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Àsdís Sif Gunnarsdottir: Object Perception

Monica Uszerowicz

Àsdís Sif Gunnarsdottir: Object Perception, Bed & Breakfast, Miami, March 19, 2016

Bed & Breakfast
March 19, 2016

In Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Kafka—the narrator—asks Oshima, a friend to whom he’s become close, “‘Tell me, when you’re alone do you sometimes think about your partner and feel sad?’” Oshima does indeed, and gives his now oft-quoted and exquisitely touching reasoning: “‘Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.’” It’s true—we are often drawn to partners who seem to encompass something that feels close to our inner truth. It requires poor logic, to try to find yourself in another—unwittingly or not—but love and perception are faulty beasts.

With Object Perception, her first solo exhibition in Miami, multimedia artist Àsdís Sif Gunnarsdottir examined, for one fleeting evening, the nature of categorizing household items according to our specific relationships with them—and the ways in which such an innate habit mirrors our understanding of the ones we love. (“The image we form of significant others is often an image of what we wish them to be . . . . We struggle to prevent ourselves from becoming demonic and hostile in character when we find this image to be untrue,” reads the show’s press release.) We do not see items, nor lovers, as they are, but rather as projections of our needs, desires, expectations, and perceptions. They’re our reflection, or missing piece, the kind that leads to a strange melancholy that’s constant but inexplicable (unless you’re Oshima). Taken to its extreme, this partner-as-projection-of-self issue presents further questions for the philosophical problem of other minds.

And Object Perception did feel like home and like love, like a longing whose reasoning is difficult to pinpoint. Gunnarsdottir transformed the actual bedroom of the space known as Bed & Breakfast, utilizing a large-scale projection of a smooching, silhouetted couple. It followed a Rube Goldberg–machine trajectory, shining through flowers and colored perfume bottles, onto a wall, the floor, and then over the human lovers (one of whom was curator Jacqueline Falcone), who lay sleeping in bed. The two appeared to dream of their shadowy selves, their kiss dancing along the wall in a display of meta-conscious reality, harp music on loop. It was a noisy reception; you had to shut the door to absorb the piece, then ignore the feeling that you were being intrusive.

Gunnarsdottir passed out hand-written poems to each guest, which I did not realize until the end of the night. I asked politely if I, too, could have one. “But of course!” She used my pen and folded the paper into a soft envelope, which I opened later as I climbed into my own bed. Her cursive writing looked like wisps of smoke on the page:

Loskins matast skuggarnur okkarí vid erum umkringd vatri…kyrrt…Kyrd
Kyrru vatri

Finally our shadows merge
We are surrounded by water…still water

The sleeping lovers might’ve been dreaming of nothing, if they were sleeping at all.