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Copyright © 2018

Available through:

by Mille Kalsmose Studio

Mille Kalsmose Studio New York & Copenhagen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any

Edited: Louise Hedegaard Madsen, Mille Kalsmose

means, including photocopying, recording, or other elec-

Layout: Louise Hedegaard Madsen

tronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written

Proofread: Anna Carlsen

permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quo-

Printed and bound: Lasertryk

tations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-

Translation: Dan A. Marmorstein

commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher or Mille Karlsmose Studio.

Cover, p.4: detail of Cosmic Relations, 2017, sound installation, sound of NASA’s recordings of Saturn’s rings, meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, sound and loudspeaker, 300 cm, 118,1 in (diameter), Mana Contemporary, 2018

ISBN: 978-87-999344-4-7 Printed in Denmark

p.5-6: Ancestors (My Survival), 2017, silk, iron, wax, skin


8 A World of Matter

Anna Carlsen

11 Families and other People Barbara Pollack 21 Interview with Mille Kalsmose Anne Siggaard 33 ARoS Interview Maria Kappel Blegvad 43 Re-Sounding Organ Natalia Gutmann Maria Grzywacz 57 Re-Programmed Matter Mille Kalsmose 73 Cosmic Relations Richard Vine 92 Publications 93 Bibliography 94 Contributors 95 Photographic Credits

A World of Matter By Anna Carlsen Comparative Literature Researcher

The Shape of Us is a publication which unfolds installation artist Mille Kalsmose’s artistic practice. The book, which speaks both visually and textually around Kalsmose, discloses different shapes of living matter. It displays sculptural figures of materials such as steel, silk, found wood, algae, water and loudspeakers sending out sound recordings from outer space. The artworks are a result of years of investigations into fields of materiality, identity formation and the relational interconnectedness of everything that lives; everything that vibrates. Kalsmose’s artworks are a contribution to a broad theoretical research field where anthropocentrism and human essentialism are reevaluated. With the fall of dichotomies, ‘new materialism’ as a new turn in our time explores how we exist in the world today without upholding hierarchical distinctions between culture and nature, primary and secondary, and subject and object. All bodies, both human and non-human, known and unknown, are vibrational matter with different intensities, and the collection of artworks in The Shape of Us emphasizes that exact philosophy of life. Kalsmose contributes to that study of a being in the world with her personal interpretation of the idea of new materialism: “how matter comes to matter” – an idiom from feminist theorist Karen Barad*. The fascination with the constitution of the human mind in relation to the world surrounding us is apparent throughout the book. Kalsmose’s artistic capture of those bodily notions of energy flowing through everything, is directly inspired and intertwined with recent research within wide ranges of art, science and philosophy. The developing fields of research use different terminology to grasp the new change: ‘the post-human’, ‘the post-anthropocene’ or ‘speculative realism’ but they all throw light upon the importance of (re)discovering what is outside the human consciousness and revolving around existence not solely through the human


gaze; thus uncovering the potential of mere materialism, its significance and possibilities. Kalsmose is interested in how we understand our own complex mind, our relationship to ‘the other’ whether that being other objects, other human beings or in a broader sense: cosmos. That circular and organic fluidity of everything is deeply rooted in her artistic expression and Kalsmose’s motivation to work with art is an aesthetic continuation of a belief in an entwined existence or with other words: a flat ontology. Visible in artworks such as Cosmic Relations and Re-Sounding Organ are tactile and technological elements; Kalsmose is combining them to illustrate how technology permeates our society today while we still require tactility in our lives to ‘survive’. Works Tribe (My Survival) and Re-Programmed Matter show the sense of purpose behind Kalsmose’s practice: connected matter is the basis of all growth. The immanent quality of every single material is underlined in her installations as she creates a space for her idea of circularity and connectedness through the language of art. Her artworks provoke a dialogue and encourage the viewers to analyze what is outside and inside ourselves. Kalsmose has invited one to partake in that consideration by allowing what is not human to occupy an important place: the installations exist just as much as the people experiencing them.

*Karen Barad, “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 801-831.


