Since the 1960s and ’70s, sculpture’s “expanded field” has produced transient forms—temporary installations, performances, Earth works—that often continue to exist only in photographic documentation. Anne Hardy’s photographs comprehend this relay of value from event to representation. She constructs “sets,” photographs them, then destroys them. Life-size, elaborately detailed, they are always unpeopled but often crowded with signs of habitation (videotapes, disposable cups, pool cues), diversifying or decorating their paneled spaces. In putting them together, Hardy has been their only inhabitant; and by solipsistically recording her own invention, she has circumvented the photographic essence of revealing “the other”—the thing that is not the viewer/photographer.
As though to breach this insularity, in 2011 she began to exhibit her sets as sculptures in conjunction with the photographs. The implied binary between real and illusionistic space is never quite realized because the photographs do not represent the same sculptures (despite resembling them), and both are forms of artifice, though not of the same order. Never a concise artist, Hardy allows materials to proliferate chaotically. The photographs reconcile this rife fertility by tidying it away under the plush seal of pictoriality. The sculptures reexpose the material profusion.
Hardy used Kunstverein Freiburg’s expansive main hall to extend this dialogue between object and image, adding a third variable—the installation space that accommodates them both. As viewers entered the hall, the back of a wooden hoarding (Rift, 2011/14) loomed. Covering its front side was a photograph of a red-carpeted space, in which images of naked figures tumbling through vines were chalked onto panels reflected in a mirror. This default from an image of objects to an image of their image corresponded to the viewer’s step from the occlusion of the hoarding into the photograph’s depth of field—a binary which was then expanded into a further dimension: the gallery floor had been covered in red carpet, like that in the photograph, as though a viewer were standing in a “real” extension of a space which the photograph had just confirmed as a mirror image. Exacerbating the ambiguity between the virtual and the real, alliterative phrases—”A bolt, breathe!,” “Control your course across the court”—were “thrown” across the hall by a high-tech speaker calibrated to visitor movement, making the source of its emissions difficult to identify. Strips of tape marking the real carpet, like stage markings to direct an actor, corresponded to those on the carpet in the photograph, so it seemed that the tape in the image might be pulled away as easily as that beneath your feet. And, after all, what does a red carpet signify but spaces usually perceived in images, and traversed by actors—those making a living pretending to be what they are not?
Raised on concrete blocks, Field (interior), 2014, is a wooden sculpture the size of a small room that one could enter via steps. The experience was another of Hardy’s through-the-looking-glass transitions, from the lumpen materiality of artwork’s exterior into a dark space of indeterminate dimensions resounding with a soundtrack of ambient, clattering noise. Two fur-lined seats provided a vantage onto walls with little holes in them, like a view into outer space through the window of a spaceship’s antechamber in a low-budget sci-fi movie. Rendered ambiguous by darkness, the interior was a version of the artisanally constructed spaces Hardy’s photographs depict. Indeed, the punctured panels, before they were recycled to be incorporated into this sculpture, were the bullet-pitted walls of the set seen in Notations (2012), a photograph of a rifle range exhibited in the upstairs gallery. Across the spectrum of the installation, the continuous present tense of our experience of sculpture found itself spirited into the past tense that a photograph depicts.
Notations, along with four other photographic works, was presented on the upper level in conjunction with three pinboard collages—a departure in Hardy’s practice. Architectural photographs and phrases snipped from newspapers were tacked onto panels covered with yellow fabric, offering glimpses out of the installation’s self-reflexivity. To a viewer looking over the balcony into the main hall, the red carpet appeared like the rectangle of an image dotted with tape and sculptures, as the yellow fabric of the collages was constellated with photographs and newsprint. One could imagine oneself having been an element in that red image as one wandered through the hall. The impossibility of simultaneously being the viewer and the viewed might explain why Hardy’s world is always unpeopled.