Natascha Sadr Haghighian

22.03.19 – 02.06.19

Kunstnernes Hus is proud to present the work I can’t work like this(2007) by Natascha Sadr Haghighian as part of our foyer exhibition programme. Sadr Haghighian’s practice investigates the relationship between commercial and institutional infrastructures in the international art field, often with a humorous undertone that does not disguise the frustration of the artist but rather helps to reinforce it through a reflection on her working conditions.

From afar, the work appears as a slogan-like sign in a myriad of dotted points on the wall. Step closer and it reveals thousands of manually bent nails pinned onto the wall, testifying of a laborious task. The work was completed in 2007 as a response to a request from her gallerist asking for a work to bring to an upcoming art fair. By using the most basic and proletarian means of labour – hammers and nails – Sadr Haghighian playfully and ironically responds to the demands of market driven creativity, a demand that has intensified even more since the financial crisis of 2008. In light of today’s context, the installation points to the ever-increasing consumerism and corporatism that artists and institutions face, bringing an awareness to their dependent yet conflicted relationship to private financial support.

The simple medium and the straightforward phrase used by Sadr Haghighian contrasts with the complex issues that are at stake; how art production responds to the ways in which works are entangled in a manifold system of value-making. With two hammers and a hundred nails left laying on the ground, the work appears suspended in time, as if the labour of pinning the nails on the wall would suddenly resume. As such, it can remind the viewer of the unfinished and tangible nature of the issues pointed at.

Historically, the foyer in which the work is presented was for many years used as a place to sell art both as a private viewing room and a gallery called Permanenten, which in turn helped to finance the exhibition programme at Kunstnernes Hus. This presentation is made in conjunction with the larger project There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch initiated in March 2019, a research project that investigates to what extent it is possible to address the power structures of funding within an institution. The project hopes to induce a self-reflection on how to respond to the increased private funding in public institutions. In the café sharing the foyer exhibition space, napkins especially produced for the occasion bear truism-like quotes; the reference can be found at the back of the restaurant’s menu.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian (born Budapest, 1987 or Sachsenheim, 1968 or Australia, 1979 or Munich, 1979 or Tehran, 1967 or London, 1966 or Iran, 1953) challenges the concept of an artist biography by her website bioswop, a free exchange of biographical information launched in 2004. The artist is currently working towards the Venice Biennial 2019, where she will present a work in the German pavilion under the alias “Natascha Süder Happelmann”, a computer-generated amalgamation of autocorrected and misspelled variants of her name taken from 30 years of correspondence with various government agencies.

The exhibition and the research project are curated by Gilda Axelroud. The foyer exhibition programme is supported by DLA Piper.

Photo: Vegard Kleven