Video, DVD, 5 min loop. Installation view from exhibition "Evolutionary throwback" at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2012.
Photo: David Brandt
Between Life and Death
The work of Ylva Westerlund (S)
Preservation and conservation are museum collection practices, which Ylva Westerlund discloses as regressive and questions on the one hand, while at the same time employing them for her own artistic works. These processes are supplemented by the concepts of “dead” and “alive” – which cannot really function in conjunction – as embodied in literary creatures such as Frankenstein’s monster or vampires and zombies, for example. Westerlund is fascinated by such beings. As she sees it, there is an obvious analogy between these simultaneously broken and free creatures and the post-structuralist theories of Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. In the case of Butler the philosopher, it is the paradox of overcoming performative gender roles with a simultaneous negation of categories such as man and woman. This ambivalence helps Westerlund to conceive the categories of being and non-being simultaneously and to investigate this theme in collages, mural works, videos, texts and comics. In the process, she may enter into the role of a scientist or sometimes into that of the object being studied. In the video Evolutionary throwback (2012), for example, the artist appears as a creature crossed between homo sapiens and australopithecus anamensis, performing orders such as eat, think, read and talk in front of the camera. Here, she acts as both investigating subject and object to be investigated – when in the sequence “read”, for example, she reads aloud theories of evolution from a book. Ylva Westerlund is interested in (gender-)theoretical, scientific and biological threshholds and border areas, which she believes show enormous political and, of course, artistic potential.
Pencil drawing, 42 cm x 29 cm. Mounted on sketch board.
A drawing of the Australopithecus anamensis after sculpture models of the Naturkunde Museum in Berlin. Installation view from exhibition "Evolutionary throwback" at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2012.
The collage, "Post-mortem utopia", 2012, shows illustrations of anatomical human bodies and comic-inspired monsters. Weaving its way though the work a text describes visit to the Museum of Natural History in Berlin and the thoughts this evoked. The narrator proposes a possible contemporary interpretation of the collections, employing secondary literary references, political theory and subjective experience. Installation view from exhibition "Evolutionary throwback" at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2012. photo: David Brandt
In wall collage "Reading backwards", 2012, black-and-white images of early hominids are juxtaposed with historical imagery of union workers and socialism. Installation view from exhibition "Evolutionary throwback" at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2012.