8 – 24 November 2019
Babel visningsrom for kunst welcomes you to the exhibition Noen steder jeg har vært (Some places I have been) by Hilde Frantzen Nov 8th – 24th.
Welcome to the opening Friday Nov 8 at 19.00!
Artist talk by Hilde Frantzen in conversation with Veslemøy Lilleengen on November 24 at 14.00.
This exhibition is made possible with support from Trondheim Municipality and Arts Council Norway.
Interview with Hilde Frantzen
by Agnieszka Foltyn
“In daily language, we often use nature to orient ourselves and to have something physical to measure against. For example, light as a feather, heavy like a rock, tall like a mountain, etc. I think it’s interesting to study this closer in this time where megabytes and gigabytes are the most widely used target units. Personally, I think it’s challenging to relate to physics. How much does a megabyte weigh? How thin is a tiff file?” – Hilde Frantzen
Hilde Frantzen measures things that are found. More precisely, Frantzen maps movement in the landscape using a patterned textile tool for measurement. It is an appropriation of a specific scientific research method she observed in Svalbard in which a helicopter flies over the terrain in a grid pattern to garner a set of data relating directly to measurements of place. Frantzen places her textile-as-tool on things: rocks, valleys, folds and layers in stone, dimples in the earth or in the sand. She places it in things, in bodies of water, watching as the grid distorts and moves, sinking in the current. She measures distance through its movement, but also time: how quickly it sinks, what distance this action covers. She calls this taking measurements. The pattern is flat. It changes and moves, creating volume and emphasizing shape as it crumples onto what it has been placed. It reads it in its own way, through gravity and mass.
The pattern is hand-painted. Its lines betray the unsteadiness of the body as tool, precise, but not to the degree upheld by mechanical instruments. It is a translation tool, applying virtual technologies to the natural environment. In this way, Frantzen presents data creatively. It is another layer in the physical manifestation of a subject, another visualization, without opinion but with a lot of feeling. It remains distanced but somehow very real, and close. For Frantzen, the digital is hard to reach. Her use of this method brings it into the tangible, something which can be felt in a new way. “I can do it by hand. I can feel it in a way… the texture, nature as well.” Crossing binaries, the natural and the virtual, the city and nature, absence and presence, she draws parallels to the spectrum of modes of interpretation, asking the viewer to sense this way as well.
The act of placing the grid on landscapes and formations echoes the movement of the natural world itself. It brings the virtual into the physical by highlighting the role of the body in this action. Frantzen creates a direct relationship to the things and places that surround her. Frantzen makes science more tangible, more corporeal, more creative; leaving room for new perspectives to form and new meanings to emerge. These readings are not linear, they curve and bend and fold according to each space, each set of memories, and each audience. With the body as an essential presence and element in the work, its presence disappears within the exhibition at Babel. Perhaps, then, Frantzen’s body is replaced by different readings of body: the body of work and the body of the audience entering and moving through the gallery. In the black box, a projection of the grid moves across a crumpled mass of textile, mapping out its folds but also the situation: who comes in and how they move and where they go.
As an invisible performance, the act of placing the textile patterns in and onto nature is best done alone, when no one is looking. There is a kind of intimacy there, going into nature alone with a curiosity to know it better, and also differently. Frantzen explores hidden places, where she can be alone, making room to just be and concentrate on the physical experience of being in a place. She creates new data, constructing layered models of interpretation pulled from the world around her. Her work is research-based practice or perhaps it is practice-based research. These worlds shift often, taking prominence when necessary, pulling and using parts and pieces of things and places. In Frantzen’s work, it doesn’t really matter where it is but more how it is.
Twisted grids hang as ‘wall objects,’ two-dimensional renderings of time and distance. “They are something between painting and tapestry, not always woven things but textile wall-hangings,” she states. We can only guess what they have been shaped on. What exists now is data in this form. In a way this is measurement, but seems closer to reading, more intimate and nearer to the body. It is a series of interpretations of data that lead to a deeper understanding of something by looking at it in many different ways or from many different angles. They map the terrain, the movement of the body passing through and within it, seeking to understand it or better yet to relate. They allude to site, to specific places at which Frantzen has actually been.
Discovering new places through residencies holds an important role in Frantzen’s practice. While in New York on a three-month residency in 2013, Frantzen wanted to develop a relationship to the urban landscape. She chose the city as theme, but the Manhattan skyline quickly morphed into the outline of mountains in the setting sun. “Which is more impressive, the nature of buildings or nature itself?” she asks. This question reflects a desire to familiarize oneself with your environment, a desire for some form of belonging: to be able to read your world, to be a part of it somehow, and to understand your interaction with the public realm as an important facet of identity. In Svalbard in 2016, Frantzen began drawing millimeter paper by hand. Living at the edge of civilization in the company of scientists from around the world, Frantzen started incorporating their tools and research methods within her artistic practice. This is echoed in the discovery of grid cells by Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser in 2005, for which they were awarded the Nobel prize in medicine. Grid cells are thought to form an essential part of the brain’s ability to orient oneself, in place and memory. This discovery slipped easily into Frantzen’s research, though she learned of this long after developing the grid technique in her work. She says, “It naturally became part of it. It all fell into place.”
When asked, she betrays that she brings a small patterned textile with her everywhere. “It’s pocket-sized,” she laughs. The main grid form is quite large. It’s a tool specifically formatted for essential fieldwork, to gain a large enough sample of the world around her. Though much of the exhibition at Babel is based on the grid, other patterns have filtered into new possible readings. They come from textile designs from all over the world, simplified into black and white repetitions of simple geometric shapes. Some come from batik sources, others from sources much closer to home, Trøndelag’s very own Hannah Ryggen. It is a small homage to where Frantzen is now, as artist-in-residence for two months at Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder. Some patterns resemble traditional handcrafts, bedlinens or other home furnishings. These new patterns, too, bridge the historical divide of easy categorization, as craft objects because they are tools for use, but as fine art objects on exhibit in a gallery. They then reflect back to craft as fine art objects because they are tools in use.
Frantzen’s practice manifests traditionally distant virtual technologies as art. Often, things are measured by comparison to the natural world. Light as a feather, heavy as a rock, tall like a mountain are all relational tools based on collective experience. The relevance of pure data disappears in the result through the creative interpretive process. Frantzen makes room for new perspectives to emerge, for multiple readings to arise. It is a translation between science and art. The topography of the land is revealed through the creasing and folding of the flattened patterns. “It’s as if the virtual world has fallen into nature,” she states. “But how much pattern do you need to see the movement?” The exhibition Some places I have been is a warm reading of a cold approach. It alludes to the body traversing landscape. It situates the physical body of the artist within a set of locations in which her research tool has been applied. It speaks to memory and place. It is telling that these objects are not only meant to be looked at, but practically to be put to use. Almost all of the textile samples have been used as tools, visible in the traces of earth and stone and sand left on them. The close tie to phenomenological experience makes art objects almost into tangible experiences – the colours of the sunset of Manhattan or Norway reflecting off the walls behind floating grid textiles-come-art objects. It is as if we could be there, too, or anywhere, through a memory of a lived relationship to form and site and sun.