Imagine, if you will, a Second World War bombshelter: typical concrete construction, cold, damp, the few lights attached to the walls are directed at the ceiling. Scattered on the floor are white marble chips, from the sort of marble the great sculptures of the past were made. Lying before you as you enter the bunker are three more or less coffin-shaped blocks, approximately 8 feet long and 3 feet high and across. The three blocks are set one behind the other. They are made of jell-o! Hence the sharp edges of the marble chips dig into them, scoring their flesh; their gross, raspberry colour vibrant, too vibrant; they are translucent, solids that yet are a medium through which light passes.
This wonderful installation piece, by the Norwegian artist Jeannette Christensen, is almost too successful, almost a piece of conceptual art. Although visually powerful, amusing and disturbing, it appears to be making statements, or better, we cannot avoid approaching as if it were making statements: it asks us, on the one hand, to connect the hardness and monumentality of classical sculpture, its implicit celebration of power, its identification of power and beauty, as now only chips on the floor with, on the other hand, the need for hardness, the monumentality of the bombshelter. The bunker and the blasted beauty, the chipped trace of the classical, form a constellation of power, timelessness, and destruction. Further, there is a gendered affinity between the ruined classical sculpture and this bunker, the desire for immortality and the outrages of war which reduce it to rubble. The work urges the configuration of war and its devastation with the classically beautiful, those artistic perfections of the human Kant celebrated in his ideal of beauty. Christensen accomplishes this constellation through the work's oppositional structure: compare those masculine notions of art and worth with the fleshy, uncanny vulnerability of the gelatine blocks. There is here a call and a claim for transience and embodiedness, an act of mourning and an act of ironic revolt.
In saying that this piece is almost too successful, I mean that it lends itself so fully to statement that its visual spectacle is in danger of being (indeed will be!)