Each part of Henrik Potter’s new body of work, Heedless Sleep, pulls a little thread in the show, combining to form a strange maximalist entity. The individual pieces share an outline – they are screen-based works on two feet – but they also throw curve balls at each other, pulling in registers of both great sincerity and kitsch. Together, they have to be reconciled to share an easy/uneasy coexistence.
Realised for the spaces of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, the installation has a strict core composition, yet one undercut by the idiosyncrasies and excesses of the works themselves – a kind of seeping logic, which is as much a formal as a conceptual consideration. Both in their form and approach, there is something unmistakably physical about the human-scale screens of Heedless Sleep. And not unlike bodies, the works are tangibly fragile and tough. Made of wood, cloth, paint and clay, the materials have been laboured over to a point where touch starts rubbing off; they share a sense of the smudged and worn physicality of objects that have been handled and used over time. On many levels, Heedless Sleep takes current conversations around embodiment, precarity and health, but pushes the exploration into a territory that is neither sanitized nor distinctively abject – a fascination with bodies and hands, fragility and toughness, of a body ‘with dirt under its fingernails.’ A channeling of the remarkable resilience and insubstantiality of bodies that live and change and fall apart on levels that both are palpable and minute. In this aesthetic, there is a logic which runs contrary to ideas of slickness, entrepreneurialism and fabrication – a form of making more closely preoccupied with the inconvenient and awkward registers of being.
In their copiousness and strangeness, the works stand as a kind of community, developed during a year and a bit of extended making. On the one hand, this mode of artistic production is connected with interiority, and inevitably, a mapping out of the self. And on another, a way of tuning into an extended moment of great uncertainty and precarity, works made against the backdrop of recent social and political crisis. A form of heightened state and intensification – an unfolding which at one point carries over and becomes physical, on an individual and communal level. These movements and rifts form an undercurrent, flowing through the work and its attitude.
On one level, the concerns of Heedless Sleep are articulated in form, and on another, in a process and outlook on artistic production. A process of taking time, of allowing for an enjoyment of making, and, in the words of the artist, a matter of “looking for that point where a work becomes personable, where it’s open to you and almost pathetically there that you have to accept it how it is.” A sense where the work is not hanging on the one idea or gesture, but inhabits a suspended sense of negotiation, moving between registers that are rooted both in a sense of pleasure and a great melancholy.
English/Swedish artist Henrik Potter lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include Landlords are not currently collecting rent in self-love, Cell Project Space, 2016; Oh, of course, you were berry picking, DREI, Cologne, 2015 and Down Where Changed, Cubitt London, and PdT at Palais de Tokyo Paris, (both 2014).