A focused survey of the artist’s past fifteen years of production, the exhibition draws together three major projects that share a genealogical relationship: Unbuilt Residences (2005–15), Metamorphic (2017–ongoing), and Namesake (2018–ongoing). Collectively, these bodies of work employ various artistic processes of creation and transformation, thus imbuing the works with a sense of resilience and perseverance. This will be the first exhibition to bring these different works together in conversation, expanding and reinforcing their evocative power, while also creating more opportunities for exploration and engagement.
“One of the defining characteristics of Sigurðardóttir’s recent work is the conscious interplay between chance and intention in the creative process, between construction and cataclysm. This working methodology creates a poetic subtext for the objects produced, drawing forth an appreciation for impermanence, vulnerability, and the beautiful yet entropic force of chance transformations,” explains Steven L. Bridges, associate curator at the MSU Broad. “The implications of these (meta)physical processes also relate directly to the context of the exhibition, rooted in Michigan and the Midwest, while simultaneously connecting the local with global concerns around the precarity of contemporary life.”
Unbuilt Residences marks the turning point for Sigurðardóttir in the development of her more recent creative approach. Each of the sculptures is modeled after an architectural plan for a residence in Reykjavík, Iceland, which were never realized. The models are fabricated out of typical model-building materials, but are then destroyed through various means—physical force, fire, gravity—but from the ashes the houses rise again, reconstituted by the artist, returning like persistent memories. The artist also began photographing the sculptures partway through the decade-long process of their making, capturing their different states of existence. These photographs relate to yet are separate from the sculptures, each an index of a specific moment in its ongoing creation.
Two more recent series, Metamorphic and Namesake, developed out of her work on the Unbuilt Residences and are ongoing projects. Metamorphic is a body of sculptures based on furniture from a single room in the artist’s childhood home. The 1:1 scale works are initially fabricated out of fragile plaster, and intentionally break during transit. Sigurðardóttir then repairs the sculptures with new, more durable material, and over time the sculptures become stronger, more durable and aesthetically complex. As part of Metamorphic, the artist co-produced a new work with international students from the university, asking each participant to retrace a surface from their past or present home. The resulting immersive 2,500 square foot artwork sprawls across the main gallery space of the Zaha Hadid-designed building.
For Namesake, Sigurðardóttir mines clay in her native Iceland, molds the clay into paving-stones, and plants them in the form of a geometric design along the banks of the Grand River in Lansing. The placement of Namesake marks and imbues the site with a sense of significance, even if mysteriously so. Eventually the environment will reclaim the site; the clay will break down and assimilate with the surrounding soil and forever alter the landscape by becoming a part of it. Among other possibilities, the work explores immigration and assimilation, and the ways in which such narratives (present and past) are written over, or become illegible. It references the City of Lansing as a sanctuary or welcoming city in the United States, while also acknowledging how immigrants and refugees often remain invisible within their new adoptive locations.