Ann-Sofi Sidén’s work examines the human psyche, social conditions, and other institutions and infrastructures. The artist’s installations, photography, film, and performances touch on subjects of gender, paranoia, myth, and cultural and personal identity. Often working from one source over a long period of time, Sidén considers and presents her theme from various angles, exposing her subject from an objective but personal view. Her systematic investigations pan from close observation to a broader perspective—activating the viewer, engaging her audience with a curiosity that borders on empathy and repulsion.
Sidén’s projects scrutinize the raw material of the physical world, often mimicking or reworking experiences into a re-created reality. Exposing the hierarchies of social structures—whether riding horseback through fenced land, studying power relations behind-the-scenes at a hotel, or unveiling prostitution in a post-communist Czech Republic border town—Sidén makes visual the conflict between instinct and intellect. By discovering and revealing the mundane within these environments, which are often unfamiliar or inaccessible to the viewer, the audience is implicated in Sidén’s voyeuristic endeavors, venturing between what is real and what might instead be mere suggestion or associated reality.
For her ArtPace residency, Sidén with her husband, Paul Giangrossi—who will assist by structuring and mapping out the daily route—journeys through the vast Texas landscape toward the institution that proved existence of (spatial) expansion beyond the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere. In a performance that references the character and image of Texas, the expansion of the American west, and ultimately the universe, the artist travels from San Antonio to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston on an indigenous horse—the Appaloosa. Sidén’s project appropriates a romanticized vision of American culture, referencing her own childhood memories:
“It is said that horses only see in black and white, they view a wide panorama with a different picture on each side. My first conscious image or understanding of America was through the ‘Westerns’ I saw on TV. In the 60s in Sweden, these programs were screened in black and white. I remember watching while the shows were interrupted and noise-ridden voices were transcribed into white subtitles, talking about the small step for an astronaut and the giant leap for mankind.”
Imitating the horse’s dual-panning vision, Sidén’s residency project joins these two nostalgic representations (Wild West meets Apollo 13) into one.
In the gallery space, Sidén articulates the experience of her travels on the rustic terrain of the American southwest and its juxtaposition with NASA, a symbol of the next frontier, with life-size photographs of the start and finish of her voyage. Akin to her larger body of work, this performance penetrates our understanding of public and private. As Sidén explores the shoulders of country roads and highways, less used since the advent of the interstate, she discovers the infrastructures that exist on the open road. The artist becomes dependent on this self-contained microcosm of rural thoroughfare—postal workers, ranchers, county sheriffs—and the systems of communication between people who travel the routes every day. On horseback, Sidén faces obstacles and restrictions otherwise considered amenities: property lines, trucks, and other evidence of modern-day civilization. Riding through small agricultural communities and eventually entering the cosmopolitan area of Houston, Sidén observes that the once open land is now securely enclosed within fences in contrast to the unbounded frontier of space. Sidén’s horseback trek utilizes an obsolete form of transportation to make a pilgrimage to the site where the future of travel has the potential to evolve.