“Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised an endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions […] The images of these wounds hung in the gallery of his mind, like exhibits in the museum of a slaughterhouse.” —J.G Ballard, Crash, 1973
Drawing from abstract and gestural tendencies of Informalism (Art Informel) towards a futuristic system of dematerialized sculptures, Latvian-born Berlin-based Daiga Grantina (b. 1985) develops an ensemble of works that challenge and redefine notions of organic materiality.
A first glance at Grantina’s recent exhibitions, particularly “Legal Beast Language,” her 2014 solo exhibition at Galerie Joseph Tang in Paris, projects the viewer into a domestic universe of sublimated items, where everyday objects (auto body parts, arms and legs, jewelry) are used as a metonymy for what seems to be an obsession with deconstruction and decay. In the work ЯR, for instance, a purple ray of light projected onto a shiny aluminum surface evokes the feeling of being transplanted into a troubling nightclub, a backdrop for creatures and bodies to meet and interact.
The feminine aspect of Grantina’s shapes, though made of consumer and industrial materials such as acrylic, polycarbonate, acrylic gel or PVC, recalls the tortured molds of Polish sculptor and photographer Alina Szapocznikow, who produced casts of her body transformed into everyday objects such as lamps or ashtrays. Expressing a lineage with the Surrealists’ erotic fetishism for objects, Szapocznikow’s work echoed their desire to jostle the body’s hierarchy and to disorient the viewer towards the status of the object and the image. While Grantina seems similarly invested in stretching the representation of the human body and defying the modernity of the object, she does so precisely by inverting the process developed by Szapocznikow: where the Polish artist used the body to metamorphose it into a series of objects, Grantina is, on the contrary, turning pre-existent elements into installations of decomposing bodies.
The recurring idea of the living flux evokes
Bataille’s notion of “formless.”
Her recently opened exhibition at Mathew Gallery in Berlin, innocently titled “The Mountain Guide,” is a haunting and formidable ensemble of organic sculptures intertwined on the floor and walls of the gallery—pieces of flesh and rough components, suspended, floating or leaning on the walls of the white cube, suggesting an entire body dislocated and distorted. The idea of the living flux appears at the core of the artist’s practice, evoking the notion of “formless” coined by French writer George Bataille. “Formless is a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm,” Bataille wrote in 1929.
The obsession with matter that punctuates the production of Grantina’s sculptures and installations drags the perception of her work into a dystopian future, where technology has penetrated even our most intimate human relations. There is definitely a sense of apocalyptic reality, the aftermath of a visual chaos in the theater of objects that composes her installations. The title of her 2014 piece Crashino, an assemblage resembling a head of strings, PVC and fake carnations, makes clear reference to Ballard’s 1973 novel, and appears as an homage to the author’s considerations on the perversity of technology and the fragility of the human body.
Daiga Grantina (Latvian, b. 1985) is an artist who lives and works in Berlin and Paris. She is represented by Galerie Joseph Tang, Paris.<br>A solo exhibition of Daiga Grantina is currently on view at Mathew Gallery, Berlin, through 31 October. In November, her work will be exhibited within the “Present Future” section of Artissima, Turin.
Martha Kirszenbaum is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles and Paris. She currently serves as director and curator of Fahrenheit, an exhibition space and residency program in Los Angeles.
Image: Mouth Harness, 2014 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Joseph Tang, Paris, Photo credit: Aurélien Mole