Swedish artist, lives and work in Stockholm

Does size matter?

Written by: Håkan Nilsson

Meta Isæus-Berlin often problematizes issues of 
size, scale, proportions and use value in her art. 
The objects she works with are taken from an 
everyday context, but altered and twisted in such 
a way that the viewer is more confused than hel- 
ped by his previous knowledge of the quite recognizable artefacts. Similar to Charles Ray, things 
are never what they appear to be (and things are 
not what they were intended for). Lightness 
tums out to be heavy, dryness turns out to be 
wet, indoors and outdoors are reversed. She not 
only works with, but makes the noema explode, as philosopher Edmund Husserl might have put 
it, if he had chosen to be an art critic instead. 
A recent project in Umeå in the north of Sweden 
might do as an example of Isæus-BerIin in practice. She showed an ordinary bathroom, which 
was decontextualized not only in that it was 
shown outdoors (Who needs a bathroom outdoors?), but also in that it was dug into the 
ground so that the viewer could see it only from 
above. As bathrooms are supposed to have 
water, Isæus-Berlin filled the entire bathroom 
with water. A very common bathroom was thus 
transformed into an outdoor swimming pool in 
In her project for Düsseldorf, the objects are not 
from everyday life, but from the well-known fairy 
tale about Snow-white. Again, Isæus-Berlin 
chooses to work with what is common knowledge. She does not try to find an intriguing passage in the story that could be reinterpreted, 
rather her point of departure is the very core of 
the story. Everyone knows that Snow-white met 

seven dwarfs. You may not remember their 
names, and you may think that the story was 
created by Disney, but you do know about the 
dwarfs. How would the story’s meaning been al- 
tered if they were seven very tall guys instead? 
Would it be possible at all? Here, Isæus-Berlin 
is also working with an artistic hybrid. On the 
opening night of the show, the installation (seven dwaff-sized beds) is transformed into the scene 
of a performance, whereby the seven tallest ar- 
tists in Düsseldorf try for thirty minutes to fit 
themselves onto the beds. 
In this way, Isæus-Berlin poses the questions. 
”What would have happened if Snow-white had 
met seven tall guys instead of short guys” litarary Only the sizes of the men are switched. The 
beds make clear that the environment of the 
story is still the same, i.e. measured and made 
for dwarfs. A title which at first glance seems to 
take for granted that the seven tall guys would 
live in a tall-guy environment is but another 
decoy. All our expectations of sexual politics fall 
flat, and we can only laugh at the absurdity of 
the situation. 

Isæus-Berlin’s art is almost always funny. It 
makes a joke and is a serious critique of the 
wellknown philosophical and political notion of 
”everything else being equal”. Everything else is not equal in the world of Meta Isæus-Berlin. 
Everthing is different. Same, same — but different. This is not to say that it is funny at the viewer’s expense, but based on the fact that we 
take so much for granted. Our horizon of expectation is under constant attack. Life floats by 
but we are only capable of seeing what we 
believe is there to be seen. Certainty is but a 
construction, and life becomes more interesting 
and generous when we let it go. 
There is a very serious and sincere question at 
the core of Isæus-BerIin’s art, as is the case with 
almost everything that is funny. Her critique is 
not specific, but general. What good are your 
prejudices? What good have they brought the 
world? so the bottom line is: Yes, size matters. 
Go ask Godzilla, 
Håkan Nilsson 

Sie ließ das Licht an und vergaß den Raum / She leaves the light on, and forgets the room, 1998