Manipulating Objects: Alicja Kwade


Alicja Kwade, Light Transfer of Nature, 2015

We always enjoy finding new sources of inspiration and learning from passionate people. The talented Alicja Kwade is an artist we discovered recently after we came across her work scrolling through the highly recommendable blog of the danish author, collector and connoisseur of art Jens-Peter Brask. 

Alicja Kwade was born in 1979 in Katowice, Poland out of a family of gallerists, inevitably leading her towards getting in touch with art from an early age. After finishing her studies at the internationally acclaimed Universität der Künste in Berlin, she has exhibited at places such as Møn 44, Hamburger Bahnhof and 303 Gallery in New York to mention a few, as well as being part of the impressive Boros Collection in Berlin. Today she is represented by the Johann König gallery, which has turned the brutalist St. Agnes church, into an impressive light radiated gallery showcasing fine contemporary art.


A project from Alicja Kwade´s studio

In her instantaneously fascinating installations, Kwade works with the interplay between fiction and reality, constantly challenging our understanding of the materials used by manipulating their construction or by recreating known structures and shapes with different materials. In some way, one could say Kwade is questioning the human perception of the surrounding reality, by changing the framework in which items are displayed or portrayed.

Often her work includes the use of materials or objects, which represents a high economic value, challenging our understanding of materials such as gold or diamonds. An example of this was seen in her "Bordsteinjuwelen" exhibition (2008-2012), where Kwade gathered stones found in the streets of Berlin and sent them to a gem cutter, who were instructed to treat them as raw diamonds, which gave them a traditional brilliant look. 


Alicja Kwade: Bordsteinjuwelen (2008)


Often Kwade is connected to the Ready Mades movement, that arose in the beginning of the 20th century. In this genre, the deeper meaning behind the piece is found with the selection of an exact item and not necessarily the item itself. One of the first artists to work with this was Marcel Duchamp, who exhibited a urinal of porcelain, which had been signed by himself, referencing that art and normal life is interconnected and that the Museums are institutions, created by a wrong view upon art and outlook. 


Other art experts believe that Kwades art belongs somewhere by itself, due to her modern approach and open-mindedness towards working across different mediums. Some of her works with found footage proves this.

"I am a bit obsessed with the idea of placing time physically in the room and making it experienceable"

An example of this came with her fascination of a scene from Christopher Nolan´s "Inception". In the closing sequence of the movie, an ambiguous image of a spinning top is shown. Basically, it is a symbol in the entire movie of when the main character, Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns back to reality. This whole state of eternity and the unpredictable looping inspired her to create the work "Kreisel".   

Alicja Kwade KreiselAlicja Kwade: Kreisel (Inception) 2012


In the film exhibited for the first time this spring as part of her show ‘In Circles’ at Galerie Johann König in Berlin, Kwade slowed down the 2.20 min loop 250 times, allowing this to spin at what seems to be forever. This is a valuable example of how multi-faceted her approach to work with art is. By understanding her fascination of parallel words, and whether the reality actually is, as it seems, one can understand her work better. 

"Why are we here? What is time? Who are we?
I’m observing the systems we involve to try to figure that out – systems like physics, math, philosophy and religion. I’m trying to observe what the systems are, how they are created and who’s agreeing to them."

Alicja Kwade - St Gallen


The image above is from the light and sound installation Nach Osten. Based on the principle of the Foucault pendulum, as a direct visual proof of the earth's rotation.

From June 3rd, Alicja Kwade takes part in the exhibition "THE GARDEN – End of Times, Beginning of Times" taking place in various locations throughout the city of Århus, Denmark. We highly recommend taking a deeper tour through Alicja Kwade´s inspiring work here.