FOSSIL BEDS
Sofia Eliasson (SE)

DEC 21. , 2018 - JAN 30., 2019

The exhibition is our Open Call project for 2018, juried by the Miami-based artists Frances Trombly & Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova from Dimensions Variable in Miami, FL.

Photo: Jan Inge Haga


THE FOSSIL AND THE FLICKER

When you wake up in the morning, the folds of the sheets have left an intricate imprint on your skin. 

In a fossil, the imprint of an animal or plant is retained through millions of years. The original molecules that made up the body have been replaced by a process of mineralization, turning the body into a monument of stone, a negative cast.

Marking. To make an impression or imprint, forcing one´s own presence into the desired subject or object. A violent claim of ownership, or an act of care: I let myself up for you. I preserve and carry the presence of you.

The relationship between presence and absence, the fundamental depency between them, is a key concern in Sofia Eliassons work. Found objects are embedded and imprinted, yet rather than higlighting the form or presence that is absent, the entangled materialities, the cooperative processes of intertwining, forming and becoming, through the flesh of things, emerges. The materials are acting upon each other. 

Agency is defined as the capacity of a subject to act in a given environment to produce a certain result. While most social theory attributes agency only to humans, posthumanist theorists tend to emphasise the agency and responsiveness of nonhuman and matter. 

Removing the concept of agency, posthumanist theory uses the term ”actant” instead. By extending agentic capacities to nonhuman and non-animate actants, agency is distributed across a wide range of entities, structures, and processes. From this point of view, agency is diffused across multiple entities and achieves its capacity within assemblages (1).

Acheiropoeta, medieval greek for ”made without hand”, is a term within Christian iconography, referring to images that are claimed to be made not by human hand, or else through mecanical, though divine, impressions of the original. The veil of Veronica, where Christ left the impression of his face on a veil given to him during the walk of Golgata, is one of the most notable examples. 

Eliassons work takes interest in this relation between object/subject and imprint, original and copy, and raises questions about the status of the copy. In a time when everything is more or less a copy - what does an original mean? What is a work of art? Or rather, when does it become a work of art? The slide from what something is to what it might mean, is at play in Eliassons work.

Not made by human hands, as the fossil. As the actants, acting upon and entangling their materialities through their very own autopoietic, agentic life force (2).

The scientific study of prior life, paleontology, traces the history of Earth itself through its fossil remains. One of its practitioners, Mary Anning (1799-1847), collected and studied the fossils that surfaced from the earth during landslides along the Southwest coast of England. Her findings includes the first discoveries of a number of dinosaur skeletons. The first pictorial representation of a scene depicting prehistoric life - the Duria Antiquior painted by Henry De la Beche - was based on fossils Anning had found. 

The Duria Antiquior was widely circulated and has been printed and copied in multipule variations during the years. Making a cast of a printed version of it, Eliasson both returns it to the fossil form it was once reconstructed from, and in the same gesture removes it yet agin.

Another form of fossilized life is the fossil fuel, formed from remains of organic material by exposure to heat and pressure in the earths crust for millions of years. 

Burning that time, incomprehensible in its vastness, we are burning the history of earth's flesh.

This difference in temporalities, the fossil and the flicker, is approached in the exhibition through the pigment of the red and black iron oxide painted on the walls, taken from the crust of the earth in northern Norway, and the casts of objects found in the local area of Stavanger. Work gloves, a plastic bag, a tarpaulin, a plastic straw.

The hand that uncovers what is hidden or veiled. Annings findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking. While playing a key role in the - literal - surfacing of prehistoric life, she herself went unrecognized in the scientific community of her time and the history writing that followed.

When collecting objects, discarded traces from our everyday life, and fixing them in casts and imprints, Eliasson raises questions not only about our own time and its relation to history, but hurls these questions into a projected future. 

Petroglyphs are images that have been carved or incised in a rock by human hand. In the area of Stavanger there are several carvings preserved. The act of removing, of creating presence by a negative form, is a fundamental sculptural act - in Eliassons works, the mould is the artwork itself. 

By contrasting these temporalities, the time of the hand that carved the rock, and the contemporary hand that scrolls, its fleeing touch, Eliasson places her works in the tension of the inbetween. Her equally solid as frail objects can be seen as contemporary fossils, in the temporarility of the flicker, the scroll. 


- By Moa Franzén, an artist and writer based in Stockholm



1 - Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press, 2010
2 - Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman, Polity Press, 2013




Sofia Eliassen (b. 1981, Sweden) lives and works in Bergen. She completer her Master at Kunst- og designhøgskolen i Bergen in 2017. In her projects, Eliasson use various cultural founds - such as events, figures, objects and images and their physical and historical imprints. She is interested in pairing earlier separate actions and thoughts, to create new intersections in her sculptural installation. Sofia Eliasson has earlier shown at Kristiansand Kunsthall; Tag Team Studio, Bergen; Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen; og Hammarkullen Konsthall, Gøteborg.