Malin Gabriella Nordin is a Swedish artist who creates colourful, sculptural works of art which, rather than skirting unconventionality, embrace childlike playfulness with arms wide open. So much so in fact that she invited a group of children to interpret her ambiguously-shaped sculptures, adding to her collection with their own drawings and giving her their thoughts on what she had made.
The results of her experiment are in equal parts charming, inspiring and very funny, not to mention beautifully documented in Private Language, the publication which she has compiled to present her findings. Highlights include the descriptions the children give of the pieces, for example: “At first this was a sausage and now it is a banana.” “How did it become a banana?” “I did some magic.”
Intrigued and utterly won over, we interviewed Malin about the project and the publication born from it. Read below to find out her favourite interpretation, and to find out what she thought of the reactions!
Tell us a bit about Private Language.
I invited 11 children between the ages of three and five to interpret my collection of sculptures. I met with each child individually for an hour to discuss the collection: what they thought the sculptures looked like, if there was a story connected to them, which one they liked the most, etc. I asked each child if they felt the collection was missing something, and if so could they draw the missing piece. I asked them if the sculptures were placed in the right order or if they wanted to rearrange them, which every child except for one did. Even the children who didn’t have anything to say about my sculptures were so certain when they started to move them around.
There was no hesitation – they knew exactly how and where they were supposed to go. Before any judgment on the beautiful or the ugly, before any acceptance or refusal (official or private), they provided a testimony of a certain way of experiencing the world. In this world objects have souls, they have personalities, they even look like “the little man” and they do interact with each other.
With the book I wanted to share this state of mind, and explore how art can be something to move around or even be a part of, not just something to look at. There’s no right or wrong, instead it can be a way of taking part in something with your own set of rules.
What have you taken away from the book?
Well, the dialogues are just fragments of longer ones. By not explaining which sculpture they are talking about I wanted to keep an openness in the book, to let the readers be able to form their own associations.
How will it inform your work in the future?
I usually work by myself in what I call my own “Game of Telephone,” where each step leads to the next, shifting in material and technique, always involving some kind of translation in process. After the meeting with the children I started to work on new pieces, by interpreting their drawings based on their shared thoughts and personalities. By letting the children into my process I wasn’t alone in my “Game of Telephone” anymore, it was suddenly a game with more participants.