Magnus Wallin’s art constitutes an exploration of the human body. It is not just the relationship between bodies and norms that fascinates Magnus Wallin, but how many permutations of these bodies there are, and how they constitute different modes of understanding.
Magnus Wallin’s art constitutes an exploration of the human body. His range is expansive, encompassing everything from 3D animation, such as his Exit from 1997 showing us deformed and crippled figures, like something out of Hieronymus Bosch, crawling their way through a video game-style setting, hunted by a wall of flames, to works where the list of materials alone reads like a particularly macabre brand of poetry: “3 human skulls installed at a height of 220 centimetres” complete with round, square and star-shaped fontanelles like in a shape sorting game (Method, 2011); works that demonstrate how totalitarian political and aesthetic representations have aligned with science’s normative lack of humanity; and works that exquisitely expose our physical vulnerability, like I live here from 1994, that forces viewers to press themselves up against a wall lest they get bitten by an aggressive dog.
But it is not just the relationship between bodies and norms that fascinates Magnus Wallin, but how many permutations of these bodies there are, and how they constitute different modes of understanding. Shot using an infrared camera, Educated (2007) shows us a thermal body that exhibits completely different behaviours and is subject to completely different limitations than its flesh-and-blood counterparts. The artist frequently employs skeletons to illustrate different aspects of human behaviour, like in Colony (2009) where these human chassis inhabit a frozen landscape, impervious to the cold, producing sexual desire instead of blood cells. Body parts are frequently seen seeking passion and companionship, like in Elements (2011), where visceral organs and skeletons are seen waiting to take their place in a larger organism, which Wallin has designated as the “social body” (in his Exercise Parade from 2001, this takes the form of walls that breathe).
In Wallin’s installations films are more physical and objects more filmic than they ordinarily are, perhaps because his stirring and compelling work is a visceral viewing experience and this new way of seeing creates images that are as alienating as those produced by a camera. In Unnamed (2016, 2017), Wallin has taken photographs of medical textbooks on physical abnormalities and turned them into something akin to moving images and in those moving images representation becomes a living thing. The effect is stunning, bewildering. On occasion, he has managed to animate the images simply by suspending the projectors from ropes that generate a minimal amount of movement, making these bodies appear as though they are breathing and as though they are watching the viewer in turn. Such is the precision at work here that it can reach into your very soul. Once there, it makes its demand on the viewer: now look at this as if you were a human being.
Lars Erik Hjertström
Translation: Liisa Muinonen Martin