Vertigo in Cones, 2023. Multimedia installation with two-channel video, steel, lacquer, sediments, algae, carpet, polyester fabric, and dust, part of “Cleaving the Wind into Fragments,” Montagehalle HBK Braunschweig, Germany. Photo: Stefan Stark

The Shape of Time: A Conversation with Nina Nowak

The notion of thing-ness is central to Nina Nowak’s interdisciplinary practice, yet, for her, a thing is never just one thing. In her works, which are often composed as symphonies of objects and situations, the social and historical meanings of things—carpets, wood, dust—converge with their physical realities and properties. For instance, in Material World Pt. I, Equilibrium Tide (2022), a multifaceted outdoor installation created for Denmark’s ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, she used the physical landscape and its constant evolution to transform two pieces of sandstone. Earth, stone, water, space, and action all at once, the installation reinforced the entangled, relational layers of all material things and beings.

Nowak, who was born in Poland and is now based in Germany and Denmark, uses her object-based work to consider time as a theme, aesthetic approach, and thing. Through sculpture, installation, and video, she explores our perception of time, as well as what we can’t perceive. Her works frequently take the form of systems, mimicking and expanding on material cycles, with elements that morph at various rates, subject to natural processes and specially constructed machine-tools that stand in for human agency.

Leah Triplett Harrington: Using wood, stone, plastics, metals, and textiles, you carve, assemble, and
let gravity and nature do their work. It often seems, as in Circadian Rhythms (2019), that you are highlighting how systems converge, and how our material and geological worlds are made up.

Nina Nowak: I like to come to things from different angles, trying to see them from here, from the side, and to build them. . .

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