Malmö, Sweden

Maria Hedlund, Upplöst #6 (Dissolved #6), 2001, black-and-white photograph, 9 3/8 x 11 3/4". From the series “Upplöst” (Dissolved), 2011.

Maria Hedlund, Upplöst #6 (Dissolved #6), 2001, black-and-white photograph, 9 3/8 x 11 3/4". From the series “Upplöst” (Dissolved), 2011.

Maria Hedlund

Elastic Gallery

Maria Hedlund, Upplöst #6 (Dissolved #6), 2001, black-and-white photograph, 9 3/8 x 11 3/4". From the series “Upplöst” (Dissolved), 2011.

Swedish artist Maria Hedlund’s exhibition “Upplöst (Dissolved) included several series of striking gelatin silver photographic prints. The subject of Hyttödammen II,” 2006–11, is a private collection of insects (dragonflies, butterflies, flies, bees, and beetles) accumulated by a teacher who in the early 1960s obsessively catalogued these little creatures from the pond in central Sweden after which the series is named. Hedlund (who herself collects quirky animal relics) eventually purchased the collection from the student who inherited it, and has photographed each box of insects twice: with the old, dusty glass top and without it. Through the smudged and smoky covers, the view of the insects below the glass is hazy, like a distant memory. On each box the Latin names are carefully printed near the corresponding specimens; however, not all the labels correspond to actual specimens. Empty spaces await those never procured, signifying that all that remains is incomplete, ungraspable, even futile.

Orginal/Kopia” (Original/Copy), 2011, is a series of photographs mounted in pale gray frames painted by the artist—as are all the others in the exhibition except those of Hyttödammen II.” Each image depicts two tall stacks of wooden boxes—one came with the collection Hedlund purchased; the second is a duplicate set, made by the artist, which remains empty. With this series Hedlund plays with the notion of the original, its relation to the copy, and its changing significance through time. The two tall structures are eerily reminiscent of the Twin Towers in New York, where the artist was living in 2001. Their iconic shape is echoed in a sculptural piece the artist constructed from handmade vitrines, painted gray and precisely stacked one on top of the other, placed toward the center of the space.

The artist herself once collected a boxful of insects while walking through a sparsely populated building, put them in a drawer, and forgot about them. Finding them some time later, she discovered that her “collection” had congealed into one blob, which she photographed as a series titled “Upplöst (Dissolved), 2011. A small text relating the process accompanies the series. It is written as a set of instructions on how to re-create the clot of insects. FIRST: A BOX WITH A COVER. YOU USE IT TO COLLECT ALL THE INSECTS YOU FIND WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH A BUILDING WHERE SOME OF THE USUAL ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED FOR A WHILE. . . One step in the directions, however, is the instruction to forget. That turns out to be unfeasible. In her words, “There’s no active way you can forget; it’s something that happens.”

Det tänkande ägget bortom tid och rum (The Thinking Egg Beyond Time and Space), 2011, is a photograph of a large ostrich egg resting on the top of a small, wheel-mounted cabinet. The image makes one think of the imminent movement of the wheels and its effect on the unsecured egg. The title amplifies the absurdist nature of the image. Hedlund’s work throughout is elegantly restrained, witty, and at times poignant—reflecting on transience and the human desire to preserve existence.

Lauren Dyer Amazeen