In Anna Uddenberg’s New Show, Female Bodies Get Swallowed by Massage Chairs
The rising star's show at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin showcases a new direction—and the same interest in luxury lifestyles gone wrong.
Anna Uddenberg’s new exhibition at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin begs the question: Where have the figures gone? The young Swedish artist rose to prominence in recent years for explicit sculptures that featured female bodies in extreme, sometimes surreal situations.
They donned yogi apparel and rode suitcases like mechanical bulls, bending backwards to expose their large breasts. The work both captivated attention and polarized opinions, as Uddenberg defiantly pushed the boundaries of female representation, questioning what is acceptable.
But after gaining notice for these works at the 9th Berlin Biennial, curated by DIS, and Manifesta 11 in 2016, she has changed course. In her latest show, the figures have disappeared. In their place is a convoy of yacht-like sculptures that are, somehow, equally unnerving.
Viewers got a peek at Uddenberg’s new trajectory at Frieze London this past October, where her bodacious sculpture Cuddle Clamp looked like what might happen if a massage chair, a hot tub, a car, and a carpet collectively reproduced. Her new exhibition “Sante Par Aqua” marks the fullest presentation of her new approach to date.
The new show continues to illustrate Uddenberg’s interest in seductive signifiers of luxury living, health, and conspicuous consumption in the West (which includes, of course, a shallow dose of Eastern spirituality). But the women we have come to know have vanished. Their absence has an undercurrent of violence: What happened to them?
You can find remnants of their presence across her four beast-like furniture pieces in the gallery (a pair of crocs here, a cutout thong there). But the voluptuous sculptures seem to have almost gobbled them up, absorbing their overblown femininity.
Formally, the artist brings together vastly different materials and fuses them into one homogeneous form. What appears like a sleek surface from afar is actually quite obviously handmade when viewed up close. These outer surfaces reference luxury car upholstery, boat interiors, or first-class seating. Her works look as if these symbols have been turned inside-out.
The show’s main figure, Pocket Obes, hides behind a wall of cascading water. It’s here where Uddenberg’s new body of works crosses the threshold of the real world into the realm of science fiction—new territory for her. The three other sculptures hover in the first room like gatekeepers for this elusive beast. We recall the premise of so many sci-fi films, where unknown objects appear and we feebly struggle to understand what they want.
Though absent of humans and completely synthetic, the objects in “Sante Par Aqua” still somehow come to life. These creatures seem to be speaking to us. But we can’t quite be sure what they are asking us to do.
Anna Uddenberg’s “Sante Par Aqua” is on view at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Kohlfurter Straße 41/43, Berlin, until January 13.
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