On the work of Carina Randløv

There is something inherently sympathetic in the approach of Carina Randløv. Perfectionism, minimalism or control-fetishism are not at all the words that would fit the bill. Instead, she wants to save room – time and space – for the installation to constantly alter and change its shape. It spells confusion, collision and coincidence. In other words, for Randløv the decisive moment is when she decides to leave the work behind. And this is highly important. She needs to back off in order for the installation to move from that point towards somewhere else on its own. It is a process in which something disappears, but not without sound or trace.

So what kind of sound or trace do her installations leave behind? Basically, it goes back to her choice of materials, which have for some time been something extraordinarily normal or even banal. The chosen materials are balloons, and not any specially-made version, but the common items you can buy anywhere. In fact, items that you can blow up anywhere. But what happens when the air disappears out of the balloon? More precisely, try to imagine what it would look like if a bunch of balloons were strung together and left to their own devices. I would not call the effect serious, but it is strange. The destiny of such an organic, elastic form is a continuously shrinking existence.

Now let us move to the sound elements, which are very much at the core of her video work, Losreissung, presented in her show at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in spring. Imagine a load of latex balloons which are taped together. This time Randløv does not wait for the air to escape. She does something weird and silly: she pulls the balloons away from the tape.

I have to assume that most of us recall what it feels like, to stand up after sitting on a leather sofa wearing shorts or a skirt. There is a mild squueeek of skin peeling off the sofa. Pulling see-through tape from a balloon sounds similar. At this conjuncture, connotations begin to run amok. It is the incredibly dominating sound. A sound which is not necessarily aggressive, but certainly pervasive. And I just hope this is the sound of the future when the macro level nightmare of the Silicon Valley or the micro-level variation Silicon implants start to go terribly wrong. Wreeetcch freetcch, is the sound it makes, before blowing up – for good.

In a conceptual sense, there is an attractive word tightly interwoven to these traces. For unaccountable reasons, the concept seems to be most real when said in German: vergänglichkeit. This is partly so because it flirts and makes fun of all the high-brow German concepts that are imported from various sciences into mainstream language use. On the other hand, it seems even onomatopoetic, referring to the notions of distortion and decay, of time passing, and of what effect it has on each and everyone of us.

For Randløv, the content of the notion of vergänglichkeit stems from direct confrontation with her chosen material. It is her experience with balloons that has made and motivated her to focus on how things change from one form to another. It is not only about something passing away or dying, but about awakening the inner mobility of an organic material called latex. And then it is time for her to step in and manipulate, interrupt the organic form. Her task is to take it, fake it, force it and chase it to somewhere where it has not previously been and where it is not supposed to be going.

As a whole installation, as in the main room of the exhibition at Bethanien, the overall feeling connected to it is a sense of calm. (Perhaps it is calmness just on the verge of collapse) It is a nice reminder of what time is, what it does, and how easy it is to try to neglect it – very often unconsciously. It is difficult to characterize her installations as sad or happy: they are neither-nor, but something which makes you think twice. About time and space.

One of the central themes embodied in her work is quite obviously the question of body. It is not only the notion of female body, but increasingly also the way post-industrial cultures treat and deal with human body as such – be it male, female or something in-between. The starting point for Randløv is anger and provocation: anger at the commodification of human bodies. This fact has been a daily reality for women at least since the 50s and a trend in which the images of masculinity are fast catching up.

It is about the cruel difference between what we see in the crazy, sexy, cool commercials and what we see in our own mirror. The point is that if you do not recognize that gap, you are quite close to becoming a product yourself. Randløv is here touching some very problematic, but interesting, nerves. She is very aware that even if one is critical about the commercialization of images of the human body, this mega-million dollar cultural industry is deeply rooted and so vehemently driven that there is hardly any way out of it. You are – whether you like it or – a part of your current context and socio-political situation.

So what are we supposed to do when we cannot pretend to be outside this appalling system? We arrive at the very core of both Randløv’s instincts and attitudes. You can’t beat them, and you definitely do not want to sleep with them. Thus, the only alternative is to actively and critically confront them.

The result, and the route from the attitude to the final result, for example, in that main room in Bethanien, is a mess. But it is a mess that invites you to join in the game of time and space. This time round you do not have to be careful. The enemy is not within – that part of the endless fight is at least won. Here you have the possibility to stop, and to let it sooth you. The incredible simple point is, even if you wanted to be the great star model up there in the billboard sky, filled with problems you are so glad not to even know the names of, you will never ever succeed. Certainly you can buy yourself a piece of it, but that piece will be overrun, sooner rather than later, by that convincing and demanding concept called - vergänglichkeit. In other words, Randløv invites you to confront the decay, the distortion and the act of constant disappearance. It is your chance to be aware of it, and to cope with it.

Now the hilarious thing is that these installations not only take a lot of time to start to take their form. They also demand a great deal of time to relate to. It is not that you need to stand in the room for fifty-five minutes before you notice that the door to that toilet you were waiting for was open all the time. It is about the difficult task of getting into the groove, getting into the act of relocation and reconsidering what you see, feel and how you fit into the process. In a significant way,

watching Randløv’s balloons slowly but surely "happen," is very much like gazing at a plant growing. It will, eventually, but not for you. To get into the groove, you have to participate yourself. And then, then the notion of something dying should not make you dance with melancholic meanness. Instead, it opens up the chance to shift the focus. When something ends, something else must start. As in the installations, with different altering forms, the basic idea lives and moves further.

The balloons. The closest I can get to them is that they are like snowballs – snowballs you made to throw at someone but which end up melting in your hand. But the idea and the desire, strong as ever, stays alive. And then the act of disappearance leaves a sudden and random but very formidable trace: a unique appearance.

Mika Hannula, für BE-Magazin no. 8(2002)