Coupling: Maarit Mustonen & Vlatka Horvat, 2023
PUBLICS, Helsinki, Finland
Curated by Paul O’Neill
From the press release:
Initiated in 2021, Coupling is PUBLICS’ expanding series of curatorial projects, collaborations, or pairings, where two artists/ practitioners are introduced to one another for the first time and show together because of some common concerns within their work. The forth PUBLICS Coupling with Helsinki-based artist Maarit Mustonen and London-based artist Vlatka Horvat comprises a public event, exhibition and series of window installations.
Horvat’s Reinforcements comprises wooden sticks connected with tape into longer poles, to make fragile structures stretching from the floor to the ceiling. On the one hand, these low-fi constructions of “dumb” materials evoke human-made support structures, such as pillars and columns, construction scaffolding, crutches and other contraptions intended to stabilize or hold things in place. A playfully foolhardy effort, the piece stages a certain misguided attempt to “fix” a non-existent problem of stability of the room by inserting what appears as load-carrying props under the room’s ceiling. On the other hand, the sticks conjure an impoverished natural landscape – vines, trees and bushes – a decidedly pathetic forest simulation made of found bits, wooden offcuts and parts of disused objects, which the viewer is invited to navigate as they might navigate a fragile natural environment.
Reinforcements continues a strand of Horvat’s sculptural works which place objects and materials in a state of precarious balance, temporarily held in place using principles of tension and counterpoise, without the aid of hardware or adhesives. By jamming her fragile contraptions between the floor and the ceiling, Horvat appears to be taking a measure of the space, bridging the distance between its extreme points – at once interrupting the cavity of the room with irregular jagged verticals while drawing attention to the physical edges of the room’s architecture and the confining nature of the built space.
Other new works by Horvat made for the occasion, titled Soft Spine (Concertina) and Concertina (II) continue a strand of recent pieces made with handmade paper, fabrics and bookbinding thread whereby pieces of fabric are stitched between two sheets of paper – a gesture that simultaneously connects two pages as well as keeps them apart – to create a form of a rudimentary book. As in Reinforcements, there is a sense of connecting, dividing, marking and measuring – of time, of intervals, of space of the room and the space of the paper, through the simple interaction of the two materials. Through a sequence of paper and textiles, Horvat constructs long objects which can be presented as a flat piece when fully opened but which becomes a sculptural proposition when partially closed and folded in space. The works approach the page – and by extension the book – as a sculptural object rather than a surface to be inscribed.
In addition to presenting their individual works alongside one another, Maarit and Vlatka collaborated on the new edition of Eurantie Window Publication, an experimental spatial publication Maarit edits with Arja Karhumaa in the Multipöly Room windows in Vallila.
Presented across the windows of Multipöly and PUBLICS the publication stages a meeting of two different strands of materials, each approaching the window as not only the substrate carrying the text but also as its subject. Maarit’s strand of short statements reveals the two spaces’ previous purpose, and Vlatka’s strand – titled Views (Remembered) – summons from memory the view out the window at her five previous places of residence. Speaking to the street and the passers-by, and explicitly addressing the relation between the inside and the outside, between looking out and looking in, between memory and perception, the publication is borne out of the two artists’ shared interest in expanded publishing formats.
My works in the show:
Main space and the windows
Assorted wooden sticks, tape
Soft Spine (Concertina), 2023
Watercolour ink and acrylic on Arches watercolour paper, silk, waxed linen thread
Concertina (II), 2023
Watercolour ink on Arches watercolour paper, silk, waxed linen thread
Views (Remembered), 2023
Text on window
In the office
To See Stars over Mountains, 2022