Lea Guldditte Hestelund’s artistic practice unites a sculptural investigation of materials with an interest in how we perceive and attribute meaning to the body.
Based on classical antiquity’s idolisation of the perfect body in earlier works the artist has explored contemporary fitness culture, recreating exercise equipment in classical materials like bronze and marble and using bodybuilding to model her own body on the iconic statue Discobolus. From specific body ideals and their social and gender implications, in this major solo exhibition Hestelund moves into investigating a more fluid concept of the body.
On the ground floor of Overgaden Hestelund has created a total installation that is inspired by science fiction and speculates on what a body is and can be, as well as the hierarchies that shape and surround it. Architecturally the exhibition is orchestrated as a spatial narrative in three visually distinct zones. With its streamlined interior the first space has the feel of a changing room or lounge area. In this setting Hestelund presents a series of works entitled Carriers, a kind of uniform designed for bodies of more or less human shape. Made of leather and studs, they are reminiscent of work clothes, fashion accessories, and bondage gear. Who and what they are for remains unknown, but with their ambiguous references to practical use, protection, status symbols and desire they disrupt our usual parameters for decoding the body and bodily identity markers.
The viewer is then led through a pyramidal passage that heightens bodily awareness – not least through the presence of an indefinable aroma created by a blend of oils believed to cleanse, protect, ease fear, and help people let go of old thoughts and behavioural patterns. In the final zone at the end of the passage marble sculptures balance between something bodily recognisable and alien. Some resemble body parts, others cocoons or fossils. Dressed in constraining harnesses or resting self-sufficiently in their cool, smooth nakedness, they appear as personalities equipped with names like Lyrva, Mantodea and Gob – referring to animals, bacteria, and mythical figures. The organic connotations of the sculptures give the scenario a surreal look of a futuristic greenhouse or laboratory for growing new life forms or artificial limbs. So maybe the implied individuals in the first room are their minders or supervisors?
Through the formal and narrative exchanges between the works and different zones Hestelund establishes an unstable hierarchy of mysterious relationships and positions. In doing so she offers a shift in perspective on the way bodies are construed, demarcated, and disciplined, but also the opportunity to rethink the body in interaction with alternative constellations of power, gender, and sexuality.
The author Olga Ravn has written a work of fiction for the exhibition, which is presented as one of the works in the installation. As well as being an independent narrative, its parallel investigation of the boundaries between humans and objects, and between human and non-human bodies, adds a literary layer to the exhibition.
Lea Guldditte Hestelund (b. 1983) studied at Düsseldorf Art Academy in 2012-13, and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2015. Her work has been shown in Denmark and abroad in exhibitions at Værelset, ARoS, Kunsthal Aarhus, SAK Kunstbygning, Ystad Art Museum, Treignac Projet, Künstlerhaus Dortmund, Parallel Vienna, and CompleteBody in New York.