Not Yet No More

North – Udstillingssted Copenhagen Denmark

In their exhibition not yet  no more Hanne Godtfeldt and Steinunn Helga Sigurdardóttir work with the relationship between time and body, between expectation and recollection. Both artists relate these themes to completely fundamental questions about identity and existence. Their works confront us with the basic questions about who \" am and how \" am constituted, seen in the light of a number of current problems, for example bio-technology and the common sense of a loss of history. As discussible works as such they start a discourse, not only with the present, but also with the immediate future, the posthumane society we already half have entered, wholly unprepared.

The heavy repetitive sound of respiration dominates Godtfeldt\'s work. Ten small loudspeakers dangle from the ceiling and like detached mouths each emit their own sound of breathing. The room is filled with the repetitive sequence of respiration, each stylised breath becoming a neat aural ornament indicating the body\'s elementary sense of being.

Breath is what stays with us throughout life, connecting us intimately with the world we live in. We live and breathe in the same air, drawing it in with the stubborn automatic functioning of the will to live. Respiration is as thoughtless and regular as the heartbeat, a continuing rhythm, and the beat of the body, from birth to death. Respiration is life, as one can also see from its etymology: The word respiration comes from the Latin re + spirare, i.e. repeated spirit, the Latin spiritus meaning breathing, breath, air, life, soul. Whatever respires is alive. To breathe is to live, to let the world seep in deeply and fill one with life. Respiration shows that our bodies are not closed, but open, permeable, porous. We draw in the world, breathe it, let it be in us, let it fill us. The oxygen in our blood is borrowed from the world we live in and which is in us.

Time is measured through the body\'s own unique parameters, pulse and breath. The constant repetition, the regularity of these functions gives us a constant that can support other variables. The hectic experience of intensity and compressed time is accompanied by hyperventilation and breathlessness. We cannot get enough of the world, we swallow it desperately or we hold it back tightly, we pant, we gasp. The opposite is true of peace, the long, extended plateaux of eternity, accompanied by deep and heavy respiration, the surrender of the body to drowsy relaxation. In a drawling lack of consciousness we breathe in the dark of the night, blindly enveloped in sleep, like deep-sea fish in the slow impenetrable depths of the sea. Our experience of life is always related to our breathing and our heartbeat, measuring units of the body.

Godtfeldt\'s room sounds inhabited, full of life. The abrupt depth of breathing sounds is ambiguous. On the one hand they indicate uninterrupted repose, the unconscious and passive existence of the body in sleep. On the other hand they indicate copulation or sexual stimulation, the shivering thrill through the body, caresses and uncontrollable sounds, the groans and sighs of pleasure and ecstasy. But in both cases there is intimacy. The slumbering sleepy body or the pleasurably awakened body both feel very close, embarrassingly close. At the same time the sensation of bodily intimacy is strangely ethereal. The closeness of the breath is not complemented by the closeness of any real body. It is a sign without a reference, an unexpressed expression, a clue denoting a missing body. The regular rhythm of the breathing imperceptibly seeps through the room like an unearthly choir invisible, a whispering breath without a master, pure spirit. The body is simultaneously very close, and totally missing. It exists as a slender possibility, fragile remains: not yet, no more. The sounds of breathing in Godtfeldt\'s work are the result of a digitally reworked tape-recording of one single breath, repeated ad infinitum in a tape loop. A kind of artificial life, produced technologically, cloned and inseparable from the real version, real breath.

Using this discrete yet insistent, real yet artificial wall of sound as a background, Godtfeldt has created various series of words, painted directly on the white walls of the gallery in a neutral grey and unimposing type. Columns of infinite verbs interrupted in places by nouns. All organised alphabetically, which of course gives the meanings of the words a contextual randomness, without their autonomous meaning being totally lost. The lexical lists do not totally wipe out the connotations of the words, just as the characteristics of fragmentary sentences remain through the colliding nouns and verbs. Poetical ambiguities creep in to the factual delimitations, for instance in the sequence: opfinde ophav opløse oprindelse [invent source dilute origins]. The words are not only part of vertical, paradigmatic lists, but they also enter into horizontal syntagmatic series and combinations (when reading), which generate particular meanings. Certain words are in pairs and emphasised through the use of capital letters. Placed high in the room, the words look like headings, for example INDIVID INDUSTRI [INDIVIDUAL INDUSTRY].

