Exhibition, Overgaden, Copenhagen 23.05. – 14.07.2013 and
Tresor, Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien 23.05. – 14.07.2013
Exhibition View IG 383 and The Play Sculptures
Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Sofie Thorsen’s spatial installation in the tresor is based on the aesthetic phenomenon of play sculptures, sculptural toys for children designed by artists, which in the post-war years played an important role in discussions on architecture and urbanism. Originating in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, ideas on experimental “play environments” spread abroad, testifying to a revaluation of the creative power of play. In Vienna, too, plays culptures were created for communal residential building developments as part of a large-scale “Kunst-am-Bau” (“percent for art”) programme; its abstract vocabulary of forms and colours introducing a Utopian dynamic into the triste architecture of the reconstruction years. The marginalised area between art and design for children proved to be a paradigmatic field of experimentation in realising the avant-garde demand for a change of life through art.
Since 2010, starting out from photographic archive material, Thorsen investigates the almost forgotten typology of play sculpture in an ongoing series with its specific dovetailing of architecture and abstract sculpture, aesthetics and function, also art and play. In doing so, she contextualises ideas of the Austrian Josef Seebacher-Konzut with those of other artists, including the amorphous concrete sculptures by the Danish sculptor Egon Møller Nielsen, the innovative works of Aldo Van Eyck, who between 1947 and 1968 “injected” a total of 700 playgrounds into the city of Amsterdam in order to create new social points of crystallisation in the urban space, and also Isamu Noguchi’s modernistic, unrealised play landscape of 1952 for the main headquarters of the United Nations in New York.
The historical black-and-white photographs of the various play figures showing the former context of their presentation and their users have been put through a process of abstraction by enlarging them and partially cutting-out the object’s contours to make blanc spaces, questioning their symbolism in the process. Thorsen activates the twodimensional photographic medium by presenting it on painted, coloured metal rods, which cross the room and themselves recall the aesthetic of the original toy sculptures. The play of the paper curling round the static framework restores the erstwhile sculptural presence to the paper figures, describing a movement that evokes the players’ space-devouring dynamic. The collages take shape as the result of a further medium transfer, in which Thorsen develops the photographic images of the three-dimensional paper sculptures into autonomous, schematic flat projections. This produces a fragile, walk-in archive of forms with a quasi iridescent effect between flatness and corporeality, offering an opportunity of analysing the aesthetic formations of Modernism and its political, social and cultural conditions.
Text: Heike Eipeldauer / Bank Austria Kunstforum