When we drink from a cup or kick a stone not many of us think about where they come from, why they look like they do, or what they may have experienced along the way. But perhaps the objects surrounding us have more to say about us and our world than we think?
Questions like these are central to the art practise of Johan Rosenmunthe, in which he uses sculpture, performance and installations to probe the relationship and not least the dynamics between human and non-human ways of being. In the exhibition Hidden in Plain Sight the artist pursues this trajectory, transforming the ground floor of Overgaden into an archaeological site for the speculative study of objects, memory and time.
A leitmotif of the exhibition is Rosenmunthe’s hypothesis that objects absorb information from their surroundings through sound waves, hormones, shifts in temperature, etc. From this perspective, the extended limestone landscape in the first section of the exhibition becomes a data-packed source embodying the stories of million-year-old life forms, geological disruptions, industrialisation, and the transportation of the material from the limestone quarry to the exhibition space. What if we could extract this knowledge? Inspired by scientific methods and the industrial domain this hypothesis is developed in different ways in the works in the exhibition. In Waiting for Osmosis, for example, objects like toothbrushes, violin bows and a robotic arm are immersed in liquids of various colours in backlit glass vitrines with a glow of science fiction and alchemy. The liquid in one of the vitrines can even be tapped and drunk to create a bodily connection with the objects within it.
These speculative layers of the exhibition are coupled with an aesthetic exploration of ordinary materials and everyday articles, which thus become charged with new meaning. In a series of prints Rosenmunthe scans and juxtaposes objects we often fail to notice or value, but which are infused with a strange, compelling aura as a result of the artistic selection and transformation. In one of the prints cables coil organically, and in another the bristles of a broom rise like artificial vegetation. A displaced view of the familiar can also be seen in Object Echoes. Here the artist has embedded objects like a slide mount and a control panel in plastic that has then been sliced to offer an unfamiliar perspective on the encased objects. In doing so the artist shifts focus from the function of the objects to the narratives implicit in their material composition and design and what these reveal about contemporary life, much like the discovery of a tool from the Iron Age.
With Hidden in Plain Sight Rosenmunthe highlights the way our material surroundings form part of cyclical processes of change at the physical level and level of meaning, both of which are closely intertwined with human existence. The invitation is to reach a deeper understanding of objects and the world of materials, which as the exhibition title implies can expose overlooked aspects of our lives that are right in front of us – embedded in matter.
(some photos by Anders Sune Berg)