A CERTAIN BLOOM
curated by Paola Paleari
Fonderia 20.9, Verona
June 21st – July 13th, 2019
A certain bloom, curated by Paola Paleari, is the first solo presentation in Italy by Swedish artist Kristina Bengtsson.
Embracing the notions of romance, time, nature and artifice through the use of photography, sculpture, writing and sound, the exhibition presents several bodies of work – in origin realized individually and at different moments – that here come together in a concert of voices orchestrated for the occasion.
The show has the picture Untitled as its point of departure. It depicts the kitchen of an art institution in Sweden, where the mirror of a microwave oven partially reflects a poster with a photographic portrait of Luciano Pavarotti hanging on the opposite wall. The bare and bright interior offers a contrasting, almost surrealistic context to the famous tenor’s magnetic, deep-dark eyes, which seem to be staring at us.
Kristina Bengtsson, Untitled, 2019
The image sets the tone for a reflection upon the clash between personal emotions and social constructions. Many of us might feel like we know Pavarotti to some extent, but what we are really confronted with is an iconography built around his powerful voice and charismatic persona. In an attempt to fill this gap, or in a comment on his partial representation as a human being, Bengtsson gives voice to a Pavarotti eternally trapped in the same spot in the series of writings Microwave Monologues.
The city of Verona is known worldwide as the hometown of two fabled symbols: the Roman Arena, that hosts large-scale opera shows and where Pavarotti performed several times, and the Renaissance balcony, where Juliet is said to have been wooed by Romeo. Both locations attract thousands of tourists and function as settings for a temporary escape from reality into a world of dreams and emotions; offering a factual example of how history and legend often overlap.
In the series of sculptures that lends the title to the show, Bengtsson explores the residual space in between the pre-established rational categories we adopt to orientate ourselves in our daily lives. She does so by transforming a trivial shape – that of a rubber boot in two standard sizes, one female one male – into a poetic figure serving as a vase for a selection of plants, weeds and flowers growing spontaneously in the urban space. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, Juliet says, implying that how we define things should not affect what they really are.
Kristina Bengtsson, A certain bloom, 2019
The collision between nature and artifice is fully disclosed in Time is smiling at you, where the circular prints that we read as clocks are in fact images of a pattern created by the wind moving a snapped twig on the sand. This very simple “empirical appropriation” by Bengtsson mirrors how the notion of time is created; that is, by reducing an organic entity with qualitative features into an abstract unit with quantitative characteristics.
Kristina Bengtsson, Time is smiling at you, 2019
Flower Alarm, a collaborative work by Bengtsson and Paleari, further investigates the struggle between the rational management of nature and its concrete and sensual value. It is a digital alarm clock based on the horologium florae invented in 1751 by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus: a garden clock where specific flower species are arranged accordingly to the time of the day when their petals open or close. The alarm clock is installed on a smartphone, and the 24 ringtones that mark the 24 hours of the day are the botanical names of Linneus’ flowers interpreted by a female opera singer.
Through plain gestures and subtle propositions, A certain bloom wants to remind us that the spaces between efficiency and leeway, codification and spontaneity are there for us to be discovered and enjoyed.
Kristina Bengtsson & Paola Paleari, Flower Alarm, 2019
Above: A screenshot of Flower Alarm’s homepage on soundcloud
Below: Cicerbita alpina, 7 AM
Kristina Bengtsson (b.1979) is an artist born in Lund, currently living in Copenhagen. She works with photography, sculpture and text. With sociology being her main area of interest she often uses mundane and overlooked everyday objects alongside pop cultural references to activate a critical engagement around representation and understanding.
The piece Flower Alarm is produced by Emailing While Intoxicated and sees the kind participation of Danish mezzosoprano Johanne Højlund.
A certain bloom is accompanied by a limited-edition catalogue containing a selection of research material and my text for the exhibition.
The catalogue is produced by Fonderia 20.9 and designed in collaboration with Chiara Bandino/Fonderia 20.9. To purchase the catalogue, write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.