Principles of Pain and Pleasure

April 10th – May 17th, 2008

Opening Reception
Thursday, April 10th at 5-8 pm

The title of Maiken Bent’s (b. 1980) solo exhibition at bendixen contemporary art is ’Principles of Pain and Pleasure’. It consists of various sculptures placed on the floor, on the wall or hanging down from the ceiling in the gallery space. Together, the works of art form an installation that could resemble accurately arranged merchandise on display in a store. But Maiken Bent’s works of art are neither articles for everyday use nor merely decorative objects – though the objects are distinctly aesthetic and in one way or the other functional.
Bent’s artworks are physical in a bodily way. One of the best examples of this physical peculiarity is a work that represents a pillory. Historically, the pillory was used to display criminals in a public place, where they became objects of taunt and ridicule. The gallery is also a public space. Nevertheless, Maiken Bent’s sculpture of a pillory seems to be made for a much more private use in a secret room; a place for punishment and pain that the individual brings upon oneself. Around the pillory’s holes for the arms and head billows a scenic romantic mist, painted as if it was wavelike northern lights. A ghostly green garland of beauty lights up the head of the person sitting in the pillory. The ambiguity between the aesthetic pleasure and the bodily pain is visually very directly revealed in Maiken Bent’s work, but from a psychological point of view it’s subtle and associative. This is clearly shown though her choice of materials: mirrors, horse-bridles, dyed leather pieces sewn together with strong stitches, stained and lacquered wood, golden chains and a discrete use of colored light are significant materials in this evocative universe of ‘Pain and Pleasure’.
Bent’s artworks are decorative and cool, but they are also filled with sexual undertones and references to the body in a violent, bestial or punishing manner. On the wall, for instance, hangs a harness arranged like a mask. Who is meant to be controlled here? What perverse, comic or beautiful game are these objects accessories in? Is it a human with brutish forces that needs to be controlled? Maybe Bent’s artworks are primarily an expression of self-exorcism. Therein lies the ‘function’ of the artworks. It’s about bridling and expelling the sometimes uncontrollable physical forces that makes up a personality. But these forces are also sources of beauty. Therefore, they have to be released with reasonable severity. What Maiken Bent’s art is really about is giving in to oneself and letting the fascination of how one’s inner forces and temperament makes humans run wild – like mad horses, like a galloping nightmare. So hold your reins tight, spectator!

Maiken Bent

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