grids for beaux esprits
13 Jan – 25 Feb 2023
grids for beaux esprits
13 January – 25 February 2023
affect design cosmos
On Nanna Abell’s exhibition grids for beaux esprits
By Søren Andreasen
Chewing gum. Chew on it. And think about it as design. While teeth and saliva dissolve the coloured orb’s crispy shell to reveal an elastic-plastic consistency through flashes of taste, stabilising in meditative munching where the substance gradually becomes viscous, flavourless, and in time totally uninteresting, before it’s finally spat out.
It is in this movement, from colourful orb to uninteresting clot, that a chewing gum’s design unfolds. It is what takes places within the nervous system of the chewing gum chewer that is being designed. Those types of affects – the emotional qualities – delineated in a nervous system when the substance is spat out.
Nanna Abell’s new works rewind the chewing gum movement. The physical materiality of the works consists of found metal objects; containers, nets and masts that have already been bent, smashed, creased out of shape. They are after-shapes, bearing resemblance to the spat-out shape of a thoroughly chewed chewing gum. The backwards movement consists of Abell having had every single metal object sandblasted and powder-lacquered in stylizing colour, which create surfaces appearing as the still untouched shell of chewing gums.
These are highly refined surfaces, minutely balanced in texture, shade and glow – an almost perfumed sensuality clings around the metal objects and it makes your gaze zoom in on them, as close as possible, because this must be the place. It must be all the way down in the objects’ entangled drawing, their melting glow and powdered tone, that the works reach a dimension you otherwise wouldn’t associate with a deformed, useless piece of industry.
Within the field of perception psychology, this dimension is called micro valency. The term valency articulates the emotional qualities affiliated with perception, affecting whether our consciousness perceives any given sensory impact as positive or negative, attractive or repulsive. Where macro valency denotes heavily defined qualities, the fear when seeing a bloody knife for instance, micro-valency denotes the more vaguely defined qualities, ones associated with phenomena and events from everyday life. Like when you, without thinking about it, choose one teacup over another. Affective qualities about which you are usually not aware, and where associative functions are closely linked to an individual’s experience and memory. (1)
With a gaze submerged in powder-lacquered metal objects, it feels as though the micro valent dimension materialises right before your eyes; planes and structures appear fluid and soft, the eyes search in vain for a grid, for points and contrasts along which they can orient themselves, but instead they have to adapt to the movements of this drifting world – similar to observing a creek by fixing the gaze on an arbitrary place in its stream.
Soft Architecture will reverse the wrongheaded story of structural deepness. […] The work of the Soft Architecture paradoxically recompiles the metaphysics of surface, performing a horizontal research which greets shreds of fiber, pigment flakes, the bleaching of light, proofs of lint, ink, spore, liquid and pixilation, the strange, frail, leaky cloths and sketchings and gestures which we are. (2)
The cosmos evoked by Nanna Abell’s works consists of surfaces. It is a universe of after-substance arising from the relation between the surfaces of the works and the structure of the space they find themselves in. Just as Abell decodes objects by selecting and processing them into artworks, the space in which they are presented is deciphered.
In other words, the collapsed and powder lacquered surfaces of these pieces of industry has a deconstructing effect on the spatial construction surrounding them; the works are installed so that their melting, entangled after-forms are able to affect the unambiguity of spatial identity and logic. In its place an atmospheric sensation arises, one that neither emanates from the works or the space but has to do with perceiving the works in the space. It is an after-space. A synthetic echo chamber. A cosmos of affect-design.
After getting rid of a chewed and uninteresting clot of chewing gum, an aftertaste and a slightly tingly sensation remain in your jaw. A distinctive design has outlined itself in your nervous system. It feels good, and thoughts will already start, fantasizing about the next coloured orb.
Translated by Nanna Friis
(1) Micro-valences: perceiving affective valence in everyday objects, Sophie Lebrect et al., Frontiers in Psychology, 2012
(2) Soft Architecture: A Manifesto, Lisa Robertson, 1998