Detail of Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation, sound of NASA’s recordings of Saturn’s rings meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, sound and loudspeaker 300 cm, 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018 (Previous spread)

Families and other People By Barbara Pollack Author and freelance art critic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Artnews and Art in America. Danish artist Mille Kalsmose views the world from a very personal perspective, yet her works appeal universally, cutting through cultural boundaries. She has examined what it means to have an identity, what creates this identity and what emotional scars imprint on the self in ways that cannot easily be erased. Her conception of identity is not rooted in nationality or cultural background, but in something almost pre-Freudian, connected to familial ties and personal history that nevertheless transcends blood relationships. Kalsmose is fundamentally a conceptual artist who has incorporated photography, video, sculpture and technology into her installations. Yet her works are never overly intellectual nor do they alienate viewers with theoretical concerns. Instead, there is an emotional heart to her works that are certain to move viewers even to the point of tears. For her 2012 project, All My Suicides: The Quest for a New Identity, this artist legally changed her name five times over the course of ten years, erasing any connection to her birth name and natural parents. For her later exhibition, Searching for a Mother, she encapsulates her search for a woman to replace her birth mother, whom she lost first to divorce at the age of seven, and years later to suicide, a trauma which has cast a shadow over all of her artistic endeavors. This is an artist who does not take identity for granted nor does she accept that family is an incontrovertible given that one must accept. Family is obviously the fundamental unit of society. It is also the fundamental experience for most individuals in which they first experience the construction of identity. Yet we have all witnessed the destruction of this bedrock of identity through divorce and personal circumstance, through upheavals and reformation brought on by the severe changes in society 13

at the beginning of the 21st century. Mille Kalsmose does not take the family for granted, having experienced its fragility from a very young age. Instead, she sees it as one factor impacting the formation of identity, offering the possibility that her “I” can be recreated and reinvented as she matures. In her latest two series, Tribe (My Survival) and Mnemonic Archives, Kalsmose veers away from autobiography to broader social circumstances. In order to make this change, she has shifted her attention away from conceptual installations to more concrete sculptural objects. Nonetheless, her works continue to resonate with meaning, metaphors for social configurations and hierarchical values. It is as if her artworks themselves have changed their identities, becoming full-fledged sculptures, independent of an autobiographical backstory. Tribe (My Survival) is a series of configurations between connected sculptural figures that can symbolize relationships within a family. For this series, Kalsmose works with iron, wood, silk and pigskin to fashion forms that can be read as “mother”, “father”, “brother”, “sister” and all other members of an extended family. These figures are related, as communicated by the strong similarities between each abstract form. They are also connected to each other by a metal base from which they stand. Yet, these study works also communicate fragility and mortality, as the leather is stretched into the iron frames, fastened in place by rivets, like skin and muscles coursing across a skeleton. In her own words, Kalsmose describes the Tribe (My Survival) series, as follows: “Tribe (My Survival) came out of my lack of family and my wish to have an intimate family…I mimed a family made out of iron that couldn’t move away from me”. In this way, the works convey an intimacy missing from her own life, yet they do not specifically answer overriding questions about the meaning of a family. Instead, this artist leaves her inquiry to be openended by allowing each figure to remain anonymous and unspecific. We are allowed to read into these configurations, to imagine a conversation between each form. The works therefore become a kind of test or mirror, interrogating our ideas about familial relationships and reflecting 14

back on our own personal experiences of home life. By leaving each “face” generalized and non-specific, these works are also amazingly universal, applying to a wide variety of cultures, both East and West. It is impossible to read these works as “Danish” or “western.” That can just as easily be “Chinese” or “Asian.” At a time when so much of the world insists on cultural differences, Kalsmose has invented a vocabulary that truly cuts across boundaries. The influence of Asian materials is most pronounced in her latest series, titled Mnemonic Archives. For this series, Kalsmose had brass frames fashioned for her and then she folded hundreds of sheets of Chinese rice paper. The frames stand 2 meters tall and hang on the wall, like a bookcase in a vast library. The paper is stained, in one instance with black tea and in another with cherry juice, which easily creates an association with blood. Carefully inserted in place, this overstuffed archive evokes thousands of birth certificates and marriage licenses, death notices and wills, the reams of paper that accompany life in contemporary society. For Kalsmose, these works are representative of hierarchies and social conventions that dominate our lives. The associations in these works transcend family relationships and extend to an evaluation of a broader society, in which we all operate within frameworks not necessarily of our own making. There is also a contrast between materials, the hard surfaces of the brass frames and the pliant folds of the rice paper, which mimics the relationship between masculine and feminine qualities in society. In this way, the frames function much as the legal structure, obdurate and difficult to alter, while the folded paper represents the personal lives of citizens, struggling to maintain their individuality in the face of societal pressures to conform. Memory is also a key factor in this series, delicate memories that cling to our lives even as we try to forget them. In one way, the brass frames can be viewed as a human brain, the mind of one individual, and the sheets of paper are all the memories contained within that make up an individual’s identity. So, these works can be read as either applying to a greater society, governing the lives of many individuals, or as the experi15

