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