Love Song Sing-Along
KW Institute for Contemporary Art / BERLIN (Germany)
29.02.2020 – 03.05.2020

KW Institute for Contemporary Art presents new works by the Estonian artist Kris Lemsalu Malone (born in 1985, EE), who will be collaborating with the American artist and multi-instrumentalist Kyp Malone Lemsalu (born in 1973, US) for her first institutional exhibition in Germany.

Kris Lemsalu Malone creates sculptures, installations, and performances that fuse the animal kingdom with that of humankind, nature with the artificial, beauty with repulsion, lightness with gravity, and life with death. Paper, ceramics, leather, used objects, and found materials from nature like feathers, shells, and wool are used to create theatrical installations that capture the viewer in a world of fantastic imagination. Striving to erase any distance between herself and her objects, the artist also uses her installations to stage performances in which her sculptures become an integral part of her attire. In her works, the memory of local mythologies is alloyed onto the surfaces of the objects which resemble artifacts and byproducts of contemporary civilization.

“She has no time for concepts, she lives them”, writes Tamara Luuk, art historian and longtime friend of Kris Lemsalu Malone. The work of the young artist eludes clear definition. Picking up on the zeitgeist, it negotiates existence in a world full of multiple personalities and blurred spatial and temporal boundaries, permeated by a desire for ecstatic personal experiences. Since Performa 17, Kris Lemsalu Malone has been working with Kyp Malone Lemsalu to create enhanced installations and performances encompassing sculpture, ceramics, animation, as well as music and sound. For their exhibition at KW, the now-married duo has developed a large-scale installation presenting newly conceived works. Love Song Sing-Along is not only to be seen as a spatial exhibition but also as the result of a collaboration between the artist couple and their friends. By bringing together performance, music, and sculptural works, the project aims to create a world of animism interspersed with mythological motifs, inviting the viewer to become an active part of the installation.

The columns in the middle of KW’s exhibition space have been transformed into wondrous birch trees by sculptor Michèle Pagel in which nature is only a vague memory. Light curtains with Kyp Malone Lemsalu’s watercolor paintings wave in front of the window niches, featuring the couple in different scenarios, including the archetypes of Adam and Eve. The protagonists of the exhibition are, however, a swan, a hare, and a jaguar. From an old pedal boat, found costumes, and handmade ceramic elements, Lemsalu Malone created a group of fairytale figures that in the form of a vehicle is also a part of the couple’s opening and closing performance. In this performance, the couple will like shamans shapeshift into animals, play musical instruments, and drift through the exhibition space in the swan boat.

The moment, in which the artist becomes one with and an active part of with her work, is central to Lemsalu Malone’s artistic examination of the world. The “inhabitation” of her objects and sculptures is also related to her passion for fashion and the collecting of clothes and textiles. When asked about why she collects so excessively, Lemsalu Malone replied: “When I was without a permanent home, living here and there, clothes were my home.”

In Love Song Sing-Along, also travelling plays an important role. While made comprehensible by the varying temporal levels and transformative moments in its performative elements, the exhibition itself was conceived while travelling. Lemsalu Malone discovered the traditional animal costumes at a market in Mexico City. The heads of the jaguar and hare were in turn made in a large ceramic kiln on an Estonian island. The composites she creates—assembled of textile and ceramic objects—often refer back to ancient narratives of different cultures. Thus, the animal symbols included in the exhibition can also be looked at from this perspective. The jaguar, for example, can be found in the mythological world of the Maya as a representative of the underworld. There, as in Western cultures, the hare and the swan represent creative power and fertility, respectively.

As in previous projects, Lemsalu Malone negotiates central themes around birth and rebirth in Love Song Sing-Along. At the Venice Biennale 2019, for example, she showed a fountain with ceramic vulvas focusing on the matriarchal power of birth. In the exhibition at KW, these themes reappear in new narrative forms. Concurrently, the space is molded by the physical presence of the works and the newly created Gesamtkunstwerk transcends fixed ascriptions, language, and words, and brings collective work and experience to the fore.

Curated by Cathrin Mayer

All images copyright and courtesy of the artists and KW Institute for Contemporary Art