Artists: Nairy Baghramian, Carlotta Bailly-Borg, Becky Beasley, Gareth Cadwallader, Nina Canell, Michael Dean, Theaster Gates, David Hammons, Marie Lund, Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Overton, Lucy Skaer, Renee So, Kerry Tribe.
Transparent Things uses Chapter 1 of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel as a script. In this brief text objects exert uncanny agency, pulling us back anecdotally and materially into their past, and catalysing radical perceptual shifts, lending itself to an exploration of contemporary sculpture. Artists have been invited to contribute works as co-readers of the text, with new works by Nairy Baghramian, Michael Dean, Marie Lund, Virginia Overton, and Renee So.
Through the prism of Nabokov, the exhibition cues contemporary philosophical interest in object agency, and the power of fiction. Included are art objects that operate through various imaginaries, relating material, social and personal histories where the past erupts into the present. Works acknowledge time, either unfolding over the span of the exhibition, or indexing its passing. Further, in response to Nabokov’s ‘transparent things’ as having the power to seduce and hold our attention, some objects appear anthropomorphised, demanding to be read as bodies in relation to our own.
Alongside being a novelist and poet, Nabokov was also an accomplished natural historian and entomologist (studying butterflies). Reproductions of a sample of his many studies of butterflies are included in the exhibition. The pattern of wings was a subject of special study and can be read as the model for his mode of fiction making, which deploys repeated motifs and images. The exhibition itself thus works through repeated forms and artworks across the building, following visual logics and shared affinities.
The figure of transparency is exploited for its particular resonance within the art field. Transparency implies legibility, but objects can withhold themselves and their histories, frustrating interpretation, or absenting themselves from the frame. Some trouble the skin or surface of artworks’ as carriers of meaning, others demarcate the limits of perception.
In reflection of the exhibition situating itself in the interstice of fiction, art and exhibition making, writers have been commissioned to respond to the text and art works. The publication includes contributions by writers Rosie Haward, Jesper List Thomsen, and Kashif Sharma-Patel.
Danish Arts Foundation
Plan B Cluj, Berlin