Måns Wrange

“The Wonderful World of Hobbies”—the title of Mans Wrange’s latest show—suggested a world of mild madness, obsessiveness, eccentricity, and dilettantism. As usual, Wrange’s installation was comprised of a number of short narratives. The characters this time around were four fictional hobbyists, each representing a particular type of “mania”: first, a systematic collector of used chewing gum, who has placed his findings—about 400 specimens—in handsome shallow vitrines of patined wood. From a distance, the gum looks like a collection of minerals, or of rubble. The hobbyist himself, however, is said to view them as “internal portraits”: he believes that these rather amorphous indexical traces of the chewers’ mouths constitute revealing portraits of their characters.

Next was the “sound freak,” a ham radio operator who collects radio programs from all over the world and has made from them an implosive, noisy space called The Global Radio (all works 1992). Shiny antennas stand out from the wood-paneled walls in this room, a mad and pathetic version of the global village, where everything is heard but nothing said. Wrange’s third hobbyist was a traveling salesman who spends more time in his company-owned car than he does at home; to make his car more homelike, he has begun embroidering its seats, but instead of buying ready-made patterns (which can be quite expensive), he uses diagrams from his work. The result is a multicolored set of “statistical car-cushions.” With black humor and irony, Wrange here pinpoints a paradoxical aspect of the hobby: supposedly something we love to do in our spare time, it at the same time tends to continue the disciplinary structures of our working lives. This free activity is saturated with self-inflicted compulsion.

The fourth hobbyist—the egocentric—has never been able to free himself from a certain childhood experience: when, as a boy, he rode a train, he always believed that it wasn’t the train that moved but the landscape. To recreate this delusion of his childhood, he has built an inverted model railway where the landscape circles around a stationary train. This hilarious metaphor for a self-centered universe was probably the best piece in the show.

What interests Wrange is not so much the folkloric or anthropological aspects of hobbies; it is the hobby as a kind of stylized figure of thought, and as a middle ground or twilight zone between work and leisure, creation and convention, success and failure. I suspect, though, that the four fictional hobbyists can also be read as rather mean “portraits” of well-known artistic strategies: the indexical, the media-oriented, the sociological, and the self-expressive. Whatever the case, this installation of Wrange’s was his most entertaining yet.

Lars O. Ericsson