Simon Dybbroe Møller

An ill-fated attempt to fold a paper crane from memory gave the title to Simon Dybbroe Møller’s most comprehensive museum show thus far, “Like Origami Gone Wrong.” The exhibition was curated by Madeleine Schüppli, director of the Kunstmuseum Thun, and organized in collaboration with the Aarhus Kunsbygning in Denmark, where it was first shown. Dybbroe Møller cast his failed effort in steel—State of mind (A permanent sculpture), 2006—and installed it in the garden outside the Kunstmuseum. Although the abstract geometrical form might not closely resemble a crane, it does look very much like a modern sculpture. Only visible through a window blurred by artificial rain, the work forced a melancholic view on a failed utopian dream.

Folding/unfolding and constructing/deconstructing are recurrent motifs in Dybbroe Møller’s practice, combined with a playful approach toward canonical movements of the past—Constructivism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Minimal and Conceptual art—and the incorporation of failure into the creative process. For the series “Unfold your dreams,” 2004, origami figures made from photographic paper were exposed and the unfolded sheets developed. While the results resembled Constructivist compositions, the method of direct exposure without a lens recalls the “Celestographs” of the Swedish writer and sometime photographer and painter August Strindberg, who anticipated Surrealism and John Cage in his studies on chance in artistic creation.

Aptly described as “retro-avant-garde” (by Thorsten Sadowsky, director of the Aarhus Kunstbygning), Dybbroe Møller’s smart paraphrases play on the notion of nostalgia and add an anecdotal narrative to the allegedly “pure” form of their predecessors—they already carry the history of their own decline within them. The installation Sir Norman Reid, 2005, recalls Robert Morris’s Mirrored Cubes, 1965, except it contains eight elements instead of four, and their spatial organization differs from the grid of the original. Here, the arrangement of the cubes only seems random; their irregular constellation is based on mirror symmetry, almost like a Rorschach figure. Furthermore, Dybbroe Møller’s cubes show cracks in their mirrored surfaces. But the damage is an artifice as well, as seen by its symmetry. The work’s title refers to the former director of London’s Tate Gallery, where Morris showed his Participatory Objects in 1971—basically an invitation to viewers to interact with raw wooden or steel objects. The show was closed shortly after the opening because several visitors injured themselves, and then reopened with substituted works, including the aforementioned Mirrored Cubes. Dybbroe Møller’s Box with the sound of its own breaking, 2005, similarly sheds light on Morris through a reversed reenactment of his iconic Box with the sound of its own making, 1961.

Dybbroe Møller’s spatial installations of remade objects and rescued stories work like virtual halls of mirrors, in which the references are reflected in myriad ways. But the reflections are consciously broken—as in the portrait of Frank Stella and that of Sean Scully, which were rephotographed from found images through mirrors bearing cracks based on these artists’ compositions. The carefully constructed ruin with its multiple refractions creates a mental distance, which gives space for nostalgic reflection on the loss of twentieth-century utopian ideals. Thus, the mural Inside the wall, inside of you, 2005/2007, mimics an archaeological site in which the colors and geometric patterns of the Swiss constructivists Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse appear underneath white plaster that is flaking off, effectively equating modernism with antiquity.

Eva Scharrer