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Humidity Screens

Humidity Screens
15/10/19 - 6/11/19
Anna Cunningham

Curated by
Caspar Connolly

Documentation by Anna Fiedler

Anna Cunningham, Humidity Screens 

Catalogue text by Clare Longley 


[If death by fire is exuberant and immediate; death by water (and its vapors) is a kind of endless falling into a dense darkness, lethargic and dream-like, a daily death that is infinite, akin to the sluggish melancholy we experience in the presence of a dormant pool, or a stagnant, asphyxiated pond on a hot, humid afternoon, where time itself seems to have slowed down to an infinite crawl.]

I imagine an olive tree living in Anna’s backyard. She spends days and days every season harvesting, brining, flavoring, and preserving the olives. The olives are demanding, they require tests, attention, time, and trial and error to find the right recipe. Sometimes they go off, or become too acidic, but Anna is patient and persistent, she spends time with the olives, getting them just right. 


Experimenting with domestic alchemical and thermodynamic processes, Anna uses the fluidity of particular materials to transform between liquid and solid as a way of processing ideas. Across varied experiments, humidity is a connecting factor both materially and conceptually. Her objects are rarely solid or opaque; they often let the light through, leaving room for shadows to play and reflections to warp. Similarly, the conceptual underpinnings of her work are irreducibly entangled within the materials that make them, evading the clutches of lucidity or didacticism.  


Humidity is a permeable obstruction and an ambient oppression. It is ambiguous in the same way that it embodies a transitional state change of water between liquid and gas. Anna’s process could be described as an attempt to preserve somewhat disobedient or temperamental materials, offering them time and attention. She shifts the focus from the human experience of things to the things themselves. Both the broken mirror and the sugar glass are held in resin, a material molded as liquid before it sets into a lacquer or enamel like finish. Naturally occurring resins can be found as part of a tree’s healing process, a protective function against infection of insect invasion. A form of ablution similar to that of bathing, the materials suspended in resin are given an extended life where they can relax and indulge in unstructured moments; an act of generative potential.  


Anna gives her artwork a level of attention and patience similar to that of brining olives. At home, she has closed the door and all the windows in the bathroom and intentionally left the fan turned off. She lets the bath run hot and sits with her artwork in the steamy room, sensitive to the change in atmosphere and the material transformations that occur. Bath water evaporates into steam and forms condensation on the mirror, reflecting nothing but exiguous fragments of light. Anna’s reflection is barely a silhouette, until a bead of liquid grows to dripping point. Like a snail, it leaves an iridescent trail, in which a form is momentarily decipherable before the material consequences of the environment abstract it once again. 


Preserving these ephemeral and mutating moments, Anna creates something of a theatre out of the chance outcomes that occur. What if the olives were to be held in a jar made of sugar glass? Often used as a prop in film and performance, sugar glass is made by dissolving sugar in water and heating it to approximately 150 degrees celsius so that it makes a dramatic hard crack at the end of the candy making process. The sugar glass jar might preserve the olives temporarily but Anna would have to eat them quickly, or share them lest the acid brine dissolves and seeps through the jar. 


By attempting to preserve that which resists preservation and intentionally courting ambiguity, Anna tasks viewers with the act of scrying. You furrow your brow as you focus into the milky infinity pool. Layers of humidity lift and lower like the curtain of a theatre with faulty ropes, it’s interwoven fragments, threads and tangents open ended and perpetually unfolding. You’ll find Anna in the scaffolds, gently plucking away at these ropes with a tiny pick carved from the pip of an olive. 

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