Spanning the void
Rosie Lesso finds Monika Sosnowska breaking down the barrier that separates art and architecture in her installation at the Talbot Rice
Think of post-war Eastern European modernisation and what comes to mind? Invariably, it is the drab, rashly executed housing blocks, service pavilions, train stations and shopping centres that inspire Monika Sosnowska, leading the Polish artist to create interactive and often absurd architectural constructions. But in spite of her architectural leanings Sosnowska sees her own work as being very different to that of an architect. ‘Even though I focus on the same problems as architecture does – the forming of space – I also think that my art is a completely different discipline,’ she says. ‘It seems to me that what I do is somehow in opposition to what architecture stands for. Architecture organises, introduces order, reflects political and social systems. My works introduce chaos and uncertainty instead.’
Sosnowska uses architecture to critique itself. Her ‘re-use’ of post-war modernist architecture criticises the utopian ideals behind these buildings, hinting at the failure of the communist society that resided in this architecture by creating an atmosphere of unease and doom.
Sosnowska represented Poland in this year’s Venice Biennale, a seminal moment in cementing her as one of Poland’s most prominent artists. This was an opportunity for her to create a building within a building, her construction appearing to grow from the very fabric of the pavilion. The press release described it as a place ‘encumbered with error’ and ‘knocked out of functionality’. She has also transformed a number of major gallery spaces including the Serpentine Gallery in London, which she made into a confusing pathway of angled walls and ceilings. This work was described in an essay in the Serpentine’s catalogue as an attempt to ‘engage and confound the viewers with her constructed space’.
Sonowska’s solo exhibition at the Talbot Rice gallery, titled ‘Display’, will demonstrate a similar line of sculptural and architectural enquiry. In contrast with previous shows, however, Sosnowska has used the downstairs space not as a site for transformation but a place in which to display 26 small architectural models of strange, implausible buildings, all laid out in sequence. These are unreal, fictional creations, places that may never be realised in reality, suggesting unrealised dreams and ambitions. That said, one of these models has been realised in the upper gallery. True to form it is a large encompassing installation and a mass of rubber tentacles will appear to grow from the ceiling creating a dense jungle of black rubber for the viewer to struggle and fight their way through. Sosnowska’s architectural dream is realised, but not without a struggle. Here she creates a feast of sensual titillation with dark, dense, pungent rubber, its weight creating a disturbing claustrophobia. Sosnowska plays with borders, contradictions and contrasts, creating work that simultaneously posits and transgresses the imaginary border between art and architecture.