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Artist Klara Lidén Inverts the Relationship Between Private Spaces and the Street

Two new performance videos shown at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York, reflect on the increasing entanglement of finance and real estate

For her seventh solo show at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, Klara Lidén produced two new performance videos. The second and shorter of these, GTG TTYL, functions as a quick ‘sketch’ or key to the more prominently scaled Grounding (both works 2018). In GTG TTYL, a series of sequences spliced quickly together show the artist contemplating the empty gallery space and measuring its dimensions with her body before disappearing almost seamlessly into a crevice or fold in each static shot: crumpling gracefully over a black leather couch; tucking torso, hips, knees and ankles under and up behind a temporary projection screen; or slipping into the small gap between the gallery’s white-cube staging area and the room’s ‘original’ shell, clad in a chintzy tin wainscoting. The artist’s withdrawal from the conventional site of exhibition implies an eventual public exit, elsewhere – a quasi-narrative leap that is satisfied by the simple premise of Grounding.

Klara Liden, GTG TTYL, 2018, HD video. Courtesy: the artist and Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York /Los Angeles; photograph: Joerg Lohse

Previously, Lidén’s installations have pointed outwards beyond the conventional display mode of the gallery, or otherwise attempted to invert the relationship between private space and the street, through sculptural and architectural means. Upon entering this exhibition, the viewer encounters a video projected, at nearly full scale, onto a plywood surface set back at an angle of approximately 60 degrees. The looped film begins with Lidén clambering up the stairs from the Wall Street subway station and traces her steady pacing – set to an uneasy, percussive soundtrack by Askar Brickman – in a single continuous take. Loitering construction workers, a stroller-toting father and delivery men briefly share the frame with Lidén as she encounters them on her circuit, a choreography interrupted only by her regular, unprovoked tripping and falling to the ground. Somewhat comically – if not for the unsettling sonic tempo – these missteps do little to slow or inhibit her progress as she crosses a few blocks into an empty square on Liberty Street, a privately owned public space below a 60-story landmarked skyscraper that is only eerily implied in the low camera angle tracking her modest movement at ground level. Here temporary scaffolding, plastic site barriers and safety netting – evidence of ongoing urban development and the increasing entanglement of finance and real estate – rigorously intervene into, trap or almost contain the walkway, ironically undermining the name of the artist’s designated route. Emerging onto Broadway, just steps away from Zuccotti Park (once the staging ground for Occupy Wall Street), the camera stops as Lidén continues down the street and finally around the corner, out of the frame.

Klara Liden, Grounding, 2018, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York /Los Angeles; photograph: Joerg Lohse

A doorway cut into the plywood projection surface at the gallery allows viewers the possibility to cross through (or into) Lidén’s film, behind which its construction – propped up on those ubiquitous scaffolding pipes and tubes – can be observed. GTG TTYL plays on a small wall-mounted monitor in this intimate background area, allowing some relief from the public exposure of Grounding. Having implied a relationship between the space of the gallery, or art world, and one of Manhattan’s more fabled emblems of power, the structure of Lidén’s show invites, yet again, a question of embodied action in relation to broader social and economic systems. 

Furthermore, her frequent contact with the pavement in Grounding – including a faceplant in the vicinity of Jean Dubuffet’s overblown Group of Four Trees (1969–72) – suggests that art’s historical capacity to camouflage predatory financial practices may now be exhausted. But as long as free passage in the New York City streets is still possible (for privileged subjects, at least), there may yet be a necessary politics or even pleasure – that is, another kind of value – left in the unmediated practice of the dérive.

Klara Lidén, 'Grounding' was on view at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York, from 4 November until 17 December 2018.

Main image: Klara Liden, Grounding, 2018, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York /Los Angeles; photograph: Joerg Lohse

Kari Rittenbach is a critic and independent curator in New York City. 

Issue 201

First published in Issue 201

March 2019
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