In Natura

by Frida Sandström

Exhibition text for the exhibition In Natura which was on view at Skomakeriet in Stockholm spring 2019

Both man and the earth consist of  70 % water. Both man and nature are dirty. Central for artist Åsa Cederqvist is a material ambivalence between a solid and a floating state, in the transistor between the two we find the growing and the decomposed, the soggy and the smooth. For Cederqvist it works like a kind of ”glue”, as she calls it. It can be shit, breast milk or clay. Mouldering and sprouting matter that, just like humankind, both draggle and wash itself clean. And there we are, in the aftershocks of civilisation—trying to make it all, after all that we’ve done to ourselves and to our children, right. 

It is in this crossroad of relations that we find Cederqvist, just after the verfremdung and slightly before self-reflection. The female and queer body is inherently tied to this state, from birth to possibly giving birth and further. Wile the floating, mucky matter of men is related to power: sperm, oceans to sail and money—for women and queers it is tied to shame, lack and dependency. As such, Cederqvist’s ”glue” needs to be understood as a renegotiation of this imbalance, where the fluent matter exceeds the frames of where it is assumed to be located: enclosed, hidden and unspoken.  

In this transgression, a desire for the floating, formless and boundless grows forth. In her book Ugly Feelings (2005), Sianne Ngai writes that while ”disgust is urgent and specific; desire can be ambivalent and vague”[1]. It doesn't need any confirmation or agreement, it simply is. To make such a claim as a non-male means to confront a gender order according to which mostly men are present with their 70% water on earth, whilst the rest of the population float together with the increasingly dirty oceans. The only way to, as non-male, make a claim on being present, is to not not be there [2]—to negate one’s own lack.

Video as medium works as an interface, an infrastructure for what otherwise would fall into pieces. In her installations, Cederqvist turns to metal constructions that enables a resistance from which the soft mass hangs, drips, insists. The same goes for the social relations that she brings forth in her films and performances, where textiles become alive as the pastiches turns out to be real and when the theatre scene coincides with the streets outside of the blackbox. Whether it’s a human or a large piece of foam rubber filling the fabric (patterned by marveled glitches of what once was natural) it is obvious that their positions are central. They move, in and out, up and past a whole that else would be dominated by void.
These spaces and passages should not only be understood in sexual terms but rather in terms of how we humans more or less pass through ourselves and others, in the production and consumption of words, liquids and cells. The duplication of the digital file diffuse the border between self-image and simulacrum. In the hand’s desire to retain order, the non-defined is made even more messy. It is in exactly this gesture that Cederqvist attaches our gaze. Between birth and decay she reminds us about the essential game, where what would else be understood as a misstake establishes new systems for existence.

[1]Disgust is urgent and specific; desire can be ambivalent and vague. The former expects concurrence; the latter does not. – Ngai, Sianne. (2005).Ugly Feelings, p. 337.

[2]Fanny Söderbäck elaborates on this in her essay ”Being in the Present: Derrida and Irigaray on the Metaphysics of Presence ” (2013),  where she cites Luce Irigaray: ”For woman, absence is “the condition for entry into presence”—like time, she only “is” insofar as she “is not”: Luce Irigaray. (1999). The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger.Mary Beth Mader, övers, s. 157–58. Austin: University of Texas Press.