The Myth of Progress, Swedish artist Klara Lidén's solo exhibition at IMMA has just been extended until February 2nd and if you are visiting Dublin do not miss it. Installed on the mezzanine level of the main galleries (which have recently been re-hung - definitely worth a look) are a selection of photography, poster paintings and a single video work. This is a small presentation, lacking the comprehension of Lidén's 2010 Serpentine exhibition and one could argue this has been a missed opportunity on IMMA's part given the scope of the artist's work and the scale of the space available to them. The Myth of Progress does, however, allow for a more intimate focus on several different strands of her work and acts as a showcase for Lidén in Ireland, introducing new audiences to her work. It also, with Lidén's background in architecture and interest in construction, sits very neatly alongside IMMA's current research interests with a major exhibition of Eileen Gray in the main galleries and a project space exhibition from Ireland's Architecture Foundation currently open. 

Lidén's series of five Untitled (Poster Paintings) were made between 2010-11 and are formed of multiple street advertising posters, their surfaces whited out with paint and then pasted one on top of the other. Strangely appearing both light and heavy, these almost sculptural objects bulge from the walls seeming to sap any moisture from it, bowing and sagging. Flashes of colour where the surface has gone unpainted can be seen along the crinkling edges, reminding the viewer of the original purpose of the advertising print – to grab your attention but also taking on a new painterly quality. The rainbow of colours produce a curious blacklit glow against the sullen white of the painted surface and the sterile white of the gallery wall.

Opposite, a series of Lidén's photographic C prints are installed behind too reflective glass making them difficult to see – a shame as they are very much worth looking at. The artist is shown performatively inhabiting various locations in odd positions – at the top of a lamp-post looking out onto The Bowery, New York; in the middle of water atop a pier stump or in uninhabited urban locations. The images feature just the artist herself, seemingly abandoned or awkwardly placed by an unseen someone in equally abandoned and awkward situations. She appears sometimes partially obscured or clothed in a way that makes her merge with the colours around her, a kind of subdued Where's Wally. The five prints were shown at 2011's Venice Biennale but Lidén has made a special 60 x 45cm print for this exhibition. Merchants Arch (2013) was taken in Temple Bar and Lidén is shown head-first inside a wheely bin down an alleyway. Only her legs posed sticking up from the bin can be seen and the gravity appears off – her position should make the bin keel over but appear uncannily fixed. Although Lidén herself appears quite physically frozen or prop-like throughout her photographic works, there is also a strong sense of motion and choreography. Lidén's poses are just a little too un-natural and considered and this, without turning too much towards the theatrical, give them the quality of dance shots. Liden's prints could easily be stills from a Pina Bausch street performance.

Music from the video, Moonwalk (or the myth of progress) pulses through the whole gallery space with a muted tragedy. Composed by a group of Lidén's friends in Stockholm, the repetitive and heartbreaking soundtrack was produced before the video itself. She hears the music and then composes and films the performance which perhaps is why the result is so successful – Lidén's actions carry the soul of the sound. Lidén is filmed moonwalking through the streets of New York. The city rushes about its business all around but she maintains a steady ultra-slow pace which isolates her from it. Her walk is studied (occasionally she will look down to check her feet are moving properly) and also comtemplative. The casually smooth yet robotic repetitive movements seem so unreal compared to the streets and cars around her that you start to question what is real and whether Lidén has been superimposed. This video is a delight but has a darkness too – Lidén is on an endless treadmill, ever travelling towards or away from something unknowable. Through the streets, through her work, through the exhibition, the myth of progress.

A video tour of the exhibition, produced by IMMA, can be found here

Watch Lidén moonwalking in Arles here


AuthorSacha Waldron