart (2015) unveil the space where the voices in the work The Other still resonate as soon as the dancers exit the room. Their ghost remains though in the photograph Both (2015).
Unlike Rosenström’s usual apparatus to create individual sensorial and auditive experiences, The Other is a recording playing back through speakers a seeming dialogue in Swedish between a man and a woman. The pace, range and texture of the voices recall the artist’s research on methods of hypnosis he uses to directly affect the body of the audience. H poetically initiates the conversation with ‘It’s the shell that keeps us apart’. To which C responds ‘It’s the shell that keeps me together’. They appear to echo Gaston Bachelard’s metaphorical and phenomenological study of the shell in his seminal essay The Poetics of Space. ‘A creature that hides and “withdraws into its shell,” is preparing a “way out.” The shell is both a dwelling and a place from which to resurrect. As they resonate against any surfaces, the voices in The Other simultaneously draw the outlines of the inner body and the outer space it inhabits.
The communication is interrupted as a wall separates the speakers. C’s voice faces a wall, the stripped back of which H sees on the other side, confined inside a dark room. Yet their voices still permeate its surface in an attempt to reunite the speakers.
The visible cut out part of the same wall was turned into a backdrop, Persona (2015) that the body of the visitor confronts at the gallery entrance. Rosenström has often worked within the realm of performative arts and borrows here some of its codes. The piece of scenery acts both as a façade and the coulisse – as the Swedish translation of the word nuances – of the exhibition. It stands in between two states, the intimate and the world. It activates the space by creating an abrupt separation, in a similar way to how further away the imprint of its absence leaves a barrier between two people. The theatrical backdrop is also an invitation to the audience to enter and experience the different layers and levels of readings the gallery space has been metaphorically divided into.
The exhibition Why the remote is always so far away surprises the visitor because it addresses at once how language can define the relationship between body and space, and how in return the voice can shape the volume, the distance and dimensions of the same space.