Photos: Philipp Hänger, 2016


The human body, it is often said, is conspicuously absent in the work of the Norwegian German artist Yngve Holen (b. 1982). Yet everywhere in his oeuvre, the implications of the body—its subjectivity, messy corporeality, and imbrications in a culture of consumption—are evoked. Disemboweled washing machines, bisected water coolers, MRI-scanned and 3D-printed smashed cell phones: Holen has used them all in previous works. His predilection for things that are at one remove from the humans who make, buy, or use them is shaped by an interest in the technologies that define our everyday surroundings, from transportation and plastic surgery to industrial food production and security systems. In VERTICALSEAT, his largest institutional show to date, Holen presents an array of new objects that magnify the corporeal questioning that sits at the heart of his practice.

VERTICALSEAT refers to the eponymous standing chair (although back support with a seat belt might better describe it) that budget airlines are lobbying to introduce in order to transport more people in a reduced amount of space. The scheme speaks to one of the many ways society’s stratification of wealth and power continues to have concrete implications for the body. Holen’s work points to the connections between the proliferation of new technologies and our ever more iron-clad cultures of control.


Occupying the center of the space is CAKE, a large-scale sculpture made from the ultimate object of desire for the nuclear family that also craves luxury and speed: the Porsche Panamera. The vehicle is cleaved in four like a cake distributed into equal shares, thus continuing Holen’s serial dissection of objects that populate our everyday. The gesture is apparently simple (in reality, it requiredan impressive technical feat), but startling for the way it reveals the seemingly sentient “mortality” of something thought of as wholly inanimate—only a machine. The resulting object, splayed and totally inoperable, sits with a strange splendor. Its engine, split leather seats, cracked windows, and other mechanisms visible, the car appears like a specimen of an extinct creature. The equal yet useless division of such a luxury asset provokes the question: Is it possible to redistribute resources in a world of increasing inequality?

Text: Elena Filippovic


VERTICALSEAT on display at Kunsthalle Basel from May 13 - August 14, 2016.

CAKE, 2016, was realized through a special collaboration with Lafayette Anticipation - Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette; their technical expertise and co-production support made this complex and ambitious project possible.