press release

Nina Canell and Robin Watkins. Energy Budget
08.02.2019 - 23.03.2019

Opening with warm soup and drinks
Friday, 08.02.2019 19:00 - 21:00

Curated by Gesine Borcherdt

Nothing stands still. In Nina Canell’s arrangements, sculptures are not finished forms, but objects in transition—dynamic beings whose materiality constantly fluctuate. Air, water vapor, substances that change according to room temperature, sliced cables, or entangled cable sheaths: Canell builds seemingly animated experimental arrangements that have no clear outcome. Rather, they convey the feeling that forces prevail beyond our immediate perception that we do not fully understand—despite all our scientific knowledge. Sometimes energy enters through the back door.

For the film Energy Budget (2018), Canell worked with Robin Watkins once again. The film is shown in the CAPRI window from dusk until dawn, and is viewable from the street. The first part of the film is a close-up of a leopard slug, slowly slithering over an electrical switchboard. Making its way alongside wires and relays, it computes its path in real-time. The hybrid creature’s archaic, proud body and the infrastructure enter into a strange muscular alliance. It is as if the beast is conquering the starting point of modern civilization—electrical energy—in a tender yet determined way. The second part of the film shows buildings along Telegraph Bay, a place in Hong Kong between the mountains and the sea, where the first subsea telegraph cable was laid in the late nineteenth century. Large, rectangular sections have been left open in the middle of the curved apartment blocks, so that one can look through them as if through a frame: these so-called dragon holes are in accordance with the philosophy of feng shui, and buildings in Hong Kong are still constructed in harmony with its principles today. Close to newly developed technological complexes, and connected by Cyberport Road, the open-air tower blocks of the older social housing estate Wah Fu is crumbling. If a dragon’s path between the mountains and sea is obstructed, it could lead to economic misfortune, as much as spiritual decline.

In each architectural shot, the camera's pneumatic lens slowly zooms out —there are only traces of life in the neighborhood in the margins. Amplified by this intense view, the dragon holes exude a ghostly energy, while the centred leopard slug in the other sequence embodies a physical and almost beast-like presence. The connection between animal and man-made, archaic and modern defines both parts of the film. Translated into an extremely slow, abstract aesthetic, a sense emerges of the subjective forces that shift back and forth between the two entities, forming a hesitant symbiosis.

Nina Canell (born 1979 in Växjö, Sweden) lives in Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, S.M.A.K. in Ghent, the Artist's Institute in New York, and Camden Arts Centre in London. She has also exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Lyon Biennale, and the Liverpool Biennial, as well as in group exhibitions at MoMA, New York and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Canell has collaborated with the Irish-Swedish artist Robin Watkins (born 1980) on several occasions the past decade and a half, including at the Sydney Biennale, Cuenca Bienal, Fridericianum in Kassel and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

Text by Gesine Borcherdt.
Gesine Borcherdt, Curator of CAPRI.