Randi Nygård

Text by Wojciech Olejnik

"The Aleph?" I repeated. "Yes, the place where, without admixture or confusion, all the places of the world, seen from every angle, coexist.” 1

Randi Nygård’s recent sculptures appear like three-dimensional collages, each presents an accord of shifting positions and perspectives. Formed by the recompositioning of printed materials from books, magazines and prints, this work goes through an extensive process of cutting and folding, where strips of pages spring out and unfurl through the pages above. Depending on the weight and rigidity of the paper the resulting structures can be resilient and upright, or unstable and fragile, barely supporting themselves, on the verge of collapse.

Nygård’s methodology is infused with play. The cuts and creases that appear to explode chaotically through the pages can actually be traced back, literally, to the outline of a single initial shape, hidden within the stack. Some of the cut lines appear to wander off onto their own, unconstrained by the imagery of the printed material, yet every alteration here has a starting point, whether located within the stack or flipped over on the back of a page. In fact, these objects can no longer be read like a book. One’s eye moves across many lines and planes, according to a three-dimensional path, which simultaneously navigates through different books and subject matter. In Growth and Movement (2010) for instance, this path interweaves such seemingly unrelated events as an eruption of a volcano on Iceland and the French Revolution, a relationship that may or may not be historically credible. One must rely on a faster mode of reading, a skimming through the overabundance of information. This is well exemplified in Wall, painting, paper, plaster, wood, cellulose, gypsum, mineral, chemical element, atoms, particles, vulcanos, heat and pressure, the Big Bang (2010). This work thrusts out of the wall, as if from nothingness, creating a kind of a wormhole in the wall, a severance of the time-space continuum. The pieces of paper, intertwined with the materials from the wall push against each other, collide, expand outwards like foaming water on the surface of a stormy sea, fragmenting the space. This space can be read according to a spiraling trajectory, following an active rim, the event horizon of the paper explosion.  In most of this work, the center functions like a “white hole,” where the density of information is infinite, where the circumference, like the edge of a fractal does not have a finite distance, but gets folded and folded until infinity, making its distance infinite too.  Unlike a black hole, information is not destroyed here, but escapes intact, where the original voice of each object can still be perceived, separated from the mass.

A similar dislodging of information takes place in the video Friends and family back and forth in time (2006), where, in the small towns of Kvinnherad, the hopes and dreams of a group of children and the worldviews and life experiences of a group of adults are exchanged, and read out in front of the camera by individuals from opposite groups. As the voice of one envelopes the other, the viewer witnesses an exchange and transference of insight and personal history. Where one might expect to uncover a chasm of irreconcilable, divergent positions, this simple gesture in fact establishes the opening of a dialogue between the two groups, enabling an exchange and intertwinement of ideas, creating knots, a tapestry (such as a tapestry of strips of paper from separate books). In this work the spoken content sounds commonplace, yet once uttered by a different voice, it no longer reflects the expected perspective of the speaker, but becomes novel, strange, perhaps even memorable, leaving a strong impression on the listener. Sometimes, to be able to hear more attentively, a simple inversion or an exchange is needed. Sometimes an indirect route is required to access a seemingly transparent content, sometimes to hear a voice one needs to hear it from a different set of lips. Nygård’s work is able to bring attention to the overlooked, that which falls between the cracks of knowledge, history and even popular opinion. Her work however, does not necessarily find some deep, all-important, left-out piece of information, as if through some great archeological exploration, instead it brings attention to the unheard voice, of the given itself, by reapproaching and reorganizing it.

Reapproaching the given is a return to roots, a reinvigoration, and is usually achieved by trimming and pruning, by cutting and severing, a restarting, a kind of a doubling of the
original, a mirroring. A single cut creates two identical edges, the more complicated a cut, the more stunning and uncanny the visual repetition becomes. When viewing Nygård’s work one continually acknowledges this visual repetition, even if only on a subconscious level. The cut in this sense does not sever, does not create two new distinct planes, instead the repeated edge creates an undeniable similarity. These two fields no longer simply make up a whole, but are at all times bound together, on a more fundamental level, one cannot be thought of without the other. Such slight yet important differences in language, such nuances of thought make up Jorge Luis Borges’ aleph, where everything is clear and differentiated, yet in constant relation to one another, in infinitely many constellations. Nygård’s work consists of such nuances, which allow one to find more content, more vital content through the direct experience of looking or listening. In Organic angles (2009) two plants stand next to each other, one of which is covered by a thin layer of tin foil that reflects the leaves underneath, giving the effect of an organic-synthetic hybrid. This plant appears as itself, as the other of a plant, as the other plant reflected, as itself reflecting itself, …

Wojciech Olejnik is an artist and writer based in Toronto, Canada