The individual words are not just systematised according to an existing principle, for instance the alphabet, but they also contain a more idiosyncratic aspect. Not only the semantic content of the words, but their (typo)graphical representation as well. The walls of the room are surfaces for the layout of the words. The walls of the exhibition gallery are clean white surfaces, but they also carry traces of the kind of modern technology that Godtfeldt uses as a theme in her work. Heavy-duty power cables crawl along the walls, infiltrating the architectural whole, creating a dialogue with Godtfeldt\'s lists of words. Exact and suggestive dimensions of the words mix with each other through the clashes that result on the semantic as well as on the spatial level. As in many of Godtfeldt\'s earlier works, the question brought up is the status of the individual in relationship to an ever increasingly technological world. The question is not put directly, but only hinted upon, as remnants of a deeper, extended problem constructed through the process of interpretation. No answers are found. There is neither condemnation nor enthusiasm, rather a statement of fact. The fundamentally human, strong personal expression of respiration is also replication, through the useful and fascinating, yet also unifying tendency of technology.

What is it we hear in Godtfeldt\'s room? It is the aural dimension of respiration, reproduced and multiplied through technology. That is to say that the unique is multiplied, the human is mediated through technology, and the individual is industrialised. The repetitive monomaniac serial nature of breath makes it an aural analogue to the minimalist sculptural repetitions of simile-industrial forms. Respiration, however, is not an expression that lends itself easily to  industrial repetition, on the contrary it deeply contrasts industrialisation. The audio \"photographic\" replication superficially imitates human respiration, both spatially and temporally, but is in fact diametrically the opposite. Not life, but death.

Sigurdardóttir has also worked with the relationship between personally experienced time and \"official\", physical time. Her work spans the gulf between the strongly systematic and an almost religious randomness, between control and the loss of it. In all its simplicity, her work of art consists of a large number of drawings stacked on top of each other, so that they all together create a meter high square column.

The drawings are not in themselves visible while stacked, but together they create a sculptural shape. In other words, they are no longer separate two-dimensional signs, but become a collective, three-dimensional object. As a sculpture the work relates to the room it is in in several ways. In the gallery room, puritanically painted white, the column of paper enters into a dialogue with the supporting pillar as well as the two cubic doorframes. A closer look reveals, however, that the column of paper is radically different from the hard concrete of the room around it. It is fragile and unstable, seems almost to sway when one approaches it. The outer formal similarities with the room around it are superficial, for in contrast to the solid durability of the room, Sigurdardóttir\'s paper column has something fleeting and delicate about it, it is mutable in every way, yes it even invites change.

The 8000 pencil drawings, created in 25 days, are the result of an investigation of time. The drawings are not figurative, in the sense that they look like anything. But they are still drawings of something, namely time. Each of the drawings has been produced according to the same criteria, it had to take one minute to do. On the back of each sheet of paper the artist has verified the time and signed the work. As an additional documentary source Sigurdardóttir has produced a logbook, where the precise time for the creation of the drawings, day by day, hour by hour, is meticulously recorded. The drawings equal a selection of time, records of specific stretches of time. The logic the drawings have is not that of normal drawings. There is no attempt at a compositional unity or harmony, expressive power or dynamism. In a way it is not the artist who expresses herself through these drawings, but rather an external factor: time, which she has subjected herself to. The toiling lines across the papers are a visual pendant to the mantra, i.e. an emptying of meaning achieved through endless repetition. The artist\'s hand has, like a metronome, drawn regular beats across the paper, again and again.

