Traces: Malou da Cunha Bang in the Studio

May 24, 2018 by

During her residency last year, Malou sat down for a brief interview. Check it out on WSW’s Vimeo!

Malou da Cunha Bang has just a couple minutes to clean the glass and roller. Returning to her work, she scrapes black ink (and a touch of Payne’s grey) into the grooves of a copper plate, wipes the surface, then rushes to the back of the studio and rolls out translucent yellow ink. She brings the roller to the front table and—with the flick of two wrists—coats the high relief areas with a yellow film. Placing the plate then paper, Malou rolls the press, pulls the print and pauses to look…but just for a second. There’s a trip to the stacks, then back to clean again. No sitting, resting, contemplating. Editions of five to eight are done before you realize she’s been printing.

Once a project begins, “I can’t do anything else but work. It’s one foot after the other all the time, because the work can seem overwhelming in its totality.” So when it comes to printing, there’s very little stopping or editing at the press. Otherwise the hours of drawing in stop-out varnish, timing a plate in acid, and the countless other steps which feed production leave too much room for hesitation.

There’s just a moment where Malou lets herself look at a newly pulled print. Aquatint translations of stills from her videos—and a couple additional screen grabs to test out new ideas—these images run in small series of two or three. When she looks, her heart is in her throat, then she returns to her pattern.

There is something about art workshops, where it’s socially acceptable for people to work at their own rhythm and pace. And as a artist who measures the behavioral temperatures of rooms and buildings, Malou  prefers this way of being. Malou’s fixation centers around violence and the residue it leaves when experienced. She uses the word violence to encapsulate many others: habit, convention, and policy. It could be misconstrued as courtesy or possibly sophistication.

“I think violence can be subdivided,” she explains. “There is emotional, political, economic and social violence, and probably more. But violence is means of exerting pressure—it is a weapon for submission.” Through printmaking and film she investigates behavior that is socially allowed…even mandated…in one context but not another. Her previous work has explored rooms as dedicated sitting quietly (waiting room), the proper space to be nearly nude (public pool), and architectural representations of power (the courtroom).

Separating the normalized from the innate first appeared in her work when Malou questioned her own actions. “You think you are a certain person, and maybe you have a core,” she says. “But it felt like I could switch easily between different behaviors. When I talked to people, I would go home and ask, ‘was I honest just now?’”

With the prints pulled during her WSW residency and moreover, her video work, Malou takes control of setting to create ambiguous environments through which her characters move. In her film, Dinner and a Movie, a dark and uncertain atmosphere envelops the actors in a compilation of disparate scenes. Viewers, while experiencing a familiarity with the setting and an understanding of the characters, cannot quite explain the narrative.

The stills, from the film and other sources, that she selected for printing further filter our frame of reference. Viewers are required to read into the tonal, granular forms and distinguish gestures across series. In two images, one figure clearly withdraws from the other but, in two other prints, a different character smokes a cigarette. With both instinct and civil reasoning, viewers can still discern meaning in the places and gestures although the arcs have been largely abstracted. The mysterious scenarios unfolding reveal the distinct lenses through which we read this imagery. 

From public buildings to the scenes Malou creates herself, spaces are rarely neutral—to use the artist’s word. Waves of intention, authority, and separation seep through walls and control the occupants’ movements. This runs through Malou mind as she navigates a workshop, but ultimately, in studios, there’s a silent agreement between artists. “If I have to walk away from a conversation to print, everyone understands why.”

Find more images from Malou’s residency on our Flickr, then head to her website!

Malou da Cunha Bang is an artist based in Denmark and Sweden. Through her work, she investigates how seemingly ordinary spaces disguise hierarchies, status and submission. She hold her degree from The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm.