Nina Canell and Robin Watkins

Nina Canell and Robin Watkins's contribution to Nought to Sixty

Nina Canell (born Växjö, Sweden, 1979, lives in Dublin) and Robin Watkins (born Stockholm, Sweden, 1980, lives in Dublin) are long-term collaborators. Canell creates sculpture in the most expanded sense, assemblages that fuse matter, light and sound to create surreal testing grounds. Working together, Canell and Watkins have previously realised several film works and musical recordings as well as numerous live performances and events. For Nought to Sixty the artists have made a new gallery-specific installation, one which brings together a number of recent works to form a sculptural whole. The film work shown is Digging a Hole (2008), which portrays a man in his overalls digging in a bog. The sculptures include A Meditation on Minerals and Bats (2007), Heat Sculpture (2007) and Score for Two Lungs (2008).

For her most recent solo exhibition, Slight Heat of the Eyelid, Mother's Tankstation, Dublin (2008), Canell created an installation of seven sculptures, independent yet complimentary. The works seemed like elements in a periodic table that had been energetically shaken, leaving them re-ordered and re-charged. The title of the show goes some way to indicating the interests of the artist, who explores what Samuel Beckett called "all that inner space one never sees." In Beckett's Molloy (1955), the character 'C' decides one day to climb a hill rather than simply peer at it from afar, and moves from observed to physically-learned experience and on towards a third, more intuited realm. Similarly, the flickering sights and sounds of Canell and Watkins' ICA installation - the first solo presentation of their work in London - are best navigated by the incalculable, intuited or imagined.