What is distinctive in Tove Kjellmark's work is a fascination for behaviour, dynamics and movement. This is an artist who creates work in a very spontaneous way using advanced technology, robotics and digital media as a tool for artistic expression.
An interactive toy is often the starting point in these artworks which she makes strange and surreal, by altering, displacing and amplifying their artificial characteristics, behaviours and processes. Sometimes she inverts the scale so that the interactive sculptures becomes menacing and monstrous giants, in other cases, she goes under the skin to uncover the psychological notions that problematizes the human.
Through her work Tove Kjellmark highlights the human psychological defence mechanisms and how they affect us, with focus on humans in relation to machines. Often with an attempt to approach the thin line between care and cruelty.
Robots are all around us, in everyday objects, and the toys we give our children. Kjellmark cuts open children's toys, tears off the soft covering, to reveal the machine within. The naked robots are subtly rewired, synchronised, sped up, a seeming chaotic mass of movement that obeys lines of computer code.
The gallery is filled with alien, strange beings, which some people may find disturbing. Sculpture, photography and drawings in parallel all revolve around the question of how to represent vulnerable, mute, bodily states of being.
Imitation is a central phenomenon of human learning, identification and empathy. Our brain's mirror neurons simulate a procedure when we observe someone performing an act. The question is whether the same is true when we observe a machine?
Through the work presented here Kjellmark invites the audience under the skin of non-humans, and wants to challenge people's empathy and compassion. Kjellmark draws on psychoanalysis and neuroscience and concepts such as the 'skin-ego' (Didier Anzieu, 1974), the interface between inside and outside which shields the person from that which is alien, or non-human.
Are we, the audience, willing to accept unusual, abject people and things? Is this easier for people with a less stable sense of self, such as those of us who missed the mirroring stage of development, who therefore have more fluid boundaries?
Tove articulates in a deeply perverse way essential questions about the contemporary human condition.
Can you accept the others in the room?
Dr. Drew Hemment is an artist, curator and writer who is Founder and Director of FutureEverything and Associate Director of Imagination Lancaster.
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