Alicja Kwade Questions Our Notions of Time and Space

Alicja Kwade, Pars Pro Toto, 2017, 13 natural stone spheres, dimensions variable, installation view at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Installation view of Alicja Kwade’s “ENTITAS”, at KÖNIG GALERIE, Nave, 2018. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, ParaPivot, 2019, installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
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Poland-born, Berlin-based artist Alicja Kwade consistently questions our narrow definitions of time and space within the context of everyday living, taking hold of our imagination with artworks ranging from immense installations to small scale mixed media illustrations.

 

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of KÖNIG GALERIE

Described as one of the most important visual artists of her generation, Berlin-based artist Alicja Kwade is mostly renowned for her immense, large scale art that warp our typical sense of space and time. Using concepts ranging from science to philosophy as well as mediums such as sculptures, video and photography, her multifaceted practice takes on the structures of our social and physical reality while questioning the very nature of how we perceive time in our daily lives.

Born in Katowice, Poland, in 1979, Kwade’s art has been featured in exhibitions and museums around the world, such as MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, and YUZ Museum, Shanghai. She was also the recipient of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 Roof Garden Commission, with her artwork ParaPivot generating a fair bit of attention. Prior to that, Kwade was commissioned by the Public Art Fund to create Against the Run, an installation which was on view at New York’s Central Park from 2015 to 2016.

 

Alicja Kwade, Pars Pro Toto, 2017, 13 natural stone spheres, dimensions variable, installation view at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Installation view of Alicja Kwade’s “ENTITAS”, at KÖNIG GALERIE, Nave, 2018. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.

 

Most recently, following the postponement of her shows in 2020, the artist spent her time in lockdown working on CC In-Between, a series of mixed materials on paper, illustrating clock hands for every hour that passes, making tangible marks that indicate her perceived experience of passing each day in a state of stasis most of us have come to be familiar with, thanks to the sedentary life patterns of pandemic life.

Speaking with CoBo Social via email, Kwade explained how this series came about, “On 15 March 2020, things in my studio started to change rapidly. I sent everyone on a week of holidays, (so I could) consider how I can solve these new circumstances and how I can make the studio survive. All my travels had been cancelled, the same with exhibitions and production, everything was cancelled, postponed or pushed back. I was a bit nervous and started to fill this strange, frenzied void, with this new series of works.”

“I took notes about my feeling of time, every day from 15 March on, when the passing of time felt either super-fast, or slow, or not at all…I visualised this with different distances between the clock arms in a time-representational system, that I invented a long time ago, which is kind of an advancing wave pattern,” she said.

Kwade also began to add different materials in the artworks, a practice she usually adapts to try out different reactions of surfaces in her art such as various acids, salts, carbon, wax and more.

While she insists that she is unaware about the public response to this series given that she has not been able to exhibit these works—the very same reason which caused her to create said artworks in the first place—Kwade admitted CC In-Between sold quite well.

The successful sale of these recent artworks “very much helped my situation, even if I can imagine that people have been surprised to see this kind of small paperwork from me. But they developed naturally, just from already existing systems and materials of mine,” Kwade observed.

 

Alicja Kwade, ParaPivot, 2019, installation view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.

 

For such abstract and metaphysical artworks, the process behind the creation of said art is mostly technical. Kwade begins with sketches based on research about a topic which she is interested in or considers an unsolved problem. In doing so, the rest of the world fades away as she becomes alone, escaping to a whole other world. But then, the technical aspects of her artistic creation take over when her sketch is first translated into a 3D model by one of the architects who work for her.

“Next, a model is built in 1:10 or 1:20, or in 1:1 scale if necessary, in a material, which allows me to check the form and make changes. Then it goes back to the computer, if its bigger in scale, I am giving it away to my team at this moment, to find good solutions with one of the engineers I am working with to make it happen,” she said.

Kwade shared that at this point her team starts to research how the work can get done and they start pulling the budget together, followed with producing all the parts and sending it to the studio, if they are not too large-scale to do so.

“And then, I check everything, I do tests with different materials and techniques that influence the surface…etc. Then, again, my team takes over… finished!”

 

Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.
Alicja Kwade, Kausalkonsequenz, 2020, installation view at Langen Foundation, Neuss/Germany. Photo by Roman März. Image courtesy of the artist and KÖNIG GALERIE.

 

The meticulous artistic process by Kwade and her studio should not come as a surprise, especially when viewing her latest physically exhibited works. Currently on show in the galleries and the grounds of the Langen Foundation in Neuss, Germany, until 18 April 2021, the site-specific solo exhibition titled “Kausalkonsequenz” appears to be an extension of the buzzworthy installation ParaPivot (2019), a planetary system made of marble spheres exhibited in New York on the Met’s rooftop, in terms of imagination and physicality.

A spectacular high point in the solo exhibition is when Kwade chooses to take on the monumental staircase of the Langen Foundation, a building designed by the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and “transforms it into a time scale that can be read in both directions with countless sandstone spheres” that appear almost ancient and relic-like in the blatantly modern and minimalist setting.

The contrasts underpinning her artistic process and creation is what makes Kwade and her art distinctive and boldly questioning—vast imagination versus heavy technicality, broadening narrow definitions of time and space versus exploring everyday physicality, to name a few. The most intriguing aspect of the distinctive nature of her art is her own outlook on her life path. She does not see her life as an artist as something extraordinary and special. She believes that nobody decides to be an artist, that you are inherently one but life, or luck, either helps you or hinders you from staying an artist. Kwade clearly believes in the relationship between fortune and time, and perhaps, this is the recurring thread in all her art, connecting the different works and ensuring the art will resonate for years to come.

 

 

 
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