Ulrika Sparre: EAR TO THE GROUND

2 October–22 November 2020

Image: Installation view, "Ear To The Ground", Ulrika Sparre. Credit: Lou Mouw
Image: Installation view, "Ear To The Ground", Ulrika Sparre. Credit: Lou Mouw
Image: Installation view, "Ear To The Ground", Ulrika Sparre. Credit: Lou Mouw
Image: Installation view, "Ear To The Ground", Ulrika Sparre. Credit: Lou Mouw
Image: Installation view, "Ear To The Ground", Ulrika Sparre. Credit: Lou Mouw
Film still from Ear To The Ground, (wandering rocks), Ulrika Sparre
Ear to the ground (wandering rocks), Ulrika Sparre

Consider a stone. It is earth and time compressed. A slow and continual exertion of pressure, a solidifying under the weight and mass of material that comes from and makes up the earth. Of time itself.

A desert, a stone, traces of time. Can we see time? Can we feel time? Or is it something to be heard?
Ulrika Sparre works with stones and their qualities. In her work she focuses on specific characteristics of stones to open up the spectre of time widely. Stones have their own temporalities, a longevity unthinkable for humankind: they were here before us and will continue to be here after us. Amongst their seams and fault lines we can perceive glints and glimpses of past realities, histories sedimented and pressed together. Stones and minerals explain –quietly– something about life. Ulrika Sparre decided to listen actively to them.

Listening to stones allows a secret language to appear; every stone presents a certain type of sound and a certain vibration. Using contact microphones, Ulrika Sparre selects places far away from the marks of human civilization and puts her ear to the ground. The inner sounds of the stones come to us as a lost language, as a slow continuity and earthly rhythm. Vibrations and temporalities, waves in the form of sound or light.

The exhibition presents a film, sculptural works and also hides some stones within its structure. Not everything can be seen, it’s also a question of attention. In her film we can observe a landscape and some of its details; we can appreciate the abstract and physical aspect of this specific landscape. Through the film, we hear the sound of the stones while Ulrika Sparre is listening them. Sound surrounds our bodies and it is through sound that another form of communication is established.

If the romantic position of art’s relation to landscape was based on distant observation and admiration, contemporary art has offered several ways of interaction. Land art put the human gesture on earth with a sculptural presence defined by the conditions of a place. One possible history of land art has a parallelism with the colonial approach to discovered land: one decides to respond not just on a physical level to the earth, but also on the way to perceive a space; your view will define what was there, your hand will create the vocabulary and history of a site. Land art’s grand gestures have been the base for an almost theological construction of Olympic proportions, with sculptural forms and monumental expressions placed upon or created out of the landscape: Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Walter de Maria or Christo were writing on nature, ‘civilizing’ landscapes to become culture. On another discursive line we could mention Ana Mendieta, Nancy Holt or Fina Miralles with a more subtle approach to spaces, with the body as a medium, with perception and subjectivity as connectors, with fragility and proximity as guidelines. To this lineage, Ulrika Sparre brings subjectivity and the act of listening. To listen shows a desire for understanding, offers a time and a pause, a hand and a caress.

Creating a connection between two temporal situations, drawing together artistic practices of the 70s and today through two figures who share a similar way of seeing, the exhibition will present a new film and production by Ulrika Sparre together with historical material from Fina Miralles (Spain, 1950). Fina Miralles was one of the Catalan conceptual artists working with social and political critique, identity and nature in the context of the end of the Franco dictatorship in Spain. She participated at La Biennale di Venezia in 1978.

Ulrika Sparre (b. 1974) lives and works in Stockholm. She received her education at Konstfack and Gerrit Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands. She works with installation, sculpture, photography, film, performance and sound. Her work has been shown at Färgfabriken in Stockholm, Reykjavik Art Museum, Haninge Konsthall, Artipelag and Interaktiva Institutet, among others. During fall 2020, Ulrika Sparre participates in the exhibition Norðrið (North) at Listasafn Árnesinga. In 2020, she published the book “Ear to the ground” with Art & Theory Publishing. The publication takes the reader on a visual journey, providing an overview of the artworks, photographs, and material collected throughout Sparre’s project of the same name and features essays by Johan Redin, Sue Spaid, Virginia MacKenny, Virginia Marano, and Jacquelyn Davis, as well as an interview between the artist and Marti Manen. Read more on the artist’s website.

Exhibition Program

Talk: Artist talk with Ulrika Sparre, followed by book presentation of Ear To The Ground, Art&Theory Publishing
Fri 16 October, 17:30

Podcast: Listening to the stones, with Sue Spaid and Ulrika Sparre
Index podcast n.09

One to One with Ulrika Sparre
Sun 15 November, 12:00–15:00