Review /

Hanne Lippard KW Institute for Contemporary Art / Berlin

To enter “Flesh,” one has to mount a spiraling milk-lemon staircase set in the middle of the main gallery hall. One could easily imagine this cinematic architectural constellation as the setting for a scene in a David Lynch film. On reaching the top of the ascent, the threshold opens out onto a luxurious salmon-pink carpet, making the enamel-clad staircase railing the only object in an approximately twenty-five-square meter glass-walled cube.

The room, situated at the top of the KW Gallery, has been engineered especially for the work; the site-specific environment is one of Lippard’s largest to date. However, the space is far from comfortable. The 1920s meringue-like color palette is relaxingly kitsch, but the ceiling is low. The panoramic view offers a mild respite when seated below the claustrophobic lowness of the roof, but one is only able to look out onto the walls of neighboring buildings, whose lines add to the urban severity of the installational framework.

Four speakers are set into each corner of the room, from which Hanne Lippard’s dulcet tones start to reverberate. Her voice is choreographed to move from speaker to speaker:

“How do you see yourself in ten years?

What is the reason for a human being?”

Lippard’s production of language focuses solely on the essence and use of the voice, merging content and form from the hyper-real everyday into a hypnagogic state. Her distinct vocalizations, gentle but probing, deliver prosaic texts in almost-perfect English, with a twang of a Norwegian accent. Lippard lulls the listener through clarity but articulates surreal mindscapes through free-form associative patterns. Her voice blurs into uncannily vivid scenarios in the viewers mind. Viewer’s ears are fed imagery via a Freudian-style shopping list, while Lippard moves from pickpockets to dick pics to picnic’s to lost earnings to lost earrings.

The work’s duration is around thirteen minutes in total, which is slightly disappointing as it’s the only work by Lippard in the gallery. Just as you begin to melt into the flesh of her voice you are brought back to your own physical presence. Abrupt and fleeting, Lippard disappears from our consciousness as we descend the stairs once more — from her maxi subconscious into the minimalism of the white cube.

by Penny Rafferty