ence of just one, lone, being, populated by the many experiences that has made up their life. This ability to read these works on many different levels is a sign of Kalsmose’s talent as an artist. For example, she had no idea that she would be traveling to China at the time she made Tribe (My Survival). Yet this is a series that can definitely resonate with Chinese viewers who are particularly attune to the importance of family. Similar to Zhang Xiaogang’s portraits of families, Bloodlines, Kalsmose’s sculptures encapsulate familial relationships in ways that are both universal and specific. We can easily see the faces, that the artist leaves blank, as if we are flipping through a family album. Also, the works in the Mnemonic Archives series resonate particularly well in Asia where the use of rice paper is fundamental to the history of art. These works particularly remind me of the Library Room at the caves of Dunhuang where explorers discovered a grotto filled with Buddhist scrolls more than a century ago. Just as those westerners were amazed to find a treasure trove of information packed into an anonymous cave situated in the middle of the desert, we viewers approach Kalsmose’s library in amazement at the feat it took to daub each sheet with colors, to fold and insert each one in its frame. It is an example of an artist’s touch bringing us closer to an intimate experience, now somewhat a rarity in contemporary art. Combining autobiography with neuroscience, personal experiences with social inquiry, Mille Kalsmose creates artworks that resonate on many levels. She has worked with a wide range of materials, but with her latest works, she reaches a new peak of creativity. These works appear as individual sculptures, independent forms that can be appreciated for purely aesthetic reasons. But each one tells a story about family and society, about the creation of identity within a social framework. These are tales that can be appreciated by audiences from a vast variety of cultural backgrounds. Just as many contemporary Chinese artists have managed to make works 17

Detail of Tribe (My Survival) #4, 2016 Iron, silk, wood and skin 170 x 90 x 10 cm 66,9 x 35,4 x 3,9 in Exhibited at ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen

Detail of Tribe (My Survival) #3, 2016 Iron, silk, wood and skin 170 x 90 x 10 cm 66,9 x 35,4 x 3,9 in Exhibited at ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen

that have a global appeal, yet retain the specifics of Chinese cultural identity, Kalsmose has achieved a perfect balance in her work between the universal and the individual. It is impossible to view her works without discovering an element of identification. This makes the experience inescapably emotional and personal, defying cultural boundaries. That is quite an achievement for an artist and for this alone, her artworks deserve widespread appreciation.


Tribe (My Survival), 2016 Iron, silk, wood and skin Varible dimensions InCube Art Space, New York, 2016 Private collection, Copenhagen


Interview with Mille Kalsmose By Anne Siggaard Author and art critic at Magasinet Kunst

One day in November, when most of Denmark was going through the motions of yet another chaotic and partly unpleasant celebration of materialism, better known as “Black Friday”, what was simultaneously happening in the heart of Aarhus, was an opening up to light minimalist elegance, at the opening of ARoS museum’s new exhibition, Cool, Calm and Collected. The title stems from a Rolling Stones song, which revolves around being just like this – cool, tranquil and self-assured. Three descriptive words which, to a very great degree, encapsulates the essence of Scandinavian aesthetics. Cool, Calm and Collected is a group exhibition built up around the top artists in Danish contemporary art right now. The exhibition spreads out across the whole of ARoS’s second story and as you move down from the museum’s distinctive white spiral staircase, the first thing that your eye meets is a small mirror-like balloon created by Jeppe Hein. It’s hanging so neatly and operates almost as an appetizer for the exhibition that you are about to meet. Your sense of interest is stimulated and you take the remaining steps at a somewhat quicker tempo. Then it’s standing there, Tribe (My Survival), a three-part sculpture series by Mille Kalsmose. The work is standing there and exulting, almost as if it were aware that this is the guest’s first meeting with the exhibition. A mascot for Danish contemporary art – beautiful, elegant, deep and reflected. Just a few days after my visit to ARoS, Mille Kalsmose and I made an appointment to meet and talk about the exhibition, about what is happening in her life and about what perspectives for the future look like. In the e-mail correspondence leading up to our meeting, the time of the meeting was changed a couple of times, either because of The Whitney23

Ancestors (My Survival) #1, 2016 Iron, silk, wax and skin 120 x 90 x 10 cm 47,2 x 35,4 x 3,9 in

this or Art Basel Miami-that, which only goes to show that Mille Kalsmose is not only a busy but also a sought-after lady. And when you are finished reading this article, you’ll understand why. I have just pressed the doorbell to Mille Kalsmose’s beautiful home and studio in Hellerup when she pulls up into the driveway behind me. She exudes energy and surplus as she discloses, with a smile, that the trunk of her car contains delicious supplies for our meeting – an energy, a sense of humor, and a surplus that she manages to maintain throughout the course of the interview. We sit down, help ourselves to the refreshments, and then we start the interview as if it were a perfectly ordinary conversation – that’s the way it obviously pans out most naturally to both of us.

