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I-09 [growth cones]

Catalogue text by Lesley Millar

Through her work, Anniken Amundsen is giving an external materiality to the interior force described by Susan Sontag as ".. unregulated, abnormal incoherent growth. The tumor has energy ... the cancer cells grow and extend over each other in a chaotic fashion" [1]. For artists it is possible to make allusion to the unpresentable by means of visible presentations, as demonstrated by Helen Chadwick, for example, in her Viral Landscapes. However, as Marina Warner points out, the Modernist struggle to express concealed inwardness draw on the visual linguistics of earlier mystical imagery even when originating fresh metaphors or reinvigorating old ones [2].

Amundsen uses her understanding of popular culture and her knowledge of trauma to transcribe explicit medical imagery. She has devised a specifically personal, visual and textile language which allows her to create a representation of her inner reality, those cancer cells which were mutating and reproducing. The manner of making her three-dimensional textiles presents the viewer with the perception of both interior and exterior form. There is a sense that the outline is in a process of continuous change; the shapes created appear to be moving from the centre, outward, penetrating the surround space. And while "they" are "out there" we can, safely, look and respond.

NOTES:
[1] Illness as metaphor, Susan Sontag, p. 24
[2] The Inner Eye: Art beyond the visible, Marina Warner, p. 13

Lesley Millar is currently Daiwa/AHRB Research Fellow in Contemporary Textiles at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College.


Catalogue text by Anniken Amundsen

The classic computer game "Space Invaders" provides an apt metaphor for the agressive behaviour of cancer. The alien invaders attack in increasing numbers and seem to multiply as you proceed through the game. If you are overcome by the invaders, you lose strength, or you loose lives. In the human body, cancer cells are aliens that mutate and reproduce in defiance of the normal restraints. They invade and colonise territories normally reserved for other cells, and in the end destroy the whole cellular society.

The word cancer itself makes most of us shiver with fear. It is a word and an illness that gives close associations to pain, sorrow and death. What is cancer? Is it some kind of creature or monster that spreads its venom randomly in our bodies, or is it an other-worldly parasite that consumes human bodies one by one and proliferates in the inner darkness of the body?

Almost everybody has been touched by the mercilessness of cancer, directly or indirectly. The condition has reached almost epidemical numbers and strikes adults and elderly people as well as children. The illness is perceived as ruthless, endless, determined and explosive, and the treatment can be associated with chemical and biological warfare. The dramatic process and side-effects during the illness and treatment are brutal no matter what diagnosis and final outcome towards cure or death.

The exhibition Invaders confronts perceptions around cancer, based on medical literature on cell biology and oncology, mixed with psychological emotions and associations gained through the experiences of patients, relatives and friends. These visualisations of cancer show a strategy of disarming the invader by making the invisible enemy visible, and lead an active psychological counterattack on the many open wounds and scars of cancer.

Julia Kristeva writes in Powers of Horror: "But when one's weak, the thing that gives one strength is stripping those one fears of the slightest prestige that one may still tend to accord them. One must teach oneself to see them as they are, as worse than they are, that is. One should look at them from all points of view. This detatches, sets you free and is much more of a protection than you can possibly imagine. It gives you another self, so that there are two of you together."