by Mikkel Thykier

Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein


What is art’s truly utopian space?

          On the cover of the American writer and video artist Gary Indiana’s book, Utopia's Debris, the word Utopia is hovering in the form of an arch spanning over a detached shark’s jaw, which is chewing on the word Debris, utopia’s refuse or wreckage-remnants, the crumbling remains of a place that, by virtue of its own designation, is nothing, is no place, is nowhere, or is, with respect to considerations of property, simply the place of nothingness: Topia, the ancient Greek word for place or region, is being subjected here – with the deployment of the prefix U – to a negation, and accordingly being remade into nothing: Utopia. Utopia’s truth appears to be that nothingness, the pure, envisioned and auspicious void, is making a drastic effect on the world’s material condition and leaving residues behind. The cover of Gary Indiana’s book is not unlike Marie Bonfils’s Spit Image, the large set of teeth that’s still chewing the pure air. (Well, there’s pure, and there’s pure: inside the gallery it might be more of a stuffy and closed-in air.) This dynamic between that which is nothing (the void, the negation) and its physical traces (the process of creation) is characteristic of Bonfils’s artworks, and is immediately being brought to a head by them: Is Spit Image rising from the floor? Or it is the opposite that is happening – that the large set of teeth is actually sinking down under the weight of nothingness, the pure dream, from its place on the wall, and must eventually come to rest on the floor, leaning up against the wall? It’s difficult to say.In any case, the viewer is evidently being invited, if nothing else, to make use of his/her evaluative, thoughtful approach and position him/herself, experimentally, inside the empty wide-open jaws, as though it were we ourselves, those of us who step into the gallery, that were the pure air which art’s pieces could chew on.



If we are the pure air that art is chewing on, does this mean to say that we, ourselves, are – virtually – nothing?

          To look at the artworks is to repeat the process: To speak about nothing or even to use a concept like nothing is, in itself, tantamount to introducing a level of abstraction into one’s immediate surroundings, into the air that is being inhaled and exhaled. The abstraction winds up in a concretization, in recognizable forms, in a sculpture. In other words, the void gives shape to various forms of wreckage. Maybe it is we, ourselves, who wind up like this: wrecked outcasts who are lying and screaming on the floor . . .

          The scream brings forth what is oral in the works: The teeth, which are consuming nothing in Spit Image; the breasts that keep a watch over us and hang down over us in Empire, so that anybody who wants to can reach up toward them in order to suckle on them and find his/her source of nourishment right there; Panorama Skrig [Panorama Scream], where there’s virtually nothing to see in the steel’s horizontal lines and dark and golden hues, even if the visual (panorama) is being mixed with the mouth’s audible expression, which lies beyond calm, rational speech (scream).The oral and the duality of the immaterial and the material turn up already in the title, Spit Image: the expression for an exact likeness, spitting image, has been cropped here, with the result that we wind up with a ‘spit image’. On the one side, spit: traces of material, rejection. On the other side, an image: the pure incorporeal idea, the pure spectacle. Doubling upon doubling: The artworks’ dual nature is being reduplicated by the work being done with language. Language, which is also linked up to the oral, is a legible albeit immediately invisible dimension of the artworks, a dimension that changes our impression of them. Language is yet another void that gives form to the works. It takes hold of the space in which the works happen to be located, a space that we, as viewers, share with them.


On the one side, an invitation, an incitement to see, to speak, and to position oneself closely up to the artworks, maybe even to put yourself in their place. On the other side, all the traces of rejection: material remnants of invisible processes.Utopia, art’s nothing-place, reveals itself as an invitation to us to place ourselves right there, in the field situated between immateriality, annihilation, and the crumbling, material remains that are being created, rising up from nothing. Bonfils’s Omrum [Re-Room] constitutes a designation for this process: A Tomrum [empty space/void/gap] that has lost its initial letter, T, and has left everything open to re-examination. And this also leaves us omtumlet, with a feeling of being tossed about. Indeed, omrum [re-room] is actually the Danish word omtumlet [tossed about], where the first t has partially disintegrated into an r and the word’s termination has vanished, so that there’s no vestige of let left behind, but only the perplexing interplay between the bodily strength and effort in trying to rise up from the earth and the forces that conversely get everything to sink back towards and down into the earth. All the effective forces in the sculptures seem, in this way, to have been set into the formula: If you’re not being seen, then you don’t exist. There’s far more than what meets the eye at stake. What does the re-wording sound like? If it’s you that’s being seen, instead of the art, then the art doesn’t exist. Or does art only exist where it’s not being seen? Not being seen, but in all other possible ways, being heard, felt and noticed, bodily, spatially?

–  Nov. 2023