Focus

Rolf Nowotny

Christian Andersen, Copenhagen (H13)

Rolf Nowotny’s presentation dementia (mildew exteriors) came about as a reaction to his grandmother’s decline into dementia. With the installation the artist is attempting to convey the illness from within, to carve out an interior landscape of a mind slowly losing its sense of identity and self-narrative.

The installation includes models of mountain-like structures which bridge the gap between the dead, the organic, and the animated. Whether their uncanny shapes come from erosion or cultivation seems unclear. Or if they are somehow self-aware. On a base of industrial noise-reducing felt we see a monocultural wheat field. Amongst the stems and grains are bas-relief tin humanoids either lounging about, on the prowl, or peeking around the corner for danger. And above and around them strange flowers, planets, and faces modeled onto screw heads.

Nowotny invites the visitor into the imagined context of dementia itself. The installation of works convey the vague and muffled enunciation of an illness that to our horror might express a veiled, deeper premise of our being, namely that our idea of selfhood is a jumbled patchwork of memories, feelings, and senses interconnected through a constant self-arranging narrative. Together they draw out the outline of a specific person, the You. Dementia might not be an illness but rather the neurological rejection of a manic programme of self-narration. It might be the body itself who just wants to be in the world as it is, bare and uninterrupted.