Nina Canell’s current show, ‘Near Here’, at the Camden Arts Centre explores the connections that make up our environment. Canell’s work recalls the legacy of Duchamp’s ready-mades, and she uses objects like cables, nails, steel, gum, and carpets to assemble her pieces. Though the gallery is fairly small for an exhibition space, the sculptures are spread out, leaving plenty of room for the visitors to walk through and observe Canell’s work. These pieces may not be large in size, but they certainly make up for it in the density of their bodies.
Canell puts industrial, mundane objects that connect the sources of energy of our modern world into the viewer’s consciousness. She places cables into glass [no comma] water tanks in her sculptures: Forgetfulness (Dense), Forgetfulness (Ether), and Forgetfulness (Framed). Not only have these objects been cut off from their power sources, but the water has also destroyed the electronic equipment beyond repair. In Forgetfulness (Framed), Canell has given new life to her severed cables, and bubbles continuously rise from the tank bottom, stick to the tube, and then burst at the top, which makes visible the transference of energy. Cables and steel are largely considered industrial objects, useful but inanimate. Canell distorts any previous assumptions about the objects, and the bubbling water makes the glass tank look like a display case for an ecosystem.
Canell’s sculpture Mid-Sentence is of a circular tube stuffed with thin, multi-coloured cables. The cables’ function as energy conductors were destroyed when Canell severed them from their power sources. Nina Canell has created an atmosphere of anxiety through destroying one of the necessary bonds that humans rely on in the modern world. The bland, black circular tube reveals a dense collection of colourful cables that shimmer as light reflects off their gold wires. She has transformed the cables from a defunct piece of industrial rubbish into an object of beauty.
Not all of Canell’s sculptures are made from amputated cables. For Interiors (Condensed), Canell has placed a glass of coagulated air on a floor carpet. This glass acts as a barrier between the coagulated air and the clean air circling the empty space, and this forced division adds to the overall tension of the exhibition.
For Interiors (Elsewhere), Canell places chewing gum, wrapping and stones together on a floor carpet. The energy from chomping teeth transformed the original, powdery gum into a sticky glob stuck to a carpet. The chewed gum has become a dense, stone-like object that contrasts with the emptiness of the clean, off-white carpet. Canell plays with our prior beliefs about the meaning of life cycles, applying them to non-living objects, for when an inanimate object’s functionality changes it has entered a new stage in its life.
Nina Canell is an intellectually challenging artist, and her exhibition, Near Here, at the Camden Arts Centre deserves a visit.
Nina Canell:Camden Arts Centre until30th March 2014
Words/Photo Katherine Morais © Artlyst 2014