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Free? – Installation for the Mix it up! exhibition

June 26, 2015
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Free? is a laser cut light-and-shadow installation made for the Mix it Up! exhibition held at the Danish National Gallery SMK on the 29 to 31 May. The main idea of the exhibition was to reuse and remix the open artworks from the SMK collection into new pieces.

C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853), Bella og Hanna M.L. Nathansons ældste døtre, 1820.

C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853), Bella og Hanna M.L. Nathansons ældste døtre, 1820.

Free? is remixing two artworks from the SMK collection: C.W. Eckersberg’s (1783-1853) double portrait of the sisters Bella and Hanna ‘Bella and Hanna. The Eldest Daughters of M.L. Nathanson’ (1820) as the main base, and Harald Slott-Møller’s (1864-1937) Danish Landscape (1891) as the secondary source.

Harald Slott-Moeller (1864-1937), Dansk landskab, 1891

Harald Slott-Moeller (1864-1937), Dansk landskab, 1891

The inspiration for the piece came from the content: when I saw the Eckersberg’s painting for the first time, I felt instantly sorry for the bird in the cage. And somehow I also felt sorry for the girls portrayed. In the painting, the birdcage has been interpreted as a symbol of the lives of young women at the time, who were also trapped in a way, within their family and by society’s expectations to them. The other piece used in the remix portrays a bird flying in a traditional countryside landscape, something I imagine being true freedom to a bird. The two paintings are brought together in the remix with a small modification – the cage door is opened and the bird is set free.

So the main thought behind the piece is freedom from a wider point of view. Today everyone has a lot of freedom, yet still many feel trapped within thoughts, beliefs, expectations, habits etc. How to free oneself from all that?

The medium ended up being laser cut acrylic sheet, asI wanted to create a tangible, multilayered object out of the digitized material. The idea was also to add yet another layer by using light to picture the new composition on the wall as a shadow/reflection, as freedom is such a wide and multifaceted concept. The multicolored, see-through material adds detail and depth to the shadow instead of only a black, flat silhouette.

The laser cutter operates with vector files, so the original images were redrawn in Illustrator with hairline width. A frame had to be made in order to have the bird fly free. Also the stand for the piece was cut out of acrylic; two legs with holes to place the cut pieces, which also had corresponding holes for the legs.

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Four cutting files were prepared, one for each color. The lines are thicker in the image here than in the real files used for cutting.

taustan tyttö_paksumpi

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The material used for the piece is 3 mm acrylic sheet. The lamp is a led lamp due to security restrictions – led lamps don’t heat up. However due to the lamp the cut piece had to be located close to wall so it remained fairly small; further away from the wall the more blurry the reflection became. The lamp could have been more powerful, or for example a halogen lamp, if it had been safe enough, would have made possible to locate the acrylic pieces differently and the shadow would have been bigger.

Like the majority of the works in the exhibition, Free? was also presented next to the main original source, the portrait of Bella and Hanna. It was interesting to see the works side by side, as the shape was recognizable but the medium completely different. Perhaps the remix even brought new thoughts or opened up new interpretations regarding the original painting?

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Neea Laakso
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