Five Kinds of Water

Nina Canell

September 19 - November 22, 2009

In her fragile installations, the Swedish artist Nina Canell (*1979, lives in Berlin) transfers man-made objects and ‘natural’ objets trouvés into experimental arrangements concerned with changeability. Her exhibition Five Kinds of Water  comprises five works addressing the transitory properties of water in widely differing ways. It occurs both directly as a material that changes its form and presence and by indirect reference. Water is present in multiple form in Perpetuum Mobile (2400 KG), a work created for the exhibition. Water is set in motion by means of ultrasound, generating steam that slowly spills over the lip of the vessel to spread through the exhibition space. From time to time, this process is amplified via loudspeaker, making the transition between different aggregate states symbolically audible as sound waves. The spreading mist envelops sacks of cement whose mass is changed as the exhibition proceeds by the meandering atmospheric humidity. The “emerging stones” mark the culmination of a succession of states from water to steam to consolidation agent provoking the solidification of the cement. In Another Soft Stone (also 2009), stone finds a different counterpart in a neon tube clinging to its form, whose light adds an element of “anti-form” to the solid shape. In their delicate transformation, the rigid materials address the changing aspects of water in a subtle encounter. A further frame of reference is provided by the works Mutual Leap (After Nollét) (2008) and Nerve Variation (2009), whose origins go back to the “Leyden jar” discovered in 1745. Water is used in a glass jar encased in metal foil to store electric charge and thus energy. In a public demonstration the French scientist Abbé Nollét had a number of monks form a chain before discharging a “Leyden jar” through them. They all received an electric shock. The fragile composition Mutual Leap makes reference to this, balancing a ring of bones on elastic bands. Nollét also recognised that lightning has the same potential as an electric spark. This was perhaps why he rigorously rejected the lightning conductor developed by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. In Nerve Variation, the two aspects are united, for a glass ball sitting on a lightning conductor makes distant reference to the Leyden jar. Whereas water is a conductor, glass was used in the past as a lightning conductor. Invisible energies and their effects play a role in the two works. Water remains in the background, an agent whose state is changed only invisibly by charging and which always remains unstable. The fluidity of water is thus set in relation to the transmission of electricity. The work White Sands (2009) developed during her time in New York completes the circle. In New Mexico, the evaporation of water has produced a desert of calcium sulphate crystals, the sole testimony to the long journey of water through mountains and over rock. The water, enriched in its passage, collects into a small lake before evaporating away to set off the cycle anew. The white sand bears witness to its force and continuous transformation. The formless and changeable nature of water thus provokes questions about the shaping of substances, their properties, and their potential changeability. In the works of Nina Canell, the materials themselves become protagonists, developing their own temporal and narrative logic.

curated by Annette Hans

The exhibition is funded by Culture Ireland.