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Surreal Taxidermy Gets Suspended in a Plexiglass Labyrinth

In Denmark, David Altmejd organizes a diorama worthy of the Natural History Museum.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Nov 20 2015, 9:05pm

Images courtesy the Louisiana Modern Museum of Art

Canadian artist David Altmejd experiments with an unconventional form of display in his latest sculpture installation at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. The Flux and The Puddle is a 50 square meter glass box display case. Enclosed within the outer shell is a complex network of plexiglass containers varying in size and shape, housing a strange assortment of objects and figures. Inside this see-through maze sits a variety of objects: a string of coconuts suspended in the air, a melon rhine with visible sections bitten out of it, prosthetic hands, realistic mannequins cut to the core revealing geologic innards, black plastic casts that look like they we're taken from a Pompeii exhibit. Imagine a surreal rendition of the dioramas you see at the Natural History Museum, except with several more dioramas fit inside of it. Head of Press for the museum, Susanne Hartz says the installation “evokes associations with theatre sets or film.” The installation is filled with a horde of different materials; according to the show’s description the glass box is filled with “wax, mirrors, plaster, acrylic paint, latex, feathers, ceramics, ink, wood, steel wire, and quartz.”

It's hard to identify any sort of linearity to the work as a whole. One can’t help but ask where it starts and finishes, or whether it starts and finishes at all. You can look at it from afar, as a single piece, but the installation pulls you towards it for closer inspection. From a distance, it's difficult to decipher, hard to understand its intent. The small, compartmentalized sections of the piece, exacerbated by the peculiarity of their form and the arrangement they are in, incite curiosity and urge close analysis.

Hartz writes, “One cannot capture and pinpoint the work in a linear perspective—neither as an optical phenomenon nor as a cognitive model. Hierarchies through which we once saw the world appear to collapse or in fact to be in flux. So in order to speak of the work as a model world every single gaze and every viewer must create their own model.”

Is this a bizarre exploration of the human anatomy and nature, and evolution, a sort of timeline of the human race? A weird collection or trophy case of everyday objects and fake human body parts?

Hartz continues, “The Flux and The Puddle is about the body and its place in the world—fascinating and frightening at one and the same time. Altmejd pushes conceptions of the body to extremes, and the work thus becomes a model of systems to which we have to relate—digital, technological, and ecological.”

Me, I see an alien case study on humans, culture, nature, a study of earth.

The Flux and The Puddle is part of a new type of series in the museum’s exhibition practice called "Louisiana One Work," where a single large scale work is shown on its own. The Flux and The Puddle is on at the Louisiana through January 31, 2016.

For more on the show, head over to the Louisiana Museum's website hereClick here to visit David Altmejd's website. 

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