Swedish artist, lives and work in Stockholm

Inhale, exhale

Sven-Olov Wallenstein

Meta Isaeus-Berlin?s earlier work has often taken on the form of three-dimensional installations, where matter is charged with an emotional and poetic energy located between wakefulness and dreaming. This is the case in two earlier works that announce the theme that also resounds in the current exhibition, Awakening and Bedtime, where a sense of anxiety and desperation fuses with an idea of existence as a permanent treadmill that forces us to move in circles without hope.

Here, it is question of painting, and of how this emotional tonality can be transposed to another medium. Here too, we encounter a nervous energy, which the artist associates with the direct act that once assumed the guise of Arthur Janov?s ?primal scream?: to directly release emotional energy in way that would set us free. But how can this be done in art?

Above all this takes place by way of an existential oscillation between two states: on the one hand, the return of immediacy and of the acting out, on the other, the ?anxiety hole? that drains us of power; a movement between positive and negative, plenitude and emptiness. We constantly shift between these two poles, the scream that bursts out in the room and fills it, the hole that sucks , empties, and absorbs. The shift between the two, exhaling and inhaling, forms a rhythm that permeates the seven paintings that together make up the installation: Radar, High Expectations, The Alvar Aalto Sanatorium Furniture, What Happens Next?, Moist, The Return of the Primal Scream, and The Anxiety Hole That Drains You of Energy Every Morning.

The direct outlet of expression has been given its seemingly eternal iconic form in Edvard Munch?s The Scream, where inside fuses with outside, and the sound waves cause the whole of the surrounding world to vibrate, which shows that it is in fact misleading to tie expressionism exclusively to an opposition between inside and outside; rather, what is at stake, is an overcoming of this barrier that would make the whole world into an expression. Emotion is an attunement that permeates all things, not just a color added to them, but the things themselves; it is what makes them accessible to us as such, instead of sealing us in an inner sphere from which we would attempt in vain to step into the outside world. Expression fuses subject and object, draws them along in one and the same movement.

This emotion may remain long after the initial situation has faded, and it often reaches us in roundabout ways, as if it had assumed physical shape in the objects or lingered on like an atmosphere. In Meta Isaeus-Berlin?s work, furniture often turns into protagonists in the images, precisely because things have their memories, as in the case of The Alvar Aalto Sanatorium Furniture, but also in the more anonymous beds and tables that populate her other paintings, where we can no longer pinpoint any precise historical associations, and yet sense that they are charged with moods, anxiety and insecurity. The home is not just a home, but just as much a sign of the alien, a window to another world within which we may imagine all kinds of superimposed stories, maybe because in one sense we have already been there, although without knowing it.

In this rhythm, the bed is one of the focal points: it is a place we sleep, dream and wake up, a place for sexuality and the reproduction of life as well as for sickness and frailty, eventually also for death and the disappearance of life. The horizontal body is withdrawn from the time of movement and action; it waits, rests, on the way out of, or into, the everyday world. When the narrator at the beginning of Marcel Proust?s In Search of Lost Time describes the process of waking up (a theme in many of Meta Isaeus-Berlin?s earlier installations, and which in Proust recurs in several key scenes throughout the novel, as a theme constantly enriched by superimposed significations), it is like a temporary disorientation, but also a profoundly productive moment: subject and object, inside and outside, change places, categories are crossed, other characters and events are born out of a corporeal memory, which is also a means to find a different truth. The habit that joins us to the accustomed world is severed, and in the vertiginous movement that occurs just before everything has returned to its proper place?, all times and spaces are joined in the imaginary dimension that the novel creates, communicating with other?s version of the I, other places, other moments; the world of childhood not as it was, but as an idea that impacts on the present, a past more profound than any singular recollection.

All of these furnitures, as so many crystals of time, may be connected to the repetitive rhythm that always forces us back to the everyday, but also to desire, to the future as promise and threat alike. High Expectations shows us a table set in a glimmering light, expectancy in the face of an encounter to come, but also a ghostly night-light that speaks of an imminent disaster.

In The Return of the Primal Scream it is the whole room that is charged with energy, while the black shape creates a visual block; the sound that is to emerge from it electrifies the scene, but at the same time the form blocks our vision ? like the ?scotomization? that Freud at times tried out as a model for repression (eventually discarding it, since for him it seemed too much oriented toward the visual sphere), i.e. a blind spot in the field of vision marking that which has been lost and can no longer be seen, but which precisely for this reason also constitutes the hidden principle of its organization. In Meta Isaeus-Berlin, this black form plays a double role: it sends the scream out in the world, makes the world vibrate, but also sucks it in, draining the world.

In Radar too, with its goddesses of faith (here reduced from three to two), the waves continue out in the surrounding room as if the image itself has become vibration and sound; destiny weaves its threads around us, the fabric of life may at any time be unraveled, and yet we continue, inhale, exhale; we move in circles around our blind spot without knowing that it is what gives us something to see.