“Unsetting”—is the title given by Sophie Jung to her first solo exhibition in Italy, which she developed together with the Milan-based artist Elena Radice. “Unsetting” is an invented term which recalls on the one hand the reverse of a setting, a scene or even a stage, and on the other it implies a ‘refusal to set’—a sun, but perhaps also a system, an era. Stepping into this somewhat unsettling, even disconcerting scenario and onto this stage we are greeted by a cornered, slightly misshapen, black half-sun that does not want to set, miraged by the shiny ground back into a whole.
“Unsetting” works as a unifying installation with objects, drawings, and sound. The individual components are connected and interwoven through Sophie Jung’s exploration of (feminist) linguistic theory, as well as through her fascination of polyphonic and non-linear display formats. The sculptures approach us as ambiguous figures. They sit somewhere between ready-mades in their true sense and assemblages of found, made and sought-after materials and objects—deprived of their original function, alienated or freed. We see, almost hear, upside down, oversized wine glasses, the skylight of a demolished bank building converted into a coin fountain come drowning through, a hanging elephant carrying additional trunks—a perverse merging of found costumes, a Christmas tree wearing a perfectly round ballet skirt (hidden in a second room), an antique-looking pulpit—all mirrored, all doubled. The drawings expand this un-world, while the sound work conceived by Elena Radice mocks, torments or momentarily worships the objects and figures, connecting and confusing them, filling the space with many half-uttered enunciations.
Sophie Jung's invested in a destabilisation of assumed readings of the world and undermines the supposed clarity of language, categorizations, narratives and designations.
In doing so, she references—among many others—the Russian writer Viktor Šklovskij, who pleaded for an ‘estrangement’ of things in order to prolong the process of perception and to replace mere recognition with a ‘new seeing’. She also frequently references the French writer Hélène Cixous, who uses a poststructuralist approach to propagate a female writing, a “écriture feminine” that is not descriptive but generative, searching, unruly and non-linear. The objects, figures, and voices on the stage of “Unsetting” extends precisely this moment of perception and challenges the dominant voice with a polyphonic whispering, talking, shouting.
As visitors we are called to reflect on our position in this arrangement. Where do I stand, who do I align myself with? Do I long to speak from the pulpit or join the polyphonic, whirling, unruly choir that surrounds me? Which voice can and will I embody? And which voice embodies me, even against my will? We find ourselves again in a brief moment of indecision, of disorientation, confronted with the question of solidarity versus obedience, authority versus the emergence in this reflecting space that seems to expand into infinity every now and then. A security light brightly jumps on, the shadows reflected by the mirrored floor scurry across the wall. “Unsetting” allows us to pause for a moment in the process of rash recognition and classification, and so proposes a strategy for resistance, an ongoing challenge to the dominant order.