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In Sonia Shiel’s exhibition, Medusa in Pieces, landscape appears to possess multi-dimensional capacity, including transposition, restoration, disembodiment, and prediction. These landscape works share mobius-like qualities, appearing to have near continuous seams, symmetrical values, and 360-degree surfaces, and they generate foley and other sounds, featuring field recordings of birds, human voice, and wind.
Each contain a number of bespoke props that, when animated, generate shape-shifts; defy depth, time, space, and matter; and choreograph display sequences. In this infinite circuit of gentle surprises, the landscapes are halved and speared; become sprawling terrains, amphibious and ventriloquial creatures; vanish the living, conjure the lost, and resurrect the dead - all the while, blooming.
On the surface, these landscapes are feathered, furred, shelled and pawed. One, surrounded by fire and impenetrable boarders, springs teeth. Another, shell-like and recoiling, with closed fists of metallic claws, opens into the shape of bear-hugging submission. And another, armoured with botanical markings, has hairy legs revolving around a blood-filled body of sleeping talons. They are all headless, and somewhere inside them is Medusa.
This body of work has been developed through a series of curated generative events in the areas of archeo-gaming, performance, and fiction, hosted by Kunstverein Aughrim, in collaboration with Benjamin Hanussek, gaming researcher; Anne Bogart, theatre director; and Elvia Wilk, author of Death By Landscape.
The legacy of these events is retained in the exhibition’s materiality. Composed of interchangeable wooden slats, the paintings possess mutable properties of other things – a magician’s rig; a music box; a terrain; a portal, a roulette wheel - and by a number of natural elements including lunar tides; seeds; and a pulse, all of which defy their 2-dimensional origins.
In adapting the myth of Medusa, a story of misrepresentation and disputed agency, the exhibition’s central looping narrative explores its own evolution from disembodiment to full constitution.