TRIBE (MY SURVIVAL) Barbara Pollack, a freelance art writer and art critic for The New York Times, has previously described Mille Kalsmose’s work as something that can be understood and resonated on several levels and across different cultures. Pollack believes that Mille Kalsmose has found the perfect balance between the universal and the individual. Quite precisely, the sculpture series, Tribe (My Survival), corroborates this in the very best way. That which was the start of the work’s genesis was a discovery. Saying this with Mille Kalsmose’s own words, she found gold. What must have been old templates for parts of a leather bag’s pattern suddenly appeared before her one day in New York City when she was busy looking for work materials. These templates later came to fashion the inspiration for the various silhouettes that constitute up Tribe (My Survival). At first glance, the templates caught her interest because they almost had a shape like a face. But the longer she ruminated over them, the more aspects there were that came to the surface. In the process itself, where the template presses down into the leather over and over again, in order to form identical indentations, Mille Kalsmose drew a parallel. On one level, the process could be seen as a family that propagates, with genes 24

being passed on. But on a different and maybe deeper level, the process could be seen as a rebirth, as an existence that returns again and again. A copy that, nevertheless, sometimes falls to different sides. Tribe (My Survival) can be seen as a family but also as a timeline of existence.

WORKS CREATED WITH A HIGH DEGREE OF CONSCIOUSNESS At a tender age, Mille Kalsmose lost her mother to suicide. She explains that for a long time after this, she felt that she was missing something very much – that she was alone. This feeling changed after the work with Tribe (My Survival) and after having had the finished work standing in her home, inside a room, for a certain time, she no longer felt loneliness. I ask whether this may be because her work with creating the piece can have elicited a therapeutic effect. But that’s not how Mille Kalsmose has experienced this. She has ascribed so much consciousness to the sculpture that, for her, it has thereby become as real as everything else. A human being is a vessel of consciousness and energies, just as the sculpture series, Tribe (My Survival), surely is. Mille Kalsmose’s craft radiates minimalist beauty, thoroughness and an eye for details, but for her own part, she maintains that she has just as much a career in the non-physical as she has in the physical. Everything that Mille Kalsmose creates has been created with a strong spirituality, and this is something that can really be sensed. Some years ago, she made a series of paintings that portrayed five women and five men, each of whom have an impact on her, or had an impact on her at that time. The portraits were supposed to be seen and understood as self-portraits – “They see me. Therefore, I am. Their gazes make it so that I exist.” At that time, she experienced that people had difficulty following her thoughts but through installation art, her world of ideas finally came into its own. Mille Kalsmose speaks about an inner and an outer world, where the one, in her optics, is just as real as the other, and this generates a breakdown of dichotomies – in fact, she describes this as “the dichotomies’ fall”. If one wants to see fundamental changes, 25

Ancestors (My Survival), 2016 Silk, iron, wax and skin Varible dimensions Mana Contemporary, 2017


Ancestors (My Survival) #2, 2017 Iron and silk 110 x 90 x 10 cm 43,3 x 35,4 x 3,9 in

then it’s important to not repeat processes. Then you’ve got to start in a whole different place.

ART THAT IS DEEP AND REFLECTED, AS IT ADORNS For Mille Kalsmose, it is extremely important that there be a strong balance between the masculine and the feminine in her works, which is why she particularly likes working with metals. Metal as material is firm and raw and poses a strong contrast to the fragile and organic. Just as the physical human shell is placed opposite the inner psychological person, metal stands as a frame around the fragile and delicate substance. Mille Kalsmose takes pride in squaring accounts with the view that the fragile is something negative and with the view of the feminine as something weak. She’s not afraid that the depth of the work will not be manifest if the work simultaneously has a beautiful surface. If one harbors the view that one excludes the other, this is a misunderstanding – a strong and intelligent woman can also be found with red lips and stiletto heels.

WORKS OF ART THAT CREATE THEMSELVES One of Mille Kalsmose’s most recent installation works has been named Re-Sounding Organ. As a point of departure, Mille Kalsmose knew that she wanted to work with algae and that she wanted to add sound to the work. She describes the work process itself as highly intuitive and primarily a matter of ‘just doing’. The work basically created itself; she was simply the vessel through which its energy was manifested. The sonic aspect of the work has been developed in collaboration with one of Denmark’s leading brain researchers, and is a sound that can play a role in treating chronic pains. Inside ordinary speakers, the sound can almost not be heard with the human ear, but when it is connected to the work, it takes on an overwhelming force. “The work gives life to the sound; the algae were the first to give life to us. One is merely a vessel that helps to create something 28

that then propagates itself further. One just has to be the hands, and to make room for it to unfold” ... “Creating art is a privilege beyond all limits.“ Mille Kalsmose

ART BASEL MIAMI, THE WHITNEY, AROS – BUT THE DREAM IS DIRECTED TOWARD HORSENS There is no doubt that Mille Kalsmose is currently experiencing a certain period in her career where she is getting tugged at from people close and from people far away and where she is getting a lot of well-deserved attention. But if you ask her what she’s dreaming about then the reply, spoken with be a little smile on her lips, is that she would like one day to return to Horsens for a while and contribute something to the city. “How nice it would be to be Horsens’ Hans Christian Andersen,” she adds and laughs.


