Text by Claus Ratcliffe Pedersen


Parallelism, part I

Over the last few years the Danish artist, Ursula Nistrup, has been working with phenomena produced by simultaneous and parallel events that are occurring in real world situations, both outside and inside architectural spaces. As string in her aesthetic pursuits she has been examining parallel or parallelities and/or parallelism through sound, image and text. This exploration of these phenomena can be experienced in her two latest pieces for the Catching Invisible Connections exhibition. By working through parallel situations Nistrup has attained what appears to be positions or points in socioarchitectonic structures in the world. This parallelism becomes interesting, partly because it reveals the ambitions and dreams of possible or impossible junctions that reality has produced. These parallel structures are created when human beings exercise their will or capacity to reflect, fantasise, focus or imagine the world as they have created it or one which is out of sight.


Foresteire underground garden

Is an artwork where several parallel situations are being explored. Ursula Nistrup travelled to Fresno, California to visit a peculiar American dwelling that has existed unabashed and without pretense for over one hundred years. The Foresteire Underground Gardens are the creation of Mr. Foresteire a Sicilian immigrant farmer that came to California at the start of the past century. With much enterprise, after unsuccessful attempts at farming the Fresno soil, he began digging tunnels into the ground and breaking the subsoil’s sedimentary rock formation, using its material to create, improvisational 12th century Italian arches, reminiscent of catacombs. He eventually produced a labyrinthian dewelling that is the host to an series of gardens that exist below and above the ground. Ursula Nistrup, proceeded to both photograph and audio record the situational phenomena available both below and above in these gardens. By employing a formal process of establishing a vertical line, through two points, below and above the line, acoustic and aesthetic situations are processed as parallel situations that are occurring in the garden. As an extension of this capturing process pictures capture the perceptual surface, that is the evidential function of the camera, and through sound on can hear the birds and fast moving automobiles in the nearby highway, that is the primary road to access the system of passages the Italian immigrant has left us.
If in its origin, the Foresteire Underground Garden, was conceived to be a hotel. One can argue that the barrier between the surface and underground primarily is economical, as well as socio-architectonic. On the other hand, one could ask the viewer if one can hold the two parallel levels together? How to engage the viewer (now participator) in taking in the whole experience? The viewer is in a unique position with the two vertical levels, both a privileging and removing to and from the visual and audio aspects. The viewer mediates the parallelities and thereby acquiring the conditions of acculturation set forth between ideology and cultural predicates about space and architecture.
In the field of “social work” problems can be defined as social (face to face), such as the distance between neighbours in a segregated part of a city. Therefore social work is about initiating the rise of social networks that are motivated by interesting activities from witch the participants can benefit. Nistrup’s theme of parallelism is about contact vs. distance and possible vs. impossible. Normally I would be aware of distance based on economic, education or ethnicity, but Nistrup’s piece turns my focus to the visual and audio aspects of parallelism and the distance it implies.


Shared functions

Ursula Nistrup piece Shared functions, 2007 is drawn direct on a wall. It consists of lines in different grey nuances and a few colours. The lines doesn’t cross each other, but rather they run in parallel tacks. Tracks which meet and part again. I can’t help interpreting Nistrups piece as an illustration of the human mind, which means emotions and thoughts: My eyes follow the lines in the piece. Despite my intention and effort, the track leads to nowhere, but then my eyes jumps to a new track. And maybe that is the way creativity works? When different emotions and thoughts share a word, but not the meaning it makes it possible for man to be creative.


Parallelism, part II

Ursula Nistrup speaks about her pieces as investigations and her language has certain similarities or parallels to the natural sciences concept of ground investigation. She investigates the ontology of the socio-architectural structures and humans will, reflectivity and fantasy through both the visual and audio media.


Claus Ratcliffe Pedersen, is a sociologist living and working in Copenhagen