The Danish artist Pia RoÌ?nicke (b. 1974) is part of a generation that rethinks the form of archives in order to investigate history. In the exhibition “Dream and Action Find Equal Support in It,” RoÌ?nicke inserted herself into her research on 20th-century women artists.
A black folding partition of movable squares, based on a design by Eileen Gray (1878–1976), an Irish modernist architect and designer, stood at the entrance to the gallery space. In one room, the artist amassed a large collection of photographs and texts on women associated with the Bauhaus, displayed as black-and-white photocopies. Some of the photocopies lined the wall at eye level, and others were rolled and paper- clipped to form lanterns. The lanterns hung low, providing an intimate alternative to fluorescent lighting.
In the second room, slides of archival images of Gray’s landmark house, E-1027 (which she designed for herself in the late ’20s in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France) were projected onto a mirror with a hole in the middle. Thus a round section of each image passed through the hole onto the wall, while the mirror reflected the rest of the image, now with a black cutout, onto a second Gray-inspired partition constructed of white paper and wood. Slivers of the images filtered through the partition’s swiveling panels.
RoÌ?nicke’s video of E-1027, Untitled, Dream and Action Find Equal Support in It (2011), was projected in the same room. The video privileges ceiling shots and occasionally skips illogically from one space to another: it becomes apparent that the artist is not filming the house directly but rather its reflection in a mirror. (Evidently, a person, who remains unseen, slowly walked around the house holding a mirror, and it is through the mirror that RoÌ?nicke shows us Gray’s architecture.)
Like much of RoÌ?nicke’s work that interprets the social context of design movements, the Bauhaus photocop- ies ask what it means to be a pioneer, to enter a field with few women, and to succeed them. When does admiration become appropriation? The provisional aspects of the works, such as the paper clips on the lanterns, intimate the artist’s uncertainty, as if the intervention of even a staple would be too permanent.
RoÌ?nicke purposefully uses mirrors to place herself in a dialogue with Gray. For example, a mirror alters the archival shots of Gray’s house, creating new images on the partition and walls. As she guides our vision in the video, the reflections foreground her interpretation of the house, all the while keeping her physical presence discreet. Similar to the hole piercing the looking glass, her works pursue transparency.
Photo: View of Pia RoÌ?nicke’s exhibition “Dream and Action Find Equal Support in It,” 2012; at GB Agency.