As \"empty forms\" as such, the drawings do not become meaningless, but their meaning is found elsewhere than in the directly intelligible expression, it is found specifically in the logbook. The logbook \"explains\" that the drawings are the remnant of an action, traces from an actual praxis, and only through this do the drawings become understandable. However, the drawings are not only reminiscences of past actions, because the artist invites the public to take the drawings home with them. The observer\'s time is exchanged with a minute of the artist\'s time, and for every visitor who takes a drawing, the height of the sculpture made out of all the drawings is reduced. As a sculpture the work self-destructs, but out of this self-destruction a unique work is \"resurrected\", which not only refers to the specific minute in which it was created, but also to the unity of isolated minutes it was part of, that is the complete unbroken column of time.

The mutable and cyclical dimension of Sigurdardóttir\'s work underlines the overall theme of the work, the relationship between body and time. The artist\'s and the public\'s time are interwoven via the drawings, and both are related to the common parameter of physical time. The patterns Sigurdardóttir has drawn are like the web of time, unsentimental ornaments of recall, which point to the body\'s elementary sense of being, the temporal dimension of existence, the sensation of a while.  In this sense the work is an obvious continuation of Sigurdardóttir\'s earlier works, where she has worked with traditional embroidery patterns from Iceland. Embroidery also consists of \"meaningless\" patterns, whose aesthetic value consists of the repetition of particular forms. Their extension aspires towards infinity, in the same way as the time of your life does: there is no end. Just like patterns of embroidery, which generations of anonymous women have handed down between themselves, then Sigurdardóttir\'s minute drawings are a kind of non-subjective art, which becomes alive and meaningful through changing hands, being passed on. An art, which does not belong to anyone, but which constantly becomes new when someone takes it over. The drawings become \"meaningful\" in that moment they are seen as the result of an activity, and again become part of an activity, they stand out, they become an outstanding agreement between the participants through their transfer. The drawings, then, transcend their allotted span of time, they no longer last a minute, but potentially last forever.

Godtfeldt and Sigurdardóttir\'s works meet each other through their repetition, their serial nature, a theme both artists are interested in. In actual fact the two sections of the exhibition are bridged via a common book, which is placed in a niche between the two rooms of the gallery. In the book Godtfeldt\'s words are positioned next to Sigurdardóttir\'s drawings, side by side, page by page, inbound and integrated. Here it becomes completely clear that Godtfeldt\'s words are not pure meaning, but also a kind of ornament, and that Sigurdardóttir\'s drawings are not pure ornament, but also a kind of meaning. The book does not describe any progression, but repeats a basic variation, both in Godtfeldt\'s words (breathe in, breathe out) and Sigurdardóttir\'s drawings, which endless depict the passing of time. In principle there is no beginning and no end, but only an in between, time winding its way rhythmically through the pages as one leafs through them. The book does not only point in both directions , but it itself becomes a point of crossing, a junction, or knot, entwining both halves of the exhibition into an organic whole.

None of the artists have a purely formal interest in seriality , but see it as a theme that has far-reaching ethical implications. Godtfeldt confronts biological repetition with the seriality of technology, and thereby indirectly asks what problems the symbiosis of technology and body will bring. Sigurdardóttir\'s work deals with the experience of continuity versus fragmentation, and touches upon our ties to our history, the question whether our sense of identity is determined by an ongoing narrative, a connected story about the self - in short, our roots, to use a natural metaphor.

Both artists show through their works that the only guiding parameter we have in these relationships is our own body, whose particular modus vivendi, however,  is now threatened from several sides. Without being swayed by a search for the spectacular or a political bent, Godtfeldt and Sigurdardóttir work with themes that question suggestively rather than didactically, without losing depth or effect. The dialogue concerns the two artists between themselves, but involves the public as well. In a way we manage to talk together, through byroads we cannot refuse to take, as bodies, with art in between.