Pernille With Madsen

 

Dissolution, imbalance, disorientation, collapse and loss of control are core themes in the work of Pernille With Madsen (b. 1972). Through video, photography, drawing and installation With Madsen creates various impossible, but insisting experiments, which, in each their own way, evokes a fundamental scale-related and spatial confusion in the spectator. An underlying motivation in her work is a continually, liberating and playful wonder of our world’s spatial and visual phenomena and contexts, together with a desire to induce an element of disorientation and imbalance in our otherwise set view upon the world. Through simple, but often difficult and backwards measures, the artist establishes a universe which affects the spectator both visually, physically and mentally, and which cause a feeling of forfeiture through a combination of dizziness, euphoria, visual distortion and spatial deconstruction. Besides the physical, almost phenomenological, effect With Madsen’s works have on the spectator, the artist also have an ambition to dissolve the symbolic and authoritative values of architecture and to let in a sliver of disorientation and loss of control, to expose the underlying structures which saturate space and architecture.

Although Opløsning (Dissolution), 2010, is With Madsen’s first solo exhibition at Galleri Susanne Ottesen, she has previously participated in a number of group shows at the gallery. In the work Kollaps, 2006, we see an entirely white room, a so called clean room, which walls suddenly start to collapse. As the walls, one by one, tumble to the floor, their impact hurls up small clouds of white confetti evoking something light, poetic and euphoric to the otherwise destructive nature of the scene. As the video sequence is repeated again and again in an infinite loop, the collapse becomes a permanent state of being. But rather than a feeling of disaster and chaos, a sense of a liberating and productive process is introduced, which compel us to re-evaluate our apparent perception of reality’s firm anchoring and its stability. When the well known at once collapses and the reality surrounding us disintegrates, we become disorientated and are forced to open up to new potentials and levels of meaning in our surrounding space. The element of disorientation is also evident in another, earlier work, Scene for Udsigt (Scene for View), 2007. Here the spectator is catapulted into a public building complex through an infinitely turning revolving door. The polished glass and steel surfaces reflect each other and the architectural space, hereby dissolving every focus point, as well as time and place, creating a skewered dizzying perspective.

In 2008 at the exhibition Enter at Brandts, Denmark, With Madsen was honoured for her installation Transition with the Montana Enterprize grant. In three film projections an apparently tight black and white universe becomes coupled with a slightly ‘clumsy’, low-tech aesthetic lending the minimalist expression something a little distorted. The work mimics the transitions of video editing – going from one scene to the next – but whereas these are normally done digitally, With Madsen creates her transitions in analogue using paper cuts, handheld models and live extras. Transition is a hopelessly backwards project, where high-tech becomes low-tech and digital is transformed into something analogue, but through this metamorphosis new dimensions and perspectives are created. The same combination of levels of technologies transcends the two video works Januar and Februar, 2009, here we see a blind which slowly opens and closes. Unto the blind a photograph has been stuck, depicting the view obscured by the blind when closed. The effect of the infinitely opening and closing blind creates an almost static image which is punctuated periodically by a shimmer of light brought forth by the transition between opening and closing, illusion and reality. The works induce a fundamental uncertainty in the spectator, by asking the question: What is illusion and what is real. There is a red line between these earlier works, and the ones exhibited in the show Opløsning, where her theme and methods are expanded and culminate in the main work of the show Opløsning II, where a large double projection take up an entire wall which through captivating and dizzying imagery form a sort of filmic frieze. The double projection oscillates between recognizable and abstract elements and dissolved sequences whereby the spectator is thrown around between these different levels in a gliding flow which also varies between close-ups and panning shots leaving us in an uncertain, spatial and scale-related state of mind. The work, with its strange character, both alien and familiar, concrete and dissolved, never quite lets us become confident with the space presented, but opens up our sensibility towards spatial structures in general. In an instant we become sucked into, and entirely enveloped in a flickering black and white universe. The moment after, the camera pans out and focuses on the street outside where heavy flakes of snow is tumbling down, creating in itself a scene of dissolution and a shift in our perception of reality. The same sense of suspension between space and time is evident in the work Tidsmaskine (Time Machine). But here the work physically spills out into the gallery space and incorporates the spectator’s body. As spreading rings in water, black circles in the work become insisting visual distortions. Mirrors in the work, enhances the spatial disorientation and establishes a range of philosophical problematics. The concept of the gazing subject, who masters the world from a singular point of view, becomes dissolved, on the basis of the question of who contemplates what in this fractured rendering of reality, resembling the razzle-dazzle of a funhouse or Caligari’s famous cabinet. Without anchoring points or recognizable visual clues to guide the subject one becomes lost. But in this state of disorientation one is cast into a productive process where the loss of orientation gives birth to contemplations of visual structures and spaces. In the installation Opløsning I (Dissolution I), which envelops the gallery’s front room and the windows facing the street, the disorientation and visual dizziness becomes complete. By sticking black lines of tape onto the windows and walls of the room, the artist employs a very simple technique, although extremely laborious, incorporating the immediate surroundings of the cityscape and the gallery space itself, making it become dissolved in flickering intervening visual noise on one’s retina.

Overall With Madsen employs a slightly backwards, handheld approach to the various media.
This approach manifests itself in the artist’s video works, where With Madsen turns evolution upside down and attacks the medium in an analogue manner rather than digitally. An example of this approach is one of the smaller works in the exhibition, TV II, where she has created handmade interference on the TV screen, using an overhead projector and a pierced piece of paper. As a little poetic paragraph or a never ending pause, With Madsen’s TV becomes a comment on the massive unchecked flow of visual stimuli and information we are constantly bombarded with through television, but in the artist’s version this visual stream becomes entirely abstract and dissolved.
In the drawings at the show With Madsen also applies an almost dogma-like approach. Through systematic investigations of pen on paper, the artist has created a range of drawings, which in the same way as the video works, creates interference or a kind of moiré-effect to the gaze of the spectator. On the 160 x 160 cm sheet, With Madsen has investigated how much ink there is in a pen. The drawing stops when the pen runs out of ink.

In relation to her works, With Madsen speaks about a kind of escapism – “a wish to disappear while still remaining in this world”. The works in the exhibition Opløsning oscillates fruitfully between several spatial planes – the space outside, the space inside and the constructed mental space, which opens the possibility to reflect upon structure, time and place in general.

 

Inger Marie Hahn Møller, MA in Art History