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, 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. There is something unmistakably physical about the human-scale screens of Heedless Sleep, in both form and approach. And not unlike bodies, the works are tangibly fragile and tough. Made of wood, cloth, paint and clay, the materials have been laboured to a point where touch has left its imprints; they share a sense of the smudged and worn physicality of objects that have been handled and used over time. Heedless Sleep takes current conversations around embodiment, precarity and health, and pushes them into a territory that is neither sanitized nor distinctively abject – there is a fascination with fragility and toughness, 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 over more than a year. On the one hand, this mode of artistic production is connected with interiority, and inevitably, a mapping out of the self; 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. The connections made in the installation shift between the material and the immaterial; a tuning into the tipping points where affect and abstract worry become physical, on an individual and communal level. These movements and rifts form an undercurrent, flowing through the work and its attitude.
The concerns of Heedless Sleep are articulated both through form, and through the process of artistic production, 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.” As such, the elements are not conceived within the one idea or gesture, but inhabit 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, London, 2016; Oh, of course, you were berry picking, DREI, Cologne, 2015 and Down Where Changed, Cubitt, London, 2014 and PdT at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2014.
Image: Henrik Potter, Heedless Sleep, 2019.
Photos: Frank Kleinbach