Introduction

Introduction

The sculptures and installations of Edvine Larssen appear as condensed visual symbols. Using simple, but precise means, Larssen creates refined objects charged with potential drama: A house built on high poles with neither windows nor doors, inaccessible and mysterious; a red stage curtain in the exhibition room, disconnected from its original context and function. The conscious use of architectural and scenic elements is one of Larssen’s trademarks. Staging and theatricality are at play in her installations, in the active meeting between the observer and the work, and in the interplay between fiction and reality.

Edvine Larssen’s works are characterized by her interest in theatre as a medium of fiction. The parallel between the theatre space and the exhibition space and the theatrical function of art, is a recurrent art-historical theme. The use of illusion and breach of illusion  is characteristic of both theatre and art. A number of contemporary artists work with the scenic and the theatrical as parameters, be it Dan Graham and his pavilions, Ulla von Brandenburg and her tablueaux vivants, or Janet Cardiff and her perfect illusions. The common denominator for these works is that they create an active and temporal relation to the observer.

Of much importance for Edvine Larssen is the application of language and symbols in different theatre traditions. Her fascination with the Japanese Noh theatre, strengthened during a lengthy period of study in Japan, forms the backdrop for many of her creations. Noh is characterized by slowness, stylized movement, masks, and a rigorously built world of symbols. Larssen is interested in the relationship between the symbolic theatre of the East and the illusionary theatre of the West – what is hidden and what is revealed, what is supporting and what is breaking with the fiction.

Larssen’s work Curtain from 2007, a stage curtain hanging freely in the exhibition space, places the observer in an ambiguous position. Where do we position ourselves in the room? Which is the front and which is the back? Who is the observer and who is being observed? The title and its semantics also contribute to this, as curtain not only refers to window hangings and stage curtains, but also to end and death.

The title also plays its part in the work Mezzanine, which will be exhibited at Kunstnernes Hus. A mezzanine is a smaller floor between two floors in a building, often in the shape of a balcony or a landing, but the term can also refer to a transition, or a pocket in time. Larssen’s gigantic stage construction activates the room and the observer’s movements within it. We encounter an overturned stage, and a dark red stage curtain is flooding across the floor. The stage floor, which is made of lacquered veneer boards, becomes a massive wall that rises seven metres up in the skylight hall. The use of theatre in contemporary art often has a social dimension, where the observer is placed in the leading role. Mezzanine however, does not allude to participation. The stage has lost its illusionary function and turns away from the observer. The overturned stage hints at a rupture, a collapse of fiction, but the significance of this collapse remains open.