Nina Canell’s artistic practice does not revolve around the finished artwork; instead, it foregrounds process, synergy and entanglement.
For the Berlinische Galerie, she has conceived an experiential installation that considers the material vitality of calcite. Literally crumbling under our own weight, seven tonnes of shells speak up from the ground, causing a sensation remote from that of walking on a polished gallery floor. Yet, crushed calcite from marine molluscs is an essential ingredient in concrete, a major constituent of our built environment. Here, the biomineral forms that feed the con-struction industry break down over the course of the exhibition. Material stress gives way to a sounding, durational sculpture, inviting us to consider the ineffable number of broken bodies that hold us up.
The exhibition brings together several of Canell’s sculptural works, including a number of severed subsea power and signaling cables. The circulation of energy is an integral preoccupation of Canell’s practice, which is further explored in a video created with long-term collaborator Robin Watkins. Alternating between two sites, it shows a leopard slug slowly navigating an electrical enclosure. Seemingly blending into a hybrid form, the slug’s muscular fluctuations respond to defunct circuits and palimpsest electric fields, almost becoming a part of the infra-structural environment. The screen itself, a wall of Light Emitting Diodes, relays the intimate moving images of the slug by way of voltage variations.
The sequence that follows is captured up high, framing portal-like openings in massive, curved buildings on the waterfront in Telegraph Bay, Hong Kong. These passageways are known as “dragon holes” and are the result of human engineering, allowing dragons to pass through dense apartment blocks, as they descend from the mountains to drink and bathe in the ocean below. Focusing on the apparent emptiness that constitutes the dragon’s path, the camera steadily zooms out using compressed air to control the motion of the lens.
The exhibition considers the overlaps between minerals, animals, energies and technologies, reflecting the artist’s commitment to duration and circulation as fundamental sculptural tools.