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Exhibition Review: Out of Ousia

Updated: Mar 9

Exhibition review of Alicja Kwade, Out of Ousia

Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 2018

Ways of being, perceiving and existing are ideas heavily contemplated upon in Out of Ousia by Polish-German sculptor, Alicja Kwade, presented at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2018. Kwade has compelling challenged and questioned our habitual ways of experiencing our environment through imbuing familiar everyday objects with new value, purpose and appearance. Her sculptures transcend formal concerns and reconsider an object’s materiality and physicality, rendering experiences that are disarmingly sublime.


The viewer is first greeted by her large-scale freestanding sculptures titled DrehMoment (2018), of minimalist black steel frames interlocking each other, quietly and elegantly slicing through the gallery space. Five heavy spherical stones balance on the constructed frames, as if floating weightlessly, akin to the physical phenomena of planets orbiting silently in a parallel dimension. Walking through the steel frames, one becomes acutely aware that material and form have willed themselves uncharacteristic – the viewer wonders, how are the stones and frames supporting each other? Thus, allowing one to ponder upon the ruling laws of gravity, nature, perception and reality.


While confronted by the scale of DrehMoment, in contrast, the viewer soon notices a delicately constructed frieze that spans across the galleries of the entire exhibition. Placed at eye-level, the frieze consists of tiny clock hands, placed carefully in sequence, each an indication of one hour, and a symbol of time in relation to space. Titled 113 days, 3 hours (2014/2018-ongoing), the artist has demarcated lightly in graphite pencil in various parts of the exhibition, a handwritten indication of time (in its totality, in reference to the title) on the walls – a suggestion towards the ephemerality of time as a system that structures our life.


Recurring motifs of Kwade’s artistic vocabulary surface constantly through the exhibition – branches, clocks, stones – stripped away of their usual functions and expanded in their form and gesture. Correspondingly, sculptural installation Out of Ousia (2016) which concludes the exhibition, extends the limits of observable reality. A freestanding structure comprising of a concrete wall, double-sided mirror, embodied by a large framed glass creates a multiplicity and depth of perception; the viewer is drawn into the frame through transparency and mirroring. A bronzed-coated branch leans against the concrete wall, but its reflection is merely a replicated branch – a rumination, an impression, a copy. Similarly, a boulder placed in front of the mirror, sits across its exact copy cast in aluminum. Kwade has cleverly collapsed realities through the act of framing and constructed copying, dissolving and manipulating our visualisation of the world.


Kwade’s intuitive understanding of space has undoubtedly captured my imagination and relinquished the innate desire to constantly make meaning, and the urgency to make cognisant the ways we read and understand art. Instead, her works offer modes of contemplation, allowing the viewer to wonder and be curious; an act which is increasingly impossible in a world invariably entranced in spectacle.

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