Ancestors (My Survival) #4, 2017 Iron, silk, wax and skin 170 x 90 x 10 cm 66,9 x 35,4 x 3,9 in

Tribe (My Survival), 2016 Iron, silk, found wood and skin Varible dimensions ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen


ARoS Interview By Maria Kappel Blegvad Curator and museum inspector at ARoS

Maria Kappel Blegvad: Mille, how would you describe your artistic practice? Mille Kalsmose: I work with things that are so firmly embedded and perhaps even automatic in us that we don’t think about them. Basically, it’s about a keen interest in how we become the people we are. For example, I think that regardless of whether we have an excellent, bad, or nonexistent relationship with our family, that relationship still greatly informs our way of being in the world. You might say that my work as an artist can be described as a ceaseless search for different ways of surviving, and that the various pieces are a kind of survival kit that makes it possible for me to navigate in an inner, non-tactile world. I try to capture my own present-day existence – and that of others – and address it. My material definitely comes from my own lived life; it is insistently present, permeating the works. I move within psychological terrains, confronting mechanisms, energies and developmental processes that then take form in my works in different ways.

MKB: For the exhibition Cool, Calm and Collected you and Erlend G. Høyersten decided that you should show three sculptures from your series Tribe (My Survival), 2016. What is this series about? MK: In the sculpture series Tribe (My Survival) I engage with one of the basic aspects of the human condition – that we will all inevitably lose the ones we love – and with my own belief that we will always be connected at some deeper level. I have created a kind of pseudo-family, my own “tribe”, in an attempt at filling out the gaps I’ve experienced in my own family. When I look at people I see more layers than just their immediate appearance, and some layers emerge with greater clarity than others in 35

Tribe (My Survival), 2016 Iron, silk, found wood and skin Varible dimensions ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen

Tribe (My Survival), 2016 Iron, silk, found wood and skin Varible dimensions ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen

certain situations. For this reason, it was important to work with a transparent material, not just any textile. I originally envisioned the work as a total installation but realised that the pieces could also work separately. Some see these works as single, isolated entities, but they can also be seen as figures that are part of a community – each of them is a distinct individual who sees things from their own perspective, just as the observers will experience the work based on their particular optics.

MKB: The series comprises materials such as iron, silk, wood and leather, creating an aesthetic that is simultaneously light and dense. What were your deliberations while selecting these materials, combining them to form sculptural wholes? MK: I adore metals and think that steel is one of the most beautiful materials of all. It is firm, rough and quite determined in feel, and so I often use it to create a framework in which other things can unfold. I frequently juxtapose metals with something fragile and organic. My choice of materials is quite intuitive. The more time I spend in a digitised and social media world, the more keenly I feel the need to work with materials that possess a high degree of tactility and sensuousness. Hard steel combined with organic, transparent silk and leather creates the kind of interplay that might potentially paralyse the individual elements or destroy them. The process was quite nerve-wracking – would the combination work, or would the materials ruin each other? But it is this kind of dissonance that creates a distinctive balance between the masculine and the feminine, qualities that I believe should ideally be evenly distributed in us.


Tribe (My Survival), 2016 Iron, silk, found wood and skin Varible dimensions ARoS, 2018 Private collection, Copenhagen


Detail of Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017 (Previous spread)


Re-Sounding Organ By Natalia Gutman Art historian and curator

Text about Mille Kalsmose’s exhibition, and her work Re-Sounding Organ, made in July 2017 during her artist-in-residence stay at CCA Andratx. Giving shape and materializing what is invisible to the eye is an indispensible desire and a driving force in Mille Kalsmose’s work. With focussed attention, Kalsmose is exploring memory, identity, psychological mechanisms, and spiritual life conceptions in a manner wherein immaterial phenomena, emotional notions and suggestive concepts are rendered tangible. From a personal point of view, and often based on her own life experience, Kalsmose presents us with sculptural work that is in possession of a strong tactile appearance. Combining materials with opposing qualities, such as brass and paper or metal and silk, sets up a sensual tension reflecting the vulnerable and intense topics that are being raised. Ranging from images to sculptural pieces and installation works, there is a wide span to Kalsmose’s work, which, however is typically characterized by having an evocative nature. Recognizable elements that seem to resemble everyday objects are rendered abstract or twisted towards representing a more poetic or existential content. The introspective investigations are a continuous interest in Kalsmose’s work. Psychology, spirituality, and also science take part in these explorations of the inner life and our relation to our surroundings. For her Re-Sounding Organ exhibition, Kalsmose has included research about biological material (algae) and in-depth knowledge stemming from her collaboration with a neuroscientist and a sound healer, thus getting art and science to complement each other. Sound, organs, and algae are the three focal points of interest in the creation of the exhibition, Re-Sounding Organ. Kalsmose has had a longterm interest in the qualities of sound, and the effect of sound on the 43

Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017


Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017

body and mind. Sound is a profound phenomenon, with physical and metaphysical abilities. In Kalsmose’s work, the focus is on physical and spiritual sound and on how sound has a capacity to affect our organs through its vibrations that reach all the way to our mind and emotions. The organs are crucial to our existence; they are gatherings of tissue that help the body to function, and yet they are rarely visible. Kalsmose believes that emotions and inner life are of great importance to our wellbeing and if these are not nurtured and taken care of and protected, such neglect can have enormous physical impact on our organs. Kalsmose plays with the notion of giving form and visibility to our emotional and invisible organs. The symbolic and actual importance of organs has inspired Kalsmose to not only research the concept, “organ”, by means of simulating organic capabilities, but also to give shape to the idea of a new organ. Algae is a distinctive biological material that provides oxygen to our planet. Kalsmose has incorporated algae in all three works, thus adding to her installations a living and multifaceted material, replete with its own uncontrolled life. Re-Sounding Organ is a 170 cm long black metal vessel filled with chunks of algae (the same length as the artist-body). Soft, green and floating, the algae appear as mysterious organic tissue – standing on several thin metal legs and generating a rhythmic composition that carries the vessel. From underneath the vessel, from two loudspeakers, a shamanistic sound floats through the basin, as the water and the algae generate small vibrations and patterns in the basin. This is human sound, a kind of chanting that gives rise to a spiritual and enigmatic aura around the vessel, accordingly generating a number of connotations and a sense of wonder about whether the vessel is supposed to represent a crib, a ritual instrument, a sarcophagus, or a baptismal basin. Each side of the basin is held together by a leather belt, strapping the basin: almost as if this black organ or what is inside of it is supposed to be kept under control, while the strong chanting is repeatedly given voice by the vessel.



Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017


Detail of Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017 50

Re-Sounding Organ By Maria Grzywacz Art historian Facts about the Mille Kalsmose’s research and collaboration regarding Re-Sounding Organ, 2017. For two years Mille Kalsmose has worked with a sound healer and psychologist Alex Ashot Ikilikian, who is working in Lyngby psychiatric Hospital in Denmark as well as with a group of researchers including neuroscientist Peter Michael Nielsen, who conducted their studies in Amager Hospital in Copenhagen. Their method is about to be implemented in hospitals in Denmark the UK, USA and Canada. Neuroscientist Peter Michael Nielsen (former musician) has discovered and patented a new way of relieving somatic pain and depression by exposing the body to stimuli that affect the area of the human brain responsible for sensing pain and depression. The method advocates for a somewhat untraditional approach, namely exposing the body to sound vibrations. Since musical signals are faster and stronger, they manage to block pain signals and hence reduce the sensation of pain and depression. Psychologist Alex Ashot Ikilikian has over a period of 35 years studied sound and frequencies, but not in a scientific way. According to Ikilikian vowels represent the spirit, while the consonants don’t have a life on their own without a corpus. This means that they can only exist through a body or organ to resonate (their) sound and effect, however activating these energies through sound can help recreating one’s body and mind. Mille Kalsmose’s artwork Re-Sounding Organ is inspired by these two collaborations and the practitioners’ results of working with sound. The two practitioners approach sound through a holistic and scientific praxis respectively. Inspired by both sound experts, Kalsmose has brought these two professionals together by uniting their practises in her artwork. 51

Detail of Re-Sounding Organ, 2017 Iron, algae, speaker, belt and audio 173 x 68 x 50 cm 68,1 x 26,7 x 19,7 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017 52

However Kalsmose’s piece does not aim to be factual or educational, the artist rather focuses on creating an artwork on its own premises asking the viewer to reflect on sound’s influence on creation, its power, the self and its surroundings.


Details of Re-Programmed Matter, 2017 Plaster, iron and found wood Variable dimensions


Re-Programmed Matter By Mille Kalsmose Artist

In my work Re-Programmed Matter, I play with the absence of hierarchies between man, things and physicality as well as their internal connectedness, from animated objects to the objectification of man. With Re-Programmed Matter, I create references to society’s involvement in the overall presence of social media and other new technologies and it’s focus on “surface”. The works engage the architectural, spiritual and social realms through a mixture of organic, industrial, found or untraditional elements that are connected in a network of objects, all linked in time and place. These sensational moments experiment with various materials and specific performances, and they are an enhancement to gaining access to another syntax in understanding how we are. The works have taken the form of three-dimensional objects that in some way appear family-like, as something that fills our everyday life without completely being so. In my practice, I try to grasp the ways in which identity as a concept is developed and compounded by a continuous interaction between the individual, someone or something and its inherent potential to transform itself from one thing to another.


