Annika von Hausswolff


Annika von Hausswolff’s exhibition “The Memory of My Mother’s Underwear Transformed into a Flameproof Drape & Other Works,” part of a series of presentations of work by Swedish artists who have shown abroad with funding from IASPIS, referred to spaces beyond the gallery in more ways than one. In the most literal sense, it joined work from her earlier project at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen and works borrowed from the collection of Magasin 3 in Stockholm. Other levels of outward reference had to do with the substance of the work itself: Hausswolff’s installation and pictures opened up into personal memories and cinematic allusions—psychological spaces at once obvious and indescribable.

The exhibition consisted of three photographic works portraying objects like doors, blinds, and a chair, as well as a custom-made pink satin curtain covering the better part of one wall in the rectangular gallery space. This last piece, The Memory of My Mother’s Underwear Transformed into a Flameproof Drape (all works 2003), agreed very well with the whitewashed neo-baroque stucco ornaments in the gallery, transporting us into places we might have seen in the cinema or somewhere else. As the title suggests, the fabric mimicked the color and texture of the artist’s mother’s underwear as she remembers it.

Hausswolff’s work moves through the intimately personal into a larger social sphere. However, as she has noted in a conversation with Danish curator Marianne Torp, the possibility of miscommunication is always inherent in intersubjective spaces. The same things have quite different meanings for different individuals. Notions of safety—such as the need for boundaries between yourself and some things in the world—are strongly pronounced in the recent works exhibited here. Both Untitled, an image of tattered blinds, and Carrying One’s Door Through the Room, showing a door hovering in midair without revealing who is carrying it, refer to objects that define boundaries. Philosophical Chair pictures an ordinary piece of furniture strangely balancing on one leg. The oversize wall curtain inspires curiosity about what might be hidden behind it. It also makes the visitor feel quite small, which suggests the comfort and confinement of overprotection. An additional reference to ideas of safety lies in the fact that the curtain is flame resistant.

The experience of danger that was so pronounced in Hausswolff’s earlier works is now replaced by a more scrutinizing look at uncanny objects and their material presences. The glittery objectivity of the photographs themselves serves to distance the viewer. These images would easily surrender to a psychoanalytic discourse that might dissect their every detail. As Hausswolff has said, she tries to forget all the theoretical knowledge she has gathered and to proceed directed by her intuition only—like an analysand revealing the unconscious through free association. Since she endeavors to avoid predetermined self-reflexivity, her work in itself becomes a natural object for scrutiny of the artistic process.

Hausswolff doesn’t give us obvious hints for interpretation of her images. The objects she depicts are simply there, presenting themselves to our gaze in various still but unstable positions. They don’t facilitate narration. But they sustain a feeling of mystery, of something left behind, something unarticulated. That dimension could be sensed in her earlier work, but it is more present than ever in this exhibition.

Liutauras Psibilskis