Blind Caravan, Catalogue text
By Eva Skibsted Mogensen
 

Annesofie Sandal’s installation sculptures are peopled by a plethora of peculiar, slightly disturbing beings and artefacts that seem familiar, yet evade easy deciphering.  Her works are always carried out with the greatest possible care, respect for, and pleasure in the material and craftsmanship used, causing the individual sculptures to seem to mime primitive art. Despite their simple, even banal, appearance they seem to have embedded themselves within a long-standing tradition of symbolic or allegorical meaning. Not, however, in a traditional sense, but rather in a Walter Benjaminesque sense where the allegory designates an image that works with allegorical elements without employing lists of pre-defined connections like those found in the iconographic reference works employed for the creation of traditional allegories (such as Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, 1593).

In the chapter entitled “The Artist as Ethnographer” in The Return of the Real. The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (1996) Hal Foster analyses the predilection for ethnographic art in the 1980s and 1990s, which often prompted artists to use media (video, photographs, or found objects) that convey an impression of verisimilitude, of an intimate relationship with reality. Foster finds evidence of an over-identification with what he calls “the cultural Other”. This causes the works to lose a crucial critical distance. By working in a manner that Hal Foster calls “quasi-anthropological” the artist also risks a blurring of professional boundaries, which in turn entails a risk of a loss of professional accountability. According to Foster, this leaves the spectator in a confused position as regards the authority and authenticity of the work. The works of Annesofie Sandal may well leave spectators confused, but in a paradoxical move this is because even though her works imitate what might be called the art of a cultural Other, her work – unlike the 1980s and 1990s pieces described by Foster – does not seem to make any claims about documenting an authoritative or, for that matter, authentic reality. Like an ethnographer studying strange peoples with unknown cultural structures, she seems to invoke her very own narrative codes in her works. This is to say that she never ventures into the realm of “quasi-anthropology”; she insists on having the works regarded as art.

In The Return of the Real Foster discusses the real on the basis of Lacanian terminology, and “the real” should never be confused with “reality”. To Lacan, the real is something beyond the symbolised, something which cannot be grasped in language; hence Lacan’s statement about how the real is a symptom of deficiencies in the symbolic order, that which ”always remains, behind and beyond, to lure us.” The object of Annesofie Sandal’s reading is not just reality per se, but also the real; a sphere corresponding to that which the Anglo-American artist and theoretician Victor Burgin has termed psychical realism: That which cannot be immediately represented within the symbolic order; the mental space not immediately visible in the subject. Poignantly, Annesofie Sandal’s works look back at us from a non-visible cultic space which, at one and the same time, reaches further back than traditional mythologies and farther ahead than the reality that surrounds us immediately.

Annesofie Sandal’s works often feature beings or objects that – regardless of whether they appear as part of small armies or as individual pieces – have a ritual quality to them even though their back story or mythological significance is unknown to us.  When the figures gaze back at us as part of silent, immobile armies, they evoke a peculiar sense of stasis in the spectator. Stasis is often an integrated aspect of Annesofie Sandal’s works. They may be reminiscent of a kind of still lifes that are not just vanitas images intended to remind the onlooker of the transience of life; rather, they challenge our notion of change: when is change actually change in appearance only, and when are stasis and stability mere illusions?

Literature
Hal Foster: The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1996)
Jacques Lacan: The four fundamental concepts of psycho-analysis (London, Penguin Books, 1994)

Blind Karavane, katalogtekst
Af Eva Skibsted Mogensen
 

Annesofie Sandals installatoriske skulpturer er befolket af et utal af underfundige og lettere foruroligende væsener og artefakter, der forekommer genkendelige, men alligevel ikke helt dechifrerbare. Hendes værker er altid udført med største omhu, respekt for og glæde ved materialet og kunsthåndværket på en sådan måde, at de enkelte skulpturer synes at mime primitiv kunst. På trods af deres simple eller ligefrem banale udtryk fremtræder de, som om de har indlejret en lang tradition af symbolsk eller allegorisk betydning. Dog ikke i den traditionelle forstand, derimod i en Walter Benjaminsk forstand, hvor allegorien betegner en billedform, der arbejder med allegoriske elementer uden den facitliste, som de traditionelle allegorier havde i de ikonografiske håndbøger (for eksempel Cesare Ripas Iconologia, 1593).

I kapitlet The Artist as Etnographer i bogen The Return of the Real. The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (1996) analyserer Hal Foster tendensen til etnografisk kunst i 1980’erne og 1990’erne, hvor kunstnerne ofte brugte medier (video, fotos eller fundne genstande), der giver indtryk af nærhed med realiteten. Foster finder, at der sker en overidentifikation med, hvad han kalder den ’den kulturelle Anden’. Det betyder, at værkerne mister en nødvendig kritisk distance. Ved at arbejde på en måde, som Hal Foster kalder ’quasi-antropologisk, risikerer kunstneren også, at der sker en udviskning af de faglige grænser, og at der dermed opstår en risiko for, at det faglige ansvar forsvinder. Det efterlader, ifølge Foster, beskueren i en forvirret position med hensyn til værkets autoritet og autenticitet.  Det kan godt være, at Annesofie Sandals værker efterlader beskueren forvirret, men det skyldes paradoksalt nok, at på trods af, at hendes værker imiterer, hvad man kunne kalde en kulturel Andens kunst, så synes hendes værker, modsat de 1980’er og 1990’er værker Foster beskriver, ikke at have nogen trang til at dokumentere en autoritativ eller for den sags skyld autentisk realitet. Snarere synes hun, som en etnograf, der studerer særegne folkeslag med ubekendte kulturer, at påkalde sig sine helt egne narrative koder til sine værker. Det vil sige, at hun aldrig bevæger sig over i det ’quasi-antropologiske felt, men insisterer på netop det kunstneriske.

I The Return of the Real diskuterer Foster det reelle ud fra en lacaniansk terminologi, og ’det reelle’ må ikke forveksles med ordet ’realitet’. Det reelle hos Lacan er noget, der ligger uden for symboliseringen, som i en vis forstand ikke kan gribes i sproget; derfor Lacans formulering om, at det reelle er symptom på mangler i den symbolske orden, det som ”always remains, behind and beyond, to lure us.” Objektet for Annesofie Sandals fortolkning er ikke blot realiten per se, men også det reelle, som svarer til, hvad den engelsk-amerikanske kunstner og teoretiker Victor Burgin har kaldt psykisk realisme: Det i den symbolske orden ikke umiddelbart repræsenterbare, subjektets ikke umiddelbart synlige mentale rum. Annesofie Sandals værker kigger netop tilbage på os fra et ikke synligt kultisk rum, der på en gang rækker længere tilbage end til de traditionelle mytologier og længere frem end den umiddelbare realitet. 

I Annesofie Sandals værker er der ofte væsener og objekter, der, hvad enten de optræder i små hære eller er enkeltstående, synes rituelle, selv om deres baggrundshistorie eller mytologiske forklaring er ukendt.  Når figurerne kigger tilbage på os som en del af tavse, ubevægelige hære, opstår der en helt særegen følelse af stilstand hos beskueren. Stilstand er netop ofte integreret i Annesofie Sandals værker. De kan minde om en art stilleben, som ikke blot er vanitas billeder, der skal minde beskueren om verdens forgængelighed, men som derimod stiller spørgsmålstegn ved, hvori forandring egentlig består: hvornår er forandring kun tilsyneladende, og hvornår er stilstand og stabilitet kun illusioner.

Litteratur
Hal Foster: The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1996)
Jacques Lacan: The four fundamental concepts of psycho-analysis (London, Penguin Books, 1994)