Critics’ Picks

Sandra Mujinga, Closed Space, Open World, 2022 (detail), three-channel video installation with sound; three aluminum sculptures, projectors, LED-strip light,  three clear frosted Plexiglas boxes, glass clamps, carpet, green light. Installation view.

Sandra Mujinga, Closed Space, Open World, 2022 (detail), three-channel video installation with sound; three aluminum sculptures, projectors, LED-strip light, three clear frosted Plexiglas boxes, glass clamps, carpet, green light. Installation view.

Oslo

Sandra Mujinga

Munch Museet
Edvard Munchs Plass 1
January 22–April 3, 2022

Set in a single sparsely lit room on the Munch Museet’s tenth floor, Sandra Mujinga’s superb installation Closed Space, Open World, 2022, comprises three video sculptures. Their ambient soundtrack lasts all of ten minutes, yet it sends the visitor across space and time, moving between Afrofuturism and Afropessimism, mid-century office spaces, late-twentieth-century animation, 1980s sci-fi, 1990s rave aesthetics, 2000s-era screen savers, and posthumanism. This cosmos (in the proper sense of the word) is as familiar as it is disorienting, both enthralling and distressing. This is a shadow world, where everything is larger than life but always at a remove.

Though the room lacks the gangly specters that often populate Mujinga’s worlds (intriguingly, given their resemblance to Edvard Munch’s best-known figure), it does contain three giant metallic worms, stationed among three semi-transparent Plexiglas cubicles. Their scales are sharp and pronounced, but their interiors are hollow, the only pulse that of the electric wiring running through their bodies. The eerie green light diffused from their tails is at once otherworldly, the color of reptilian aliens and bubbling slime, and all too recognizable as the glow emitted by a game server or the laser of a computer mouse. These postorganic creatures project colorful, kaleidoscopic digital sequences reminiscent of automated music visualizations onto the cubicles. The footage is suggestive of perspectival movement, the foreground continually overtaken by the background as if the immobilized viewer were traveling through space at warp speed—through wormholes, you might say. Within the animation, a single but shape-shifting (and thus multiplicitous) humanoid character repeatedly appears and disappears down these wormholes. One hopes that they know where they’re going; to be lost here, in this shadow universe, is to turn into one of Mujinga’s thin ghosts.