Inside a Conch Shell; One Dot - Fragments from Dreams

Projektraum 4, Mannheim, Germany

Over the course of the last decade, the Icelandic artist Rádhildur Ingadóttir has gained international recognition for her artistic work. In different kinds of installations, Ingadóttir stretches out a psychic universe as a field for exploring life’s and nature’s essence and reciprocal connections. In her current exhibition, Fragments from Dreams, this unquestionably manifests itself as a poetic and sometimes dramatic representational and conceptual process where polarized expressions and formations are determining agents in the competition between the surreal dream state and tangible logic.

Her video piece, Dream 2008, projects, by turns, a stressful trip through a long and winding tunnel and a makeshift choir singing Icelandic folk songs in a calm and melodious manner. There is no progressive plot in the video. Here, Ingadóttir has staged one of her own dreams, in its full extent. According to the elusive and transient character of video as an expressive medium, this dream has metamorphosed into a clash between two mood pictures: the sense of brutal stress and the reassuring song. Consequently, the video work has to do with dreams’ intrinsic capacity to compound and construct, by means of association, a narrative consisting of fragmentary memories and chaotic elements – without logical continuity and nonetheless imbued with a mood that is impossible to secure or describe in words.

From the video’s immaterial dream state, we move our way into an exhibition space. Now we begin to circulate, physically, among forms, structures and objects related to imagery from different dreams dreamt by the artist. A long knitted sweater mimes the wordless stream of consciousness, while a wall constructed from innumerable cylinders formed in beeswax breaks up the space. A group of objects that are also made of beeswax, like egg-like forms, a conch shell and a heart are scattered around on the floor: all of these are formations that offer convincing representations of a universality that is salient to nature. With this, the frames for a new way of experiencing or a new way of thinking are marked out, since the different objects in beeswax seem to emerge as bearing marks or stepping stones within a non-verbal psychic space. And in their interaction with the dream’s irrationality, each one of these objects generates its own special interpretation of a world that revolves around what it means to exist.

The aesthetic approach and a fascination with the universal principles of growth and the laws of nature find expression with special clarity in Ingadóttir’s drawings, which are built up within a logarithmic system of measurement.

This spontaneous mathematical structure must be regarded as organic. It consists of closed elements, although these always make their appearance as parts of a greater whole, i.e. they always manifest themselves as dynamic movements within a totality. We spot this mathematical structure especially distinctly in nature: in the patterns generated by waves of light that come into view when water glides across the sands of the sea floor and in the graphic representation described by the swing of a pendulum.

In Ingadóttir’s logarithmic drawings, however, this same mathematical structure reveals itself as being particularly suitable for unfolding a rhythmic course of movement – a poetic narrative – that extends from one point on the paper to another. Moreover, in some of Ingadóttir’s pieces, there also seems to be a definite course of development that comes to the fore, quite straightforwardly, and coins itself in synthesis-forming accounts of creation which serve to bring forth a comprehensive aesthetic representation of the many virtually imperceptible movements and rhythms that endow life and the processes of nature with their completely special spellbinding character.

We rediscover the logarithm’s rudimentary system, which we’ve already spotted in the drawings’ intimate format, in yet another nuance – in Ingadóttir’s floor and wall painting, where the organic blue ornamentation, in so many ways, establishes a condensed and compressed atmosphere. It feels like we have quite simply stepped right into the structure’s larger totality.

In this way, Ingadóttir is apparently offering discreet glimpses into what, remarkably enough, is simultaneously an infolded and unfolded cosmos. And the developmental journey – the linearity from the one point to the next – appears at times to be superseded by an infinite universe, which is dynamically expanding and contracting, all according to how the logarithm’s chain of structural events is being unfurled. What this offers to the viewer are innumerable sensorial patterns of movement and countless perceptual possibilities.

At the same time, what this supposedly reflects is an artistic praxis that emanates from a deeply seated formal and material-related exploration within which simple form elements are being juxtaposed and contrasted with the artist’s complex dream images, and in a most convincing way. This gives rise to an interesting span among the individual works, which open up for new psychic spaces and possibilities with respect to their approach to – and their representation of – the precarious conceptions and pictorial formations we fashion for ourselves when it comes to our consciousness concerning nature.

The order of the logarithmic system becomes collocated and revealed, meanwhile, in its convergence with the sometimes irrational abstractions which, when taken together, appear to establish a polarized fractal structure that merely looks like part of an infinite totality. The visible part is merely an unfinished whole: when you zoom out, you’ll come to discover that the present form is one part of a never-ending structure and when you zoom in, a whole world of new structural layers opens up. What we have before us, then, is an interminable self-referential system which, by virtue of its logarithmic point of origin, can be put into complex mathematic formulae but which also can be discovered, approximately, everywhere in nature: consider, for example, snowflakes, crystals and mountain chains. In an analogous way, Ingadóttir’s artistic output appears to be structured according to a universal albeit intangible system, within a network of contextual relations and structures that visualize an intervention into the self and, at one and the same time, an extraction from the world.

Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein