Special Affects by Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger

Special Affects by Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger

From March 11, 2022 18:00 until May 01, 2022 17:00

At Galleri Image

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Galleri Image has been transformed into a speculative universe, where myths of the past are manipulated into contemporary reality. In Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger's exhibition Special Affects, the mermaid is intertwined with today's technology. It gives us an opportunity to consider the significance of the story of the mermaid in a new language, and to examine the conditions of gender and power within the myth. 

It is no coincidence that the exhibition room is sealed off, coloured and almost foggy. The total installation Special Affects by Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger does not take place in the reality we live in but is not far removed from our own world. Special Affects is an absurd narrative about 3D-animated queer mermaids and a military, who is testing technology on the mermaids, presented in a video projected on three cut screens. Mermaids may not actually exist in this world, but the mermaid myth is real and so is the 3D technology in which they are presented. In this perspective the mermaids are not that far from our reality. We can imagine the mermaids and perceive them, and therefore, we may also contemplate them as a mythical and historical feminine character.  

The story in Special Affects starts on an abandoned beach resort. A strange sound has caused the inhabitants to have amnesia and lose their sense of balance and the place is now in a declared state of emergency. The beach resort is taken over by a group of queer mermaids opposing the local military. The military have been training dolphins as coast guards and wants to test new weapons, exoskeletons, on the mermaids. The narrative is not limited to a single perspective. The artwork requires movement and exploration of the room because the story is being told by three queer mermaids, each delivering their own monologue in separate acts on different screens. We also have a barrier to the mermaids; we speak a different language and so the video is dubbed to English in order for us to understand it.  We all have associations to the mermaid, whether it is from folktales about seduction and shipwrecks, the H.C. Andersen fairy tale, or the Disney version. But Unger pushes the figure further to Greek myth and to a historical legend: the Sea People, whom she speculates is a historical parallel to the mermaid myth. The Sea People are peculiar in history; an undocumented seafaring people in the Bronze age (1200-900 B.C.), who are thought to have attacked ancient Egypt and are possibly the cause of the collapse of the civilization. In Special Affects, the mermaid is encapsulated in the Sea People, becoming queer sea people – a mixture of both myths.  

The connection between them is unclear, as the piece is presented in separated monologues – a kind of testimony told by the figures themselves on different screens. One must actively move with the story and one’s own speculations in accordance with a personal and unstable account. There is no certain knowledge for us to perceive, and it presents and opening for us to speculate even further. The mermaid, like the Sea People, are an elusive legend about destruction by a powerful group, mythic, but also a feminine and sexualized figure. In Unger’s work they are also being threatened with the equipment of weaponry, a male coded tool, and are suddenly even more dangerous. Even though, this is a speculation, the content and significance of the myth is being contemplated too. The mermaid may be understood as a female and dangerous power symbol.

This not far from today’s societal fears of powerful women. In some way, reality is always lurking behind this strange and foreign universe.  When the mermaids of Special Affects are 3D animated in a background of normal video shots, it is obvious that technology affects our thinking. Today, it is not possible to animate figures in our images and accept their resemblance to our reality, but we are close enough to these images for them to affect our sense of truth. When Unger, in Special Affects, speculates in technology, myths and histories with feminine figures in powerful constellations, the artwork never abandons our beliefs, rules and idiosyncrasies. The myths always disclose something about our reality. This is what Unger manipulates us to perceive with the myth of the mermaid.

NURSE - performance concert, Saturday 30th April 
In connection with the exhibition, Galleri Image invites you to a performance with artist and musician NURSE. NURSE's music refers back to ancient mysticism and magic based on feminine values such as healing, motherly love and caring. Her tender and tantalising vocals hover over a cloud of minimalist R&B, creating a universe of songwriting that complements the themes of Special Affects. NURSE will be a kind of musical crossover for Unger's exhibition to create an immersive exploration of mythical female power symbols. 

NURSE is visual artist and musician Josefine Struckmann's solo project.She graduated from Funen Art Academy, and was previously part of the musician duo MOR with MØ. With a captivating sound and touching lyrics, she invites the audience into an intense universe that, in interaction with the exhibition's dark spaces and strong feminist message, creates a unique and unforgettable experience.The performance will take place on Saturday April 30th at Galleri Image 2 p.m. 

About the artist 
Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger (b. 1990) is a visual artist, who studied at the Funen Art Academy and Goldsmiths, London, and works in the cross section between video, installation, textiles, 3D-printing, and sound art. Her practice is influenced by an interest in biological, historical, and sociopolitical phenomena, which are usually the starting point for process driven explorations. Her work has been exhibited in Denmark and Russia, as well as China, Korea, Germany, Mexico, and the UK. 

The exhibition is supported by The Danish Arts Foundation and the City of Aarhus (Kulturudviklingspuljen).