Tangible Dreaming

Una Szeemann, 2022
Toxi Space, Zurich


Inapt to move, so out they went
Copper, leather, polyurethane, polyamid 427 x 197 x 85 cm

Le Benandanti
-Diana, Rossa, Anna, Lucina-

Bronze 8 x 8 x 8 cm each

In the exhibition Tangible Dreaming, Una Szeemann is primarily concerned with the seeming separation of body and mind during dreaming, which she explores through folkloric fertility rites and symbolisms. For her leather sculpture Inapt to move, so out they went, Szeemann drew inspiration from the legends surrounding the northern Italian benandanti (‘good walkers’), who were born with an intact membrane and were therefore attributed with supernatural powers and good fortune. As defenders of the fertility of the fields, in the 16th and 17th centuries they would step out of their bodies during sleep to fight against evil witches and demons (malandanti) to ensure good harvests for the coming season. Szeemann gives form to this transitional moment and makes it tangible by covering copper struts, with a skin of leather. She thereby creates a being that is simultaneously present and absent, and refers to the ambivalence of body and mind whilst dreaming.

Le Benandanti–Diana, Rossa, Anna, Lucina–, four split open figs, preserved for eternity only by its bronze casting, stand in reference to the benandanti for a symbol of fertility and its significance for the harvest. Meanwhile, the reminiscence of the formerly red flesh, brought to light by the artist herself when breaking the ripe fruit, provokes an erotic evocation – which, in the context of dreaming, unites disgust and shame, but also lust.

So, what will remain of a dream? In Szeemann’s work, it is above all the ambivalence of the dreaming body made tangible through the sculptures.

Kristin Brüggemann (extracts from the text Tangible Dreaming, Toxi Space Zurich, with Nadia Hauri)

(Photographs: © Nico Sebastian Meyer)