13 July – 7 September 2013
Glasgow Sculpture Studios (GSS) is pleased to present an exhibition with Danish artist Nina Beier, which brings together new commissions with pre-existing works. This is the first time Beier’s work has been shown in Scotland.
Liquid Assets 2013, from which the exhibition takes its title, is a major new work by the artist and forms the central focus of her presentation at GSS. Here, a life size bronze statue of a knight has been cut into pieces so that only the armour, helmet, weapon and horse armoury is left behind. These objects are placed on tables dressed with tablecloths, which have digital renderings of architectural and building materials such as bricks, stone, concrete and marble printed upon them. Three-dimensional artworks, such as this statue, are customarily made of robust materials. This is not due to any inherent ease of manipulation, but rather because they have an ability to exist for longer than both their maker and what they depict. The original statue, one presumes, was made as an object to both represent and celebrate a valiant knight for perpetuity. A knight’s armour, however, is always constructed of metal and so here time and representation become blurred, as the original and its depiction are almost the same. By cutting up the armour and laying it out as if one could wear it, Beier traps each piece in a place between an object and the representation of that object.
Notions of time, of its capture and preservation, run through the exhibition. Beier explores production which is guided by an attempt to make objects that outlive their creator and can therefore be read as a triumph over time and perhaps even death. In Beier’s second new commission for GSS, Greens 2013, pressed houseplants akin to small palm trees are placed on a series of beach towels, each with a depiction of a different bank note, of various currencies, on them. By taking a living material and essentially sacrificing its life in order to make an image of it, the plant is both itself and its own indexical image. This act brings to the fore the temporary state of the exhibition and, indeed, the artwork. Addressing similar territory as the statue, Beier plays with the space between the animated and the frozen. By successfully transforming each object beyond its original physical existence, they are able to paradoxically outlive themselves.
In addition to these two newly commissioned works, three existing pieces by the artist will be shown. Tragedy 2011 is a performance in which a dog is given the instruction to ‘play dead’ on a Persian rug. The dog lies in an immobile pose. The result is an absurd, theatrical gesture in which, for a moment, the pet becomes a still life. A sense of melancholy pervades as the dog unknowingly performs its own end, and we are again reminded of the staged artificial nature of an exhibition. The Complete Works 2009, is described as a living sculpture. Here, a retired dancer goes through all the choreographies he or she has ever performed, from memory, in attempted chronological order. Performed in the exhibition space, there is no stage. It is an act that mediates the dancer’s own history – both in the memory of the mind but also in the physical memory of the body – and as a result it highlights the physical limitations that are imposed on the body as one grows older. Pack 2012 shows a packet of super-slim Mistral cigarettes being chain-smoked and left on the ground. The action of this person smoking becomes almost filmic – the representation of a ‘real-life’ action. The smoker is simultaneously performing a normal everyday activity within a group of ‘real’ smokers, and yet is set apart, being watched by them. The performance lasts only as long as it takes to smoke all twenty cigarettes, however the remnants remain as an image.
The title of the exhibition, Liquid Assets, is an economic term that refers to an asset that can quickly be converted into cash with minimum impact. Here, it refers not only to the assets of a person and what is left when they pass away – clothing, possessions or even an effigy in the form of a statue, but also to the material of the statue – bronze, an increasingly valuable metal in today’s market, that can be sold, chopped up and melted down for re-use, literally becoming liquid. The tables, or pedestals, with their depictions of solid material play with similar concerns. The images come from files freely available on the Internet. We use them to create renditions of permanent, heavy constructions yet they are created in a transient place where they can be easily erased or changed within moments, like the dead dog that suddenly gets up, shakes his head and leaves the exhibition.
Glasgow Sculpture Studios is a membership organisation that receives revenue funding from Creative Scotland and Glasgow Life. This exhibition is generously supported by Creative Scotland’s Quality Arts Programme, The Danish Arts Council, Global Experience Specialists (GES) Ltd and Tiger Beer.