MOTION DAZZLE – At the Turn of the River
curated by Mette Woller
Artist: Merete Vyff Slyngborg
Camouflage is any combination of material, colour or illumination utilised to conceal or mask animals, people or objects, making them difficult to see or disguising them as something else. The title of the exhibition, MOTION DAZZLE, refers to a form of camouflage that simultaneously confuses and conceals. Unlike traditional military camouflage, motion dazzle is a distinctive pattern that camouflages by means of confusion, manifest e.g. in the stripes of a zebra which, when in motion, momentarily make it difficult for a predator to locate the animal’s exact position. The interesting thing about motion dazzle, then, is not that it hides a stationary object, but that it attempts to camouflage something in motion, something in the process of positioning itself. Moreover, At the Turn of the River refers to the word trend and its original meaning, which describes the bend of a river or coastline. Hereby, the title attempts to evoke the notion of how objects change their nature, or forms of expression change their course, as well as the difficulties associated with an attempt to classify such a notion. MOTION DAZZLE – At the Turn of the River explores the very abstract and nebulous feeling that appears when changing taste, such as when one suddenly finds something beautiful, which previously one had regarded as kitsch or outright ugly.
The central room of the exhibition is the point of departure from which all references to the other rooms and works issue. This room finds the mural Mutations and New Material, which simultaneously mimics a domestic interior and a gallery while individual objects and the work’s materials allude to an outdoor space. The mural is done in spray paint, creating a grisaille effect, in which shapes and colours have a blurred appearance, while its elements imitate graffiti characters in their stylistic expression. In graffiti, a ‘tag’ is a form that characterises urban space by inscribing directly onto the city’s architecture as a means of identifying oneself, and thus can be said to be both a container and a definition of space. Attempting much in the same way to define a space, the mural, however, places itself squarely between categories through its suggestions which constantly overflow their definitions: angular shapes taken from the Cubist painter Juan Gris’ repertoire meet soft, debauched innuendo, minimalist sculptures and an organic form camouflaging as material. Slyngborg created the two melted, black and white, sinuous forms by studying cups, vases and the curves of women’s bodies and, from these, making a hybrid form. She then took the outermost outline, repeated and transposed it, thus creating two identical curves that combine to make an object. This is a part of the exhibition’s exploration of what happens when subjects are moved and repeated, which is also evident in the morphing or transferral of the wave-like shapes from the two-dimensional surface of the image to the actual exhibition space. Here the shape is repeated in three objects, which are placed in each of the exhibition rooms where they change their function and character. The piece Exhibition Furniture – Bench, for instance, refers to the historical implications that the bench has undergone in the context of art exhibitions as an element with both an inviting and a distancing effect. With this work, Merete Vyff Slyngborg aims to explore different modes of presentation and their functional positions. The work’s elements of interior decoration thus explore the exchanges that take place between the display strategies of the gallery space and professional fields such as interior design, fashion and window dressing.
The room at the back of the exhibition refers to Slyngborg’s general interest in the form and function of handicraft. Employing the traditional Turkish paper marbling technique ebru, the work Extracts from Lost Shape and Meaning is also a study of the movements or subtle transitions that occur when a subject is shifted. The work’s subject refers back to an earlier work, A Is sort of B, inspired by the American linguist William Labov’s graphs from 1973 which analysed how ceramics can be defined by language, size and context. With a basis in Labov’s computations of when a cup, a mug or a vase are defined as precisely those things, Slyngborg located the point at which these objects intersect beyond their recognised definitions and created a three-dimensional visual illustration of this. It served as inspiration for a series of blown glass objects, one of which Slyngborg selected as the work’s subject. By breaking down objects to a hybrid form, Slyngborg sees the potential for open-ended possibilities where objects, freed of their attributes and original category, can go new places. Similarly, the work Monet’s Missing Sun, which is a collaboration with Søren Aagaard, features hand-printed t-shirts from China depicting famous artworks, evinces an interest in the container. A clash appears between highbrow subjects and mass-produced products, alluding to the culture of sampling manifest both within the field of art and in society in general.
Perhaps the interest in camouflage is most explicitly illustrated in the front room of the exhibition where pattern is employed as an expression of the abovementioned collage mechanisms that constitute our world, in which everything repeats and overlaps. This is rooted in an interest in pattern as a sort of construction of various signs and motifs, which represents a composition or particular statement that is changed as soon as it is placed in new constellations. Slyngborg is interested in composition both in terms of the make-up of an image and how objects are placed in an exhibition space. The vinyl work A Great Composition, which is positioned in the room’s window, alludes to this by highlighting the composition’s significance in relation to the way in which the meaning of an image can change, depending on how it is framed, or with the addition or removal of elements. Here Slyngborg has copied a caricature by the illustrator Michael Edwards, but removed certain elements of the original image in order to leave space for the subject, thus insisting on the meaning creating value that forms of presentation have. She makes this manifest by letting these forms be valid components on a par with the exhibited works themselves. In this way, the exhibition illustrate the synchronous movements that often give rise to trends, whose beginnings and ends are impossible to locate.