Introduction to the work of NINIA SVERDRUP by Peer Golo Willi
It is the overlapping of coincidence and control that leads to different ways of examining reality in Ninia Sverdrup’s work.
Sverdrup’s video series Urban Scenes (IV-XII, 2005-2011) captures everyday events and occurrences in urban surroundings. At first, trivial scenes are simply observed. The shown scene always remains an excerpt of an otherwise fleetingly recorded scenery: people and cars move within the excerpt, sometimes they appear suddenly as autonomous elements and then disappear again. The absurdity of these contemporary vedute becomes even more fantastical when Sverdrup digitally incorporates the mirrored images of architectural elements, which only catch the eye at a second glance.
Sverdrup reconstructs the sound for these videos in her studio. She works selectively: Only individual sounds are reconstructed and subsequently integrated in the scenes. This makes the sounds seem highlighted, over-present and thus unreal. At the same time, all sounds from the surroundings are missing, traffic and voices reach a new presence through their very absence. The atmosphere that results here paradoxically through its apparent unreality creates a new, concentrated and controlled reality, which directs the viewer’s gaze and perception towards a kind of para-world.
The focus lies on the existence of the absent, silence and emptiness. With the alteration of the perception of time and space, emptiness is subjected to revaluation, which becomes spatial experience over time, and relativises temporal experience. With the concept of ma, rooted in Japanese culture and thought for centuries, Sverdrup has found a term that comes closer to her sensibilities than the traditional Western concepts, as it defines space as non-static and time as non-linear. Ma understands spatial dimensions as part of the temporal dimension and vice versa. In Sverdrup’s work it seems like she wants to follow time to insert it into a given coordinate system of spatial perception as temporal experience.
One might assume that Sverdrup leaves nothing to chance, whether visual or acoustic, in her selective contemplation. However, chance is her source material, by using it and manipulating it with artistic means she subjects it to her control. The complex mental origination process in her work is not always and not necessarily immediately visible, but it is evident, if not at first sight.
(Abstract of the essay Controlled Coincidences and New Realities, 2011)
English translation by Zoë Miller