New York

Tiril Hasselknippe, Bykjernens Soldans (Solar Dance of City Kernel), 2019, steel, resin. Installation view.

Tiril Hasselknippe, Bykjernens Soldans (Solar Dance of City Kernel), 2019, steel, resin. Installation view.

Tiril Hasselknippe

The New York–based Norwegian artist Tiril Hasselknippe channeled the apocalyptic doom that pervades our awful present in “Braut” (Bride), her solo exhibition at Magenta Plains. Two hulking sculptures—which looked like salvaged monuments to lost causes, or chunks of destroyed architecture rescued from fallen cities—suggested that the past, present, and future all collapsed into the space we were standing in. Hasselknippe’s ruins listen, remember, and speak.

The show radiated lost urban optimism—the kind of broken spirit that’s palpable in a place such as New York, where three centuries of misery can be felt on any one corner. The title piece, made in 2020, was installed upstairs, while Bykjernens Soldans (Solar Dance of City Kernel), 2019, was set into a slightly smaller space in the gallery’s lower level, suffused by stage haze and orange light. All of Magenta Plains, in fact, was filled with fog—entering it felt like being in the middle of a set for a play, or an elaborately appointed prog-rock show.

At the top of Braut’s five columns, which range from four to six feet in height, were shallow basins full of water. One of them was lined with coal, another with sand. Link these together and you’ve got a filtration system. But without the visible connecting tissue of a pipe—or a human hoisting a jug—the notion of filtration was lightly referenced, because the water was stagnant. The suggested arrested productivity was supported, literally and metaphorically, by the concrete pillars and their pink-and-green cast. Bits of rebar were visible under the work’s irregular and seemingly abraded surfaces. The effect was of evidence preserved for a criminal investigation, taken from a demobbed amusement park.

Meanwhile, Bykjernens Soldans, made from twenty-four interlocking hollow steel structures covered with resin, presented a different shade of ominousness. The orange fluorescent light permeating the work felt like that of a dying sun—but more fully imparted a club atmosphere. Music was present as well, but it was spavined: a recording of Hasselknippe playing short keyboard phrases on a Korg Minilogue synthesizer. It sounded beatless, without structure—like the husk of a dance track. I saw Hasselknippe’s metallic colossus as several things: a Greek amphitheater, a dystopian architectural model, or the aftermath of God’s heavenly fist punching into a graven object. Yet above all else, the piece reeked of abandonment. With Braut, the human was, at some point, proximate. Bykjernens Soldans, however, confirms that society has just vanished. The artist explained in interviews that the piece was partially inspired by a phase of Scandinavian regulation, after World War II, when the areas between housing blocks were mandated to provide five hours of sunlight per day for each apartment unit during the spring equinox. For a New Yorker, that kind of civic spirit is a cosmic joke: Whatever humanism you pack into a building, any building, will be gone when the place is inevitably torn down and replaced by the next failed utopia. Hasselknippe will likely be there to pick up, and repurpose, the pieces.