Born: Copenhagen, Denmark (1985)
Lives and works: Copenhagen, Denmark
Containers, pipe, swimwear
Beach chair, t-shirt, epoxy
Nanna Abell produces sculptures and wall works by combining and manipulating materials and images in modes akin to digital alteration of pictures of bodies and objects found through sources such as contemporary fashion magazines. By extrapolating such commonplace modes of alteration as an operation, and then applying them to physical objects in real space, Abell makes humorous reference to the (absent) body and the forces that try to control our perception of ourselves and others. This often results in sculptures made from materials with opposing qualities such as elastic and steel, or perfume and concrete. These materials charge and push each other to the limits of their respective properties. Rather than playing with opposites, she destabilizes the materials through their combination and interplay.
Bikini Atoll (2016) is a sculpture composed of the black steel frame of a folded sunbed, a black string bikini, and an orange buoy. The frame balances in a way that appears to defy gravity, held in an uncomfortable position by the swimming costume, which is stretched and tied around the chair as if it is being worn. A piece of string connects the whole, hovering contraption to a buoy, anchoring the work lest it float away. The word “bikini” came about in 1946, and refers to the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands, where the United States had just began to conduct nuclear weapons tests. The designer of the modern bikini hoped it would cause an “explosion” in society. Abell’s title, therefore also refers to the intense exposure to which the native inhabitants were subjected.
For I Am Our Common Pronoun, CHART commissioned new sculptures stemming from these recent works. They refer to a relief sculpture in the garden, Nike Adjusting Sandal (c. 420-400 BC), belonging to the sculpture workshop at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where Abell also studied. The ancient drapery of the dress depicted in it belongs to the history of image manipulation and production of idealized bodies. The artist has made oblique comparisons to the gauzy drapery and the shift in sculptors’ focus in this period from the bodily form to the surface relief and the contemporary phenomenon of the “wet t-shirt contest,” a practice associated with lewd bars and spring break college holidays in the United States, depicted in movies and television. Instead of discarding or desecrating these phenomena in contemporary society, Abell literally stretches them to their absurd yet logical conclusion.