Re-Programmed Matter, 2017 Plaster and iron Variable dimensions

Re-Programmed Matter, 2017 Iron and found wood 180 x 60 x 10 cm 70,9 x 23,6 x 3,9 in Private collection, New Jersey

Re-Programmed Matter, 2017 Iron and plaster 20 x 25 x 150 cm 7,9 x 9,8 x 59 in

Detail of Instrumental Organs I, 2017 Clay and iron 92 x 110 cm 36,2 x 43,3 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017

Instrumental Organs


Instrumental Organs II, 2017 Coated polystyrene 40 x 110 cm 15,7 x 43,3 in Center of Contemporary Art Andratx, Spain, 2017


Tribal Shapes, 2017 Silk, iron, skin, found wood Variable dimensions


Detail of Matter Matters, 2017 Iron, leather, hand coloured suede, brass, hand coloured Chinese paper, steel & black marble 300 x 10 x 1 cm (iron base) 118.1 x 3,93 x 0,39 in (iron base) Private collection, Denmark 66

Matter Matters


Matter Matters, 2017 Iron, hand coloured suede, leather, brass, hand coloured Chinese paper, steel & black marble 300 x 10 x 1 cm (iron base) 118.1 x 3,93 x 0,39 in (iron base) Private collection, Denmark


Detail of Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation Meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, NASA’s sound recordings of Saturn’s rings and loudspeaker 300 cm / 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018


Cosmic Relations

By Richard Vine Managing editor of Art in America

Mille Kalsmose’s new work, Cosmic Relations, carries her signature themes—personal identity and the connections between the self and others, especially family members—to a higher, more abstract level. Previously, the artist kept her explorations grounded, so to speak, despite a high degree of stylization. In Mnemonic Archives, brass shelving units recall the rigidity of social norms and official record-keeping, while stained and folded sheaths of rice paper betoken the pliant, imperfect individuals subsumed by custom and law. Other works, like Ancestors (My Survival) and Tribes (My Survival), deploy flat, featureless, vaguely humanoid forms, their skin-like fabric (silk or pig’s hide) stretched drumhead tight and bolted to steel stands—a commentary on the paradoxical ways that family roles confine, erase, and yet lastingly sustain us. Perhaps the artist was seeking, consciously or unconsciously, an ideal metaphor to express the dynamic standoff between impersonal law— whether of society or physics—and unruly, idiosyncratic, psychologically fraught human nature. If so, she may well have found it in Cosmic Relations. Here, her anthropomorphic forms—flat as shadows, translucent as ghosts—are arrayed concentrically above curved metal floor elements that echo the trajectory of planets, the rings of Saturn, and the nested heavenly orbits that once, in ancient and medieval cosmology, were thought to produce the imperceptible but all-pervasive Music of the Spheres. That Pythagorean notion of a universe built on harmonious proportions is literalized at the center of Kalsmose’s piece by a small speaker emitting sounds (actually radio and plasma waves translated to sound) recorded by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in the vicinity of Saturn between 2002


Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation Meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, NASA’s sound recordings of Saturn’s rings and loudspeaker 300 cm / 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018 (Previous spread)

Detail of Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation Meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, NASA’s sound recordings of Saturn’s rings and loudspeaker 300 cm / 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018


Detail of Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation Meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, NASA’s sound recordings of Saturn’s rings and loudspeaker 300 cm / 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018

and 2017. Reinforcing this cosmic link are meteoric pebbles that extend some of the metal curves like ellipsis dots, implying infinity. These material components may be rough, incomplete, and brutish, but the form they evoke—the circle—is a timeless emblem of perfection. So, too, the flat quasi-figures. The cosmic musica universalis was long believed to correspond to an inner musica humana, a music of the human body (even today we speak of “well-toned” flesh), synonymous with good health and sanity. The proportions of the body were, on an intimate scale, analogous to those of the planets and stars. Thus in Kalsmore’s work, humanoid forms loom up like guardian spirits, even amid the floor-bound symbols of galaxies.

“Man is the measure of all things,” said Protagoras, a skeptic in regard to pure mathematics and disembodied laws of nature. By populating her highly schematic installation with human surrogates, and by arranging the work’s elements in patterns reminiscent of Russian Constructivism (a movement at once rigorously abstract yet deeply tied to utopian dreams), Kalsmose reminds us that we ourselves are the observers, the extrapolators, the formulators, of the very systems to which we are subject.


