Keys Open Doors
multi-part installation, 2 figures, curtain, chairs, clothes, sumo costumes, keys
dimensions variable, appr. 165 × 200 × 95 cm
Inv. No. 0415
We first encountered the two multi-armed sumo wrestlers in 2019 in the Grafisches Kabinett at the Vienna Secession. They wore flesh-colored and orange bodysuits, respectively, with intrusive tits; some had udders, or something like them, in their place. Padlocks dangled from the more sensitive parts of their bodies, a reference to the Makart Bridge1, (vulgo Marko Feingold Steg), a must-see in Salzburg. No doubt about it - these were heretical, risky, and indeed the most exciting, most provocative sculptures seen in a long time, created by a nonconformist, unconventional, and casually incorrect young artist who caused an uproar at the Vienna Academy with wild makeup and fierce costumes. Lucky for us, we were able to acquire the double Hindu goddess (she is considered the personification of the Gayatri mantra) in sumo look for the evn sammlung.
Hindu iconography shows Gayatri seated in a lotus flower, often with five heads, two, four or ten arms, and a swan as a companion animal. In terms of outfit, Lemsalu leans more toward the sweatpants despised by Karl Lagerfeld, the MA482, and hand-painted porcelain and ceramic heads, hands, and shoes. “Porcelain is just a wonderful material,” she says, “that offers endless possibilities. It's just my material; I've been taking pottery classes since I was a kid. I just need that - my mind, my soul and my hands.”
The next encounter took place at the Estonian pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. When Lemsalu's totems travel, they are adapted and rearranged according to content and location requirements. The sumo wrestlers mutated into gondoliers for the exhibition at the Legno & Legno Gondola Manufactory and Joinery at Via Giudecca No. 211. They waved in visitors from their boats, jangling keys, to Birth V: Lemsalu’s startling installation in which water dripped from enormous ceramic vaginas and freshly harvested seaweed from the lagoon hung on the walls. Powerful symbols, roles, references and quotations are the ingredients that Kris Lemsalu shapes into legends: life, carnival, shamanistic rituals, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, global folklore.
“It is the task of artists to create alternative means” says Lemsalu about her exhibition Love Song Sing-Along at Kunstwerke Berlin 2019, created together with her husband Kyp Malone. “That's why there's hardly any violence or gloom in our world. Because there's too much of that already. It's a bit hippie-ish - we create this colorful world, invite people into it and hope they take some of that vibe and spread it out there.”
Brigitte Huck, 2021 (translation: Virginia Dellenbaugh)
1) The Makartsteg is a bridge in Salzburg adorned with “love-locks” in imitation of the habit which emerged in Paris, most notably on the Pont des Arts.
2) Translator’s note: the MA48 is the municipal department in Vienna responsible for garbage management, which runs a thrift shop. The author is implying that Lemsalu’s costumes are “thrift-store” wear.
Small Medium Large. Sculptures and Objects from the evn collection, evn sammlung, Maria Enzersdorf, 2022
6 U L. Lust and Desire in Art and Design, GRASSI Museum für angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, 2020
6UL. Lust and Desire in Art and Design, Leipzig 2020, p. 32–33
Kris Lemsalu, Albummm, Berlin 2018, p. s. p.