Sonia Leimer “Space Junk” at Museion, Bolzano
Museion presents “Space Junk”, the first solo exhibition in Italy by Sonia Leimer (b. Merano, 1977, lives and works in Vienna). Space junk, i.e. the parts of derelict satellites and space probes that fall accidentally to earth, are the starting point for the artist to explore our present world from a range of perspectives. It is a world shaped by utopian ideas of modernity, but which has now been forced to confront dystopian visions of a future, in a state of permanent crisis. Once more, the current global pandemic underlines the relevance of the issues highlighted by the artist.
The exhibition on the fourth floor of Museion, presents both existing works and new sculptures created specifically for the occasion, like the series Space Junk, from which the exhibition takes its name, and the new video Eden Antarctica. The artist has also created a new architectural type project in the display space. This features a large free-standing curved wall that, in addition to dividing the room in two, also acts as a display wall for a series of screenprints and a screen for showing a video.
The study of objects and materials that are meaningful from a cultural, social, historical, or personal point of view, is at the heart of Sonia Leimer’s work, which hovers between science and fiction. This characteristic distinguished the first project the artist presented for the Museion Project Room entitled Along those lines and the video 2030 that was shown on the Media Façade in 2012.
The metal sculptures entitled Space Junk are emblematic of the new exhibition at Museion as they clearly demonstrate the artist’s interest in space waste which, as it literally falls from the sky, is heavily damaged by both its entry into the atmosphere and its impact when hitting the ground. Observing this waste evokes on one hand, the idea of technological progress and the new opportunities it offers humanity for the future. But, on the other, it indicates the ecological and ethical issues involved in the orbiting infrastructure that makes our digital technology possible. The five large sculptures on display are similar to real space junk and have been created by deliberately deforming and modifying the original.
Antarctica, the artist’s new video, shown in the exhibition, also focuses on space and current research into planning human colonies on other planets. This reveals how researchers from the EDEN ISS Project German aerospace centre are living in isolation in a research station in Antarctica in order to test the possibility of growing plants in an environment that is hostile to life. In a subtle oscillation between reality and fiction, the video presents real scenes accompanied by the voice of a fake scientist who recounts life in the research station, in a diary-like fashion. Leimer’s work Weltraumsalat also focuses on this theme, as it looks at experimental growth methods for future farming in space. The material used for her “screen print” – a magnetic insulation multilayer, used in astronautics – also references the universe of future technology.
The artist’s adoption of the “fat lava” glazed pottery style in the wall-based work of the same name, on the other hand, alludes to the period of space age design, invented in post-war Western Germany. This style is linked to the very first period of space exploration, and therefore to utopian desires of development and prosperity. Her Spardosen (“money box”) ceramics – a series of large floor-based 1950s and ‘60s style vases – are also made in a “fat lava” style. Here, thin slots create a slight shift in meaning and transform objects into money boxes. By changing their purpose, Leimer plays with a period whose unshakable confidence in the future appears slightly naive from today’s perspective.
Then there is the attempt to capture the evanescence of something as intangible as smoke in the artist’s series of “O” works. Here, Sonia Leimer has collected photographs of smoke rings – produced by a variety of sources, like a cigarette, volcano or dying stars – and printed them on rolls of cigarette paper. The images feature a wide range of dimensions: from inhaled smoke that penetrates even the smallest human body cells to the huge smoke rings formed in the cosmic dimensions of the universe.
In this continuous shift between presence and absence, nature and technology, science and science fiction, Sonia Leimer highlights the essence of reality in its most intrinsic ambiguity.
At Museion, Bolzano
until 31 January 2021