Critics’ Picks

View of “Børre Sæthre,” 2008.

View of “Børre Sæthre,” 2008.

New York

Børre Sæthre

MoMA PS1
22-25 Jackson Avenue at 46th Avenue
October 19, 2008–January 26, 2009

Conjuring a convincing alternative world, especially in an institution as familiar as P.S. 1, is no easy task. Yet Børre Sæthre manages the feat with just a few key props and some bold interior design. In an interconnected suite of rooms, Sæthre constructs a series of cryptic tableaux in which, psychologically speaking, it’s surprisingly easy to lose oneself. Inspired in large part by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the Norwegian artist uses sound and light to generate an eerie, futuristic atmosphere in which established rules seem to have been suspended. Suggesting a link between emergent technology and ancient myth, he juxtaposes the more-or-less recognizable with the entirely abstract, situating them in an environment that seems to exist outside of time.

A black-painted entrance dominated by an illuminated alcove gives way to a larger room in which four monitors are scattered over a low platform. Geometric animations whirl across the screens while grating electronic sounds play. Next, a mirrored chamber lit by dim fluorescent tubing houses two vitrines, one containing a pistol and two white balls, the other a monitor depicting a video of a naked man. In the fourth and final room, a tank preserves what appears to be a unicorn; approach the creature and it seems to fade into mist. A dreamy ambient sound track completes the scenario. It’s a powerfully surreal finale that only complicates what has gone before, muddling the organic with the artificial, the concrete with the imagined, in a zone of endless potential that Sæthre makes his own.