Toothy Room

How can the inner essence of a ballet room look like and what is our expectation about it? In Sumner Community Center on April, 28 with the use of reflection, projection and interruption collective Hugo Penje curated by EX-BOW studied the subject in detail. I talked with Paulette Penje and Anna Hugo about their exhibition “Ballet Room” for Art Theory Project. ATP

Maybe because of the repeated image of the teeth throughout the show, I feel a certain ambiguity about it. It is smiling, but at the same time, it is also a presents aggression. Is there some ironical aspect in the show?

Anna Hugo: Of course, it is ironic. We were invited to make an exhibition in the ballet room of the community center, and we automatically anticipated a nice dance room. Instead, the space looked more like a training or boxing room. So, we decided to work with that our initial reaction. We found it interesting how we had expectations and how these expectations failed. My first idea was to highlight and film parts of the room and then to project it back to shift the space within space and create a feeling of disorientation. Paulette automatically thought of biting teeth. We decided to take both initial reactions and combine them.

Paulette Penje: The room looked like a cellar; there were tiny windows, through which you can see the feet of people walking on the street, and a mirror. However, it did not look like a dancing room. When we left, I told Anna: “I have an image in my head of screeching teeth.” Besides smile and aggression, it is just a wall with teeth. That gives a human dimension to the wall and which I find very interesting. The work is about space. It is quite a depressing basement in a community center, but there is the intention to turn it into a ballet room. The result is a fascinatingly awkward character to the exhibition space.

AH: We liked this strangeness and composition of this space and wanted to use it. Therefore, we didn’t change the room too much. We wanted to readjust it in a subtle way and frame it to reveal its beauty and with a very poetic feel to the space. It is sensitive and brutal at the same time.

We live in the time when there are a lot of entertaining videos on the internet and TV. This inevitably makes audiences expect video art to be something similar, that something should happen. If nothing specific happens in a video that can cause frustration or boredom for a viewer. From this point: what is the difference and how a viewer should look on such work?

PP: Projection is always related to TV, but when you watch TV you do this for a specific reason: you want it to amuse you or inform. In our case projections is a part of the installation. We have all these chairs placed out and you can sit down and watch the videos, but it is not necessary. You have to move yourself within the space and perceive it.

Could we talk about your collaboration? Did you know each other before?

AH: No, we met at the SVA MFA program. The way we collaborate it is a sort of mix between us two. For instance, how the idea of the project came: we went to the room and we both had individual experience of the room, and when we left, I told Paulette what I want to do and Paulette told me her ideas, and then we combined them and came up with the concept.

PP: Now you cannot separate which part came from whom.

AH: I think we got to the point where we are finishing each other sentences. Because we have spent a god amount of time together, we can understand how one or the other tends to view things. This is why we created the persona Hugo Penje (this is how we name our projects), because when we are working together, we try to combine our ideas together. We have the same aesthetic feeling about things, but also not. We found a sort of middle point. For instance, Paulette sees some things that I don’t at first and she teaches me, and vice versa.