14 December 2019
VICTORIA PIHL LIND
This weekend marks the final days of Victoria Pihl Lind‘s solo exhibition To Be Born Is Like This at UKS. To celebrate this, we invite all to join us here tomorrow from 1pm for a performance by Lind, a conversation between her and UKS’ Acting Director Roderick Hietbrink, and the UKS holiday market, offering—among posters and other UKS merch—Lind’s very own To Be Born Is Like This t-shirt.
As usual, concluding an exhibition, UKS’ Live Drønen has spoken to the artist, this time touching on birth as experience and as metaphor, fire extinguishers, and an adolescent girl shaking her head.
Live Drønen – You’re doing a performance at UKS tomorrow—what can we expect?
Victoria Pihl Lind – It is a short and violent meditation. I’ve been inspired by Mark Morris Dance Company and their work with Parkinson’s patients. It will be more voice and movement than a focus on narrative.
Referencing the title of your exhibition, To Be Born Is Like This, how is it to be born?
– That’s a funny question. Yes, how is it? I have to quote Clarice Lispector’s book Agua Viva (1973): “I want to die with life. I would so like to die of health. Like someone exploding.” I think to be born is like that. We explode into the world, near death and packed with health at the same time.
To be specific, we are not born because our mothers push us out. We “twist” ourselves down the birth canal as the mother pushes; it’s a collaboration.
While working on the exhibition you’ve said that you have thought a lot about the question of why the story of how we’re born is not “The Big Old Story” that mothers tell their children. What does that mean?
– Birth, from A to Z, is really like a fairytale for small children. There is so much dramaturgical potential in that happening. For example, how the body acts in different stages of birth: all of a sudden it can’t do completely normal things, but in return it can do extraordinary things.
When I arrived at the delivery room to give birth, my legs suddenly just cracked below me. I was left standing on all fours in the corridor with my head bent against the ground while my heavy winter coat slid over my head like a tent. When I looked up a midwife with a ring binder in her hands came towards me, quick and easy. The whole thing was so mundane and uncivilized that it became very comical. I felt a bit like a table or a sculpture. And the voice! I was so shocked by how the voice became a tool—it was like a spade, or a hammer, that made the birth move on. But this will have to be another exhibition.
In this exhibition you connect the experience of birth to art history. Why?
– The vulnerable sides of life—like aging, disease, birth, longing, or death—are a red thread in art history. If the interest in and respect for these profound human experiences disappear, I don’t think art stands a good chance. I wanted to make an exhibition that insists on the fact that birth as experience and metaphor is relevant for art and that “being born” in many ways resembles how ideas and art are created.
In your video work Happy Shock the main character falls through a tunnel of art historical and other references. At one point a girl shaking her hair intensely appears. How have you worked with references, and who is this girl?
– The video has a lot of blue and transparent water in it, so I needed the art historical images to have a palette that is “forest ground-like”—one that gives the feeling of body, warmth, and heaviness. Like a birth canal—a little dark, warm, and humid. I’ve been looking broadly through art history for images and gestures that in different ways express human vulnerability. What images end up functioning as a backdrop and which ones stand out for the viewer is a bit random.
The girl with the hair is from YouTube. She shares lots of videos of herself shaking her head, making her hair look like a planet around it—a bit like Saturn with the rings around. I thought it was nice that she’s between being a child and a teenager and that she is very insisting in her act. There’s something about her energy and the fact that she repeats the shaking of her head in several videos without doing anything else. She is coming into being, I think.
Working with video a lot yourself, if you have to choose a favorite video work by another artist, which one would you go for?
Difficult question. I have been very into the works of Linda Mary Montano lately. Especially a film called On Death And Dying (1982). It shows three nuns playing cards while we hear a nurse’s voice taking us through the process of dying. What happens when we die, and what can we do for the dying?
And favorite film?
– Toni Erdmann (2016) by Maren Ade is a fantastic film.
You’ve showed up with one in your arms several times the past years, and now they’re hanging from the ceiling by pink silk ribbons at UKS. What’s the thing with the fire extinguishers?
– I think they’re very beautiful sculptures. They have a nice shape, a nice color, and a nice weight. They’re loaded, ready to be used and full of potency. Just being there they remind us that a dangerous situation can occur.
One year when I was a child there were three heavy gifts lying under the Christmas tree. They were three fire extinguishers from my father: One for me, one for my mother, and one for my sister. My father was born in 1940 and is very concerned with survival. This was a gift that said I don’t want you to die. It is an object that tells me a lot about who I am and where I come from, so it was very natural to use it in my art.
Talking about the holiday, which is right around the corner, how does the future look? The next months, the next year?
– My best friend is a midwife, so it would be fun to work even more directly with that competence sometime. Right now I’m mostly reading, which is nice. Then I’d like to work more with text and video as I have done in my UKS exhibition, only the words should stand more freely and have different roles. I also want to make a series of finger prints based on a work I made many years ago.
Exciting! See you for the finissage tomorrow.