I’m going to eat you whole
A commentary Kristina Matousch’s 'Hole Whole' Exhibition at Fullersta Gård, 15th February – 3rd May 2020
The exterior of Fullersta Gård, a Carl Larsson-esque wooden manor house in pastel yellow, does little to clue you in on the raunch-fest inside. And yet, the scene is the setting for a retrospective of the artist of one of 2018’s most talked about art shows in Stockholm which consisted of the bare-it-all performance piece Bake at Cecilia Hillstrom Gallery. As Matousch is an interdisciplinary artist, the retrospective includes a broad range of works from over the past two decades encompassing both photographic works relating to her performance installations, as well as her sculptural works and paintings. The more obvious theme, as one unassuming visitor put it, could be phrased “all the pretty holes” attuned with the dots of Kusama. But let’s not beat around the bush and instead put a more predominant theme, as clearly and obviously as the artist herself states it: sex. It’s all about seks. But is it? Yes, it is. But can it be? Yes. And why should it not?
Sex. Bake. Cutting Cunt. Turning On. Double Penetration. Painting Fucking Guilty Pleasure. Matousch chooses her titles cunningly and we are led to believe that it’s all in the puns. The artist is directing us to observe and test out the associations that the titles give rise to. With her works appearing in varying degree of abstraction in terms of form, some titles could be held as quite literal whereas others illustrate an apparent disconnect in the relationship between work and title. At any rate, although the titles of the works do direct you into a certain specific trail of thought and image, they are just an opening, a headline into further thought and visualization on the matter of sex in a much broader sense. The sculptural work Cutting Cunt that hangs unassumingly in one of the rooms consists of a stainless steel work resembling a ninja star with three holes cut out in the middle. The choice of industrial, sharp materials and the resemblance to a weapon are in juxtaposing opposition with the fragility the female sex is at times ascribed. Another work, Sex, consists of two sharp-edged steel blades that look like they were thrown forcefully onto the crisp white wall, lodging themselves permanently. Thus depicted, sex and sexuality have been, quite literally turned into weapons. They constitute means of power and battle.
When researching the artist I decided to go back to the archives to one of Matousch’s earlier works, Me and Yours from 1999. The work was an interdisciplinary performance that saw the artist selling ice creams at Wanås Sculpture park. The ice creams sold were in the shape of human faecal matter and came in two flavours, Magnus (dark chocolate) and Doris (chocolate and honey). I try to trace elements of this in the present retrospective. Ice cream and Sex. The traces of the kitchen stove on three stainless steel plates in the work Turning on. There is the sculptural work in plaster depicting two eggs penetrating the tube of a toilet paper roll in Double Penetration. Viewing the works presented in the retrospective from this point of view, there seems to be a certain commonality between the two themes. To equate sex to food would be however to oversimplify the matter.
Bodily functions and sex. Food and sex. Sustenance. Survival. Both instinctive, both primal. The bodily experience one submits oneself to, or the urge to submit to, is in a sense controlling. The body is not in control – it is controlled. The instinctive reaction to the work Double Penetration is to blush, do a double take ("did I get the title right?") and to giggle a bit nervously. The moment the title is evident, the work is no longer an abstraction. The harshness and roughness of sex is now graphically portrayed by the two eggs;
fragile and yet a source of energy, penetrating the holes of the toilet paper roll, in direct contrast to the fragility of the white plaster and the pureness it alludes to. In a sense, what is stressed is the shame-ridden aspect of some depictions of sex; some less conventional than others. The ones which are as far away from the romcom-notion of sex we’ll ever get: that it can be brutal, brash, it might hurt and it is bound to get messy. Sex is at once conditioning and conditioned, and the sum of apparent contradictions.
The retrospective informs you of another, equally prevalent, yet formal theme in Matousch’s body of work; namely the hole itself. The works Nobody 1-21, are a series of works consisting of 21 aluminium plates each with a an ascending number of hole openings resembling the ones created on pieces of paper with a hole puncher. The work Subject inside Object, a cardboard tube with a hole large enough to fit an index finger, is in the shape of a hole when looked at from above. The hole in its [w]holeness is an unavoidable theme and functions as a transformative element in the artist’s body of work. Having in mind the title of the retrospective, The Hole Whole, these depictions strike the visitor as a paradoxical reference since a hole, by definition, signifies lacking and incompleteness. Upon closer inspection, the hole and the void it at first might be associated with, lends itself to another interpretation. Holes enable us to peek into or see through things. A seeing which at times associates itself with a sense of awkwardness and/or shame. In this way, the artist alerts our curiosity for seeing but also sets in motion a seeing of what tends to be shielded, covered up and hidden from us.
The sculptural work Reversed cavities is an aluminium-clad confessional stand equipped with a plexi-mirror partition on the inside prodded with holes. This implying that confessions become fully visible and the guilt is perforated. What happens when one is no longer concealing oneself from oneself by confessing to another when unseen? Is it possible that one is more complete, more whole, when the veil is lifted and one’s own perceived shortcomings and guilt-ridden attributes, one’s “holes” are seen?
To paraphrase Leonard Cohen as an end; the hole may just be the crack that lets the light get in.
Text and images: Corina Wahlin
Kristina Matousch's work is represented by Cecilia Hillström Gallery in Stockholm and Galleri Riis in Oslo.