Critics’ Picks

View of “Chapter Four: Disappointment,” 2019.

View of “Chapter Four: Disappointment,” 2019.


Violet Dennison

Kunstverein Freiburg
Dreisamstr. 21
June 8–July 21, 2019

The centerpieces of Violet Dennison’s solo exhibition here are three large semispherical baskets, which rest on the gray-painted floor like upturned umbrellas. Bound in webs of monochromatic plastic, they present unexpected twists: Each node is an excerpt from “Disappointment,” chapter four of the young artist’s memoir. In the spirit of the exhibition’s delicate, existential humor, I can’t tell you who is disappointed, as the text is encrypted using knot cyphers that, while simple, are too quirky for a neophyte like me to decode.

Installed along two walls is Divination 2, 2019, a sound piece comprising segments of a reading the artist received from New York–based tarot reader and Reiki healer Dainichi Lazuli, which Dennison reformatted using data-over-sound technology. It plays in audible and ultrasound frequencies from a sleek patchwork of iPhone loudspeakers on circular copper plates. Tendrils of auburn wires trail from these and produce a commanding mural of diagrammatic lines that spurt from one direction to another perpendicularly. The gently bleeping sonata indicates that the room is infused with abstracted data, betraying the presentation’s nonvisual density.

Dennison’s sculptures are like follies—the delightful, not-quite-functional buildings popular in the landscape gardens of eighteenth-century England and France. WhisperF33d, 2019, a hacked Brother laser printer, printed metadata from the Kunstverein’s Wi-Fi during the exhibition’s opening until it jammed. Like us, systems are fragile. Through playful investigations into cryptography and self-quantification, Dennison reveals how imperceptible protocols within network architectures structure pasts and futures. Her compassionate and magical technorealism locates ruptures in digital infrastructures, noticing tangles of poetic mystification and strange collaborations, rather than simply technologies of governance and containment.