Employing a dark, libidinal figuration, the Hamburg-based Swedish artist Ida Lennartsson (*1982) tells stories through a variety of media including sculpture, photography, and performance. Her surrealist tableaux—intermixing organic material, human hair or dove feces, found objects and fabrics—resemble stills from a masquerade, evoking intense animated sculptural bodies.
To deepen her investigation of the tension between stillness and movement, between live and dead matter, for her current project Lennartsson travelled to Japan to study the avant-garde dance theater Butoh and its slow-paced choreography that has been argued to resist fixity. Being part of a group of Butoh-trainees, the grotesque and often semi-naked physical dance cued a series of intimate observations.
Showcasing this personal ‘Kammerspiel’, or chamber play, Lennartsson creates gloomy, yet playful scenarios that in part thrive on the history of her surroundings in Yokohama’s former red light district. Caught on both photography and film, another underlying thread in this new body of work is illness. Lennartsson’s immune system responded poorly to the foreign germs of the East, which kept her isolated, indoors, and bed-ridden during parts of her stay in Japan.
The docile interiors, anemic white masks, wildly outgrown nails, endless bottles of water consumed, or used paper tissues are thus produced and registered through her feverish hallucinations. Here imagination and reality, factual feelings and faux settings, are entangled. The lonesome room becomes an extension of both body and mind: objects suddenly resemble organs or innards—as if a meteorite-like psycho-matter has been awoken—meanwhile the wet tissue looks like a flower, or the plastic hand evokes an absurd, sensual caress.
Captive in this enclosed setting, Lennartsson is expelled from the surrounding society. She is an Other, lost in translation, secluded in her underworld of delirious signs—a condition she turns into a precise collage of raw documentation and fictitious staging. Threading this thin line between self-exploitative exposure and stunningly dreamy visuals, Lennartsson suggests a somber wonderland. Here, the Mad Hatter’s remark from Alice in Wonderland seems a baseline truth: “Have I gone mad? I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
Press text by curator Rhea Dall, 2017