Critics’ Picks

Nina Emge, Please Listen To My Demo, 2022, iron, copper. Installation view. Photo: Fred Dott

Nina Emge, Please Listen To My Demo, 2022, iron, copper. Installation view. Photo: Fred Dott


Nina Emge

Halle fuer Kunst
Reichenbachstraße 2
January 30–March 27, 2022

It is a rare thing for a sculptor to focus on listening, and yet with her three-dimensional work, Nina Emge launches a broad investigation of how and what we hear. In her first institutional solo exhibition, “(It’s never too late to) Stop, Look & Listen,” the Swiss artist draws on a range of materials and formats to explore how aural perception and comprehension both limit and construct everyday experience.

The exhibition consists of three curling wrought-iron forms, installed in different ways. Emge anchors the most prominently placed one, Nunca vas a comprender (You Will Never Understand) (all works 2022), on the ground with a pronged foot; she has drilled A Chamada (The Call) into a single point on the wall so that it juts out at viewers; she suspends Please Listen To My Demo from the ceiling. Together, the sculptures occupy the vast gulf between sound and silence, misunderstanding and recognition. In the first two pieces, glass orbs cap the ends of iron bars as if to trap whatever expression might otherwise pour out of them; in the third, copper cymbals sprout along the sculpture’s perimeter. To register these differences, one must circulate fully around the room, whose markedly scuffed floor came from a local opera house. Resembling a score for muddled reverb, this floor provides a key conceptual bridge to the exhibition’s other components, which emphasize open rehearsal formats and experimentation: “17 Days,” a series of radio broadcasts, and Calmô, a collaborative performance timed to the show’s closing.

Across each of these, Emge treats sculptures as instruments and performances as listening sessions. These shifts feel important because they emphasize the mutability long relied on by artists who, by unfixing, dispersing, and decentralizing compositions, have created new worlds on old stages.