23 August 2020
ELI MARIA LUNDGAARD
This afternoon, Sunday 23 August at 4pm, UKS marks the final day of Eli Maria Lundgaard’s solo exhibition A Home for Occupants with a conversation between the artist and UKS’ Director Rhea Dall—hope to see you there!
Meanwhile, as is usual towards the end of a UKS exhibition, we’re already this morning offering you a sneak-peek into Lundgaard’s thoughts on the exhibition through this short interview that touches on barbarians and occupants, her plans for the future, and spy mirrors.
Live Drønen: Hi Eli! What have you been up to this summer?
Eli Maria Lundgaard: I finally installed and opened my show at UKS! Apart from that I’ve had a small vacation in Oslo and at a cottage in Telemark, but mostly I’ve been working in my studio in Malmö.
LD: We’re approaching the end of your exhibition period here at UKS, which has lasted longer than planned. Covid-19 postponed your opening from April to June—did that affect your process?
EML: When the first lockdown happened, I was in the final phase of producing the show and only had a few weeks left until the work was supposed to be transported to Oslo. It was quite a unique situation to find myself in; normally I have no time to reflect on what I’ve made before an exhibition opens, but in this instance I suddenly had a lot of time to think through what I had produced and how I wanted to install it in the space.
LD: The exhibition is titled A Home for Occupants. Who are the occupants in your show?
EML: The occupants of a space are those who physically own it, who take over, or who are located there. To me, being an occupant means performing a specific action. The occupants I’m exploring at UKS are the artists in the exhibition space, microorganisms in the body, and also language and words—either as something unfamiliar, created outside of the subject, or the way sentences used by the subject can change or create surrounding realities. I find the act itself, of occupying, to be kind of barbaric and about moving across borders or penetrating boundaries.
LD: Your new video work focuses on parasites, microorganisms, and amoebas. What fascinates you about these creatures?
EML: Parasites are barbaric. They don’t accept confinements, they are uncivilized, and violent. Bacteria in the body may be another form of consciousness in us; they are not human beings, but they are part of us. Microorganisms and amoebas exist on surfaces, like a microscopic membrane of life. What they have in common—which also fascinates me—is that they are part of something bigger. They might be invisible to the human eye, but they are nevertheless significant, always present, and crucial to our existence. Even though we might perceive ourselves as separated from them, we are still inhabited and infected by them.
In my exhibition I look at what happens when the body dies—when microorganisms and larvae take over and transform it into meat, mud and energy—except I explore how the same process is happening when the body is still alive. I’m slowly moving into the big mud we’re a part of; I study both the biological body, the memories that exist inside it, and the “I” in all of this.
LD: On the subject of invisibility and the «I»s (which is the title of the exhibition’s façade), it’s been interesting to see passersby looking at themselves in the mirrored façade of UKS, which you covered in reflective foil for your show. It almost felt like I was spying on them.
EML: I wanted the windows to be impenetrable and covered, so I made small peep holes that are the only areas that “leak” information from the inside out to people standing on the outside. The reflective mirror façade is the starting point for the exhibition: the audience’s first encounter with it becomes themselves. I thought it might be interesting to make them self-aware before entering the interior spaces, where I dissolve the body and present a breakdown of the different elements that build up and construct a body.
LD: Can you tell us about something or someone who has inspired you in your work?
EML: I’m generally inspired by how we categorize and systematize things, and the meaning of words and definitions. I’m also interested in the ambivalent and ambiguous—the things that may exists in borderlands and gray zones between categories, or the things that cross them. These could be myths and fictions, ghosts and zombies, but also language. Words are tools to create meaning and reality, but are at the same time full of inadequacies and misinterpretations, and thus may cause alienation and disorientation.
Recently I’ve been fascinated by Inger Christensen’s poetry collection Det (1969) and Larissa Sansour’s exhibition Heirloom (Danish Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019). The latter is a kind of science fiction story that deals with how memory and history is told, created and constructed. Christensen’s book talks about some of the same themes, but goes deeper into language and words.
LD: You’re now packing up the almost 1000 small ceramic creatures that have been crawling around UKS, each bearing unique imprints of your hands. What’s next?
EML: At the moment, things are a bit uncertain, both because of the pandemic and also because I’m in between projects. Some things are planned though: I’m having two solo shows, one at Bruksrommet in Stavanger in September, where I will present some of the works that were on view at UKS, and in October at Delfi which is a small artist-run space in Malmö, where I’ll show new sculptures and drawings. And in October I’m moving back to Norway!