Swedish artist, lives and work in Stockholm

1963, Isvec, Stockholm, dogumlu. Stockholm’de yasyor. I Born in Stockholm, Sweden, 1963. Lives in Stockholm


NOT AT HOME 1996. Dough, wood, bulb, 420 x 235 x 76 cm. Courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland. Photo by Roberto Fortuna. META ISÆUS-BERLIN A recurring characteristic of the art of Meta Isæus-Berlin is her ability to implicate the viewer in her works. It is a form of address which may seem direct and unproblematic at first, but which turns out to hide both complexity and ambiguity. 12/44

FAMILY 1997. Wood, silicon, latex, 140 x 85 x 79 cm. Courtesy 
Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm. Photo by Per-Anders Allsten. 

In Chair Beside Bed, you see how the effective means are 
intertwined in an intricate pattern in a work containing both 
fundamental uncertainty and conscious formal reflection. 
CHAIR BESIDE BED 1996. Wood, water, textile, 280 x 160 x 75 cm. 
Courtesy Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm. Photo by Per-Anders Allsten. 

In her early works, it often showed up in her complex relationship 
to various materials. Isæus-Berlin has often opted for materials 
devoid of historical coding. Instead of bronze, copper, wood, or stone 
she has chosen to make her works from materials possessing a clear 
reference to what we somewhat casually refer to as »everyday life«. 
Examples of this are her works in jelly, dough, water, ice, and rubber. 
We may be able to discern a strategy of »de-auratization«, 
Entzauberung, of the aesthetic expression — a strategy which constantly tends to lead the viewer in a cenain direction. In addition to using 
materials which seem almost banal in their familiarity, IsæusBerlin has consciously and consistently captured them in a state of transition between different states. It is about transitions which have a 
prominent two-way nature — it is just as much dissolution as condensation; just as much of a form which seems to disintegrate before our very eyes as something successfully assuming shape, congealing and crystallizing. The art of Isæus-Berlin seems to shun the 
stability which is expressed in the classical words of Horace about 
the claims of eternity in art: Exegi monumentum aere perennius. 
To Isæus-Berlin it ultimately seems to be a matter of placing stability and death on an equal footing. The purpose of her art is to 
express the opposite, and the method she has chosen for her purpose takes us on through the ephemeral nature of the materials, their 
calculated randomness and their flowing character, and their measured life-span: most of her works exist only for a limited amount of 
time. After that they are slowly broken down — a process which further emphasizes their non-auratic character. 
The dual emotion which the viewer experiences when faced with 
the art of Isæus-Berlin is structured by two diametrically 
opposed poles: on the one hand, an open Entzauberung of 
artistic expression, a disenchantment or de-auratization of 
the work, and on the other, an equally palpable Unheimlichkeit — an eeriness and sense of alienation before the 
permutations of the everyday materials. Her works often 
possess a sensual and tactile dimension which makes us 
want to touch them: but this attracting quality is complemented and equally contradicted by a feeling of unease not to say disgust — which may stem from the fragile and 
organic quality that permeates her work. 
Even though the art of Isæus-Berlin is largely characterized by a kind of generic »infidelity« which makes it hard 
to define unequivocally, it is always an infidelity which is 
utterly consistent and calculating. In Chair Beside Bed, 
you see how the effective means are intenwined in an 
intricate pattern in a work containing both an essential 
uncertainty and a conscious formal reflection. Compositionally, Chair Beside Bed works primarly through its theatrical quality. An arrangement of furniture: a chair, a bed 
a source of light which meets the viewer head on in a frontal disposition reminiscent of the characteristic »peep-show« effect of the theater. This theatrical set quality 
appears at first to try to implicate the viewer in the work, 

as a kind of voyeur. At a first glance the 
viewer is enticed into making a literary 
 reading of the work: is it a sickbed? a 
deathbed? the site of a marital infidelity or an incestuous urscene? The literary reading is, however, destined to 
recede into the background as we 
approach the work and devote more 
time to it. In the same way, our attempts 
to fix it in art history — in the famous 
beds by Robert Rauschenberg, for 
instance, or Claes Oldenburg, or in 
installations by Ilya Kabakov — are destined to remain nothing but ephemeral illustrations. 
In the semi-transparent chair back 
of silicone, like in the fluid-filled bed, 
where the water partly covers the bed 
sheets but also seems separate from 
them as in a kind of inexplicable 
feeling of physical affinity, IsæusBerlin returnes to reflections on the 
material instability of the work more 
explicitly than in many of her early 
works. We find ourselves in a zone of 
uncertainty which renders her work 
both familiar and totally impossible to 
interpret. In the works of Isæus-Berlin 
the classic hermeneutic Horizontverschmeltung between viewer and work 
never takes place. Something always 
rernains, an inexplicable je ne sais quoi 
— the ultimate condition and driving 
force of the work. 
As we take a step back, our attention is captured by yet another characteristic quality. The arrangement consists 
as much of the constituent objects as 
of the space between them. IsæusBerlin executes a veritable balancing 
act to the extent that the work does not 
achieve its definitive status until the 
space between the objects has been 
drawn in to play its part. It is partly a 
matter of avoiding the sense of intimism or sociologically adored psychologism which results from too great a 
proximity between the components 
and that makes us see Chair Beside 
Bed as a replica of a concrete room. 
But it is also a matter of allowing the 
objects to communicate with each 
other, to allow them to maintain a relationship which, in its visual, almost 
graphic rhetoric, entices the viewer to 
see the work as a meaningful whole. 
Isæus-Berlin always operates with 
maximum attention towards the surrounding space. This is not only seen 
in her sensitivity to the various 
demands of the site-specific work, but 
also in her unique ability to implicate 
empty space. She has in erlier works 
used mobile works which may be displaced in space or which rest on 
wheels. But this is not primarly an 
attempt of traditional mobile art to 
implicate time and processes in the 
work, but rather a way of sculpting the surrounding and intervening space. In 
this sense, Isæus-Berlin’s works are 
never finished: they always seem to 
reshape their surroundings and give 
them new meanings. Among these 
surroundings we must also count ourselves — as viewers, and ultimately as 
inescapable correlatives of her work. 


Translation by Kjersti Board 



Wood, water, pump, 

75 x 54 x 83 cm. 

Courtesy Andréhn – 

Schiptjenko, Stockholm. 

Photo by Per-Anders Allsten.