The Spirit, The Lamp & The Permanent Inhabitant
A note on Nicola Godman's MFA solo exhibition, The Spirit, The Lamp & The Permanent Inhabitant,
When I meet with Nicola Godman for her MFA solo at Konstfack and have finished experiencing the centerpiece video installation which bears the exhibition’s title, I’m struck by two things - or actually a string - but two to begin with. The first is how brilliantly the title factually serves the nature of the inherent narratives of the work - not your routinely ascribed mumbo jumbo - and second, how sensibly and concisely she has contextualized her work in order not to overstimulate or smugly try to stress a sense of her own brilliance on to the viewer (commendable). Like ingenious works many times tend - hers including - there is at hand a specifically chosen smaller window that becomes a catalyst and door into larger questions about present human (living) conditions. She is smart not to even brush in words on what they actually are. You with your world views and perceptions of the world have to unwrap them for yourself. Her approach shows of confidence and as we converse I realize this is not your average artist. She's had time to think by way of years in Amsterdam and a gap after her BFA-degree at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, where she might have been prepared a bit differently than they are here. In brief she does however assert in the exhibition statement how in the old days people would keep the fireplace burning in order to keep spirits away from their homes. In contrast today there are so many houses with cold fireplaces; homes that stand empty most of the year. The usage of which - as you will quickly come to think yourself - rests at the disposal and privilege of their owners. On view in what is an austere and crisp Haneke-like cinematic-display, is the exterior and interior of an architecturally designed home on the island of Gotland. A mood that casts a The Shining-like tension finds itself as you watch the camera panning around this house, devoid of human presence, stressing the metaphysical denotation of the title and the subtext of the actual "watch".
I enjoy how the exhibition with its two videos and one photographic suite manages to intersect present and past living conditions without any apparent disconnect. You’ll think naturally of the unequal distribution of wealth and property but what’s further even more interesting on a note more specific to Gotland is the relationship between its permanent inhabitants and the period-stayers. And what it says about the privilege of some of "owning" a physical site that becomes dinner talk and status manifestation and such fodder from a far-away distance. Without said people's physically really having to extend themselves to the site properly, while others affectionately do. While some are present on site and create immaterial value to the concept of "community" and others in their absence create incentives for the material and economic growth of it. A silent tug of war and (re)negotiation between various people and their interests, both overlapping and disparate.
Installation view images courtesy of the artist.