Nina Canell

Nina Canell, Perpetuum Mobile, 2009-2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Nina Canell, Perpetuum Mobile, 2009-2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

The work of Swedish artist Nina Canell (b.1979, Sweden) looks at the intersections between humans, objects and events, whereby the parameters of material phenomena might be articulated. Her installations are carefully choreographed to create seemingly casual sculptural happenings, which harness the properties and elusive energies inherent, for instance, in sound, gas and water – revealing intimate bonds in our existing as well as fictive vicinity.

Incremental shifts in frequency, radiation and movement are often exposed in the contingent ‘nothingness’ between us and that which we perceive, thus suggesting alternative readings of what might be regarded as invisible or imperceptible.

For Touched, Canell deployed water, a recurring element in her work which also referenced Liverpool’s position as a seaport. Taking its cue from the last musical passage in Gustav Holst’s composition Neptune, the Mystic from his The Planets suite (in which Holst conceived of what is often described as the first ‘fade-out’ in music), Canell presented a perfectly static object in which she recorded an imaginative descending movement by capturing the fluctuating depths of the River Mersey with an oceanographic ‘Nansen Bottle’. 

The act of waning or giving way – to grow duller and dimmer until something is completely washed out – thus leaps from the pages of a musical score and plunges into a quiet underwater event. In some ways the transparency of the water defies visible distinction, thus allowing the precisely measured action to open the mind’s eye in an attempt to define the logic of its strata. Such skewing of the senses into the prose-like realm is a typical gesture in Canell’s work, which often seeks to address a personal position to physical phenomena.

A community of objects and happenings constituted this presentation which further explored the link between the gallery space and the outside world in a second marine endeavour. This work relied on chance transmissions from a buoy on the River Mersey, which recorded the acoustic topography of the water with a hydrophone, to a radio receiver in the gallery space. Thus, radio and water waves established a symbiotic co-existence.

Nina Canell at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Perpetuum Mobile (40 Kg), 2009-2010
Mixed media
Commissioned by and exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Embassy of Sweden