Critics’ Picks

View of “Klara Lidén: Grounding,” 2018.

New York

Klara Lidén

Reena Spaulings Fine Art | New York
165 East Broadway 2nd Floor
November 4 - January 13

Klara Lidén’s primary mode is the disruption and detournement of urban space. The artist’s recent video works follow in the wake of a series of experiments at this gallery. In 2008, Lidén transformed Reena Spaulings into a pigeon coop. Four years later, she filled it with a forest of discarded Christmas trees. With this exhibition, Lidén upholds her fervent disregard for rules.

Using Massive Attack’s 1991 music video for “Unfinished Sympathy” as a point of departure (where vocalist Shara Nelson walks Los Angeles’s Pico Boulevard while singing), Grounding (all works 2018) captures Lidén as she traverses the streets of Lower Manhattan. The camera follows her walking with apparent poise, until she performatively—and repeatedly—falls. While Nelson is dignified as she struts down a rugged stretch of LA neighborhood, Lidén fumbles in a tony setting replete with markers of capital: the New York Stock Exchange, Chase Manhattan Plaza, and the monumental Dubuffet sculpture originally commissioned by David Rockefeller. This landscape stands in stark contrast to the pamphleteers, street musicians, and motorcyclists that populate “Unfinished Sympathy.”

But Grounding is more than its video component; Lidén emphasizes the importance of the built environment, going so far as to reconstruct it. The video is projected onto a plywood ramp that divides the gallery in half. Inset with a trapdoor, it resembles the metal sidewalk entrances outside many New York storefronts. The other side of the ramp reveals its armature, shoring jacks traditionally used in scaffolding, as well as a video displayed on a monitor. This short, GTG TTYL, was made as a preliminary sketch for the show. In it, Lidén climbs onto a sofa and a temporary wall, located precisely where the monitor is now mounted. What is consistent about Lidén’s Grounding and “Unfinished Sympathy” is their unmoving rhythm, the determination of the single-shot camera take, the authoritative stride of their protagonists. Shara Nelson sings about heartbreak. Where, then, does Lidén’s wordless music video lead?