Details of Cosmic Relations, 2017 Sound installation Meteorites, silk, iron, found wood, skin, NASA’s sound recordings of Saturn’s rings and loudspeaker 300 cm / 118,1 in (diameter) Mana Contemporary, 2018

Mnemonic Archives

T1 / Mnemonic Archives, 2016 Brass, Chinese and Japanese double woven paper dyed in teas 145 x 145 x 9 cm 57,1 x 57,3 x 3,5 in Nicolaj Bergmann, Tokyo, 2017 Detail of T1 / Mnemonic Archives, 2016 (Previous spread) 83

Detail of T1 / Mnemonic Archives, 2016 Brass, Chinese and Japanese double woven paper dyed in teas 145 x 145 x 9 cm 57,1 x 57,3 x 3,5 in Nicolaj Bergmann, Tokyo, 2017


T1 / Mnemonic Archives, 2016 Brass, Chinese and Japanese double woven paper dyed in teas 145 x 145 x 9 cm 57,1 x 57,3 x 3,5 in Nicolaj Bergmann, Tokyo, 2017


Detail of Matter Matters, 2017 Iron, hand coloured suede, leather, brass, hand coloured Chinese paper, steel & black marble 300 x 10 x 1 cm (iron base) 118.1 x 3,93 x 0,39 in (iron base) Private collection, Denmark (Previous spread)



Publications Cool Calm & Collected, Erlernd G. Høyesten & Maria Kappel Blegvad, ARoS Re-Sounding Organ, Gutman, Natalia, CCA Andratx, Spain Mnemoric Archives (My Survival), Pollack, Barbara, Beijing Tribe (My Survival), Vine, Richard, Beijing Searching for a Mother, Olsen, Claus Hagedorn-, Horsens Kunstmuseum Ressurection, Møller, Julie Horne, Kuben, Horsens Kunstmuseum Searching for a Mother, Jerslev, Anne, Palau La Virreina Centre de Imagen, Barcelona The Core, Serritzlev, Angelika Dahl-, Gentofte Hospital Site-Seeing, Ravn, Aukje Lepoutre, Traneudstillingen How Am I – Danish and Indian contemporary art, Ross, Trine, Bukdahl, Else Marie og Chari, Anirudh, Kastrupgårdsamlingen.


Bibliography 2018 Siggaard, Anne: Man er blot et redskab, Magasinet Kunst Høyersten, Erlend G & Maria Kappel Blegvad: Cool Calm & Collected, ARoS Weirup, Torben: Dansk kunstner har succes i New York, Berlingske Tidende 2017 Glasius, Maria Juel: Hun skabte en jernfamilie for at udfylde tomrummet i sin egen, Jyllands-Posten Grzywacz, Maria: Når Alger giver genlyd, IDOART Kalsmose, Mille: Re-Sounding Organs, CLOT Magazine 2016 Borup, Jan Falk: Kunsten vender tilbage i Storestrandstræde, KunstenNU 2014 Olesen, Helene: Searching for a Mother, Magasinet Kunst 2013 Jerslev, Anne: Searching for a Mother, art publication, Barcelona 2012 Bo, Michael: Alle mine selvmord har gjort mig til den, jeg er i dag, Politiken Højggard, Heidi: Kunstner udstiller egne selvmord, Kristligt Dagblad Ross, Trine: All My Suicides,The Quest for a New Identity, art publication 2010 Personal Identity in Contemporary Art, Disturbis online Magazine, Barcelona 2009 Kirkeby, Ole Fogh: At forvilde sig ind i en organisation, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School 2007 Kalsmose, Mille: Girl with pram, Wonderland-mag, Copenhagen Sønderby, Lone: Alice i eventyrland på speed, Q-Magazine, Copenhagen


Contributors Anna Carlsen Comparative Literature Researcher Grzywacz, Maria Art historian Gutman, Natalia Independent curator and art historian Kappel Blegvad, Maria Curator and museum inspector at ARoS Pollack, Barbara Author and art critic in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Artnews and Art in America Siggaard, Anne Author and art critic at Magasinet Kunst Vine, Richard Managing editor of Art in America and art critic


Photographic Credits Andersen, Thomas 65, 66, 68-69, 88-89 Berg, Anders Sune 36-37 Eastburn, Penn 82-83, 86-87 Fitzgerald, Zoe 4-5, 14, 17, 18-19, 20, 24-25, 27, 28 52-53, 54, 56, 57 Lassanah, Hawa 38-39, 42-43, 45, 46-47, 48, 61, 62 Lindboe, Tom Cover, 3, 8-9, 50, 70-71, 72, 74-75, 77, 78, 79, 80-81, 84-85 Pedersen, Ole Hein 30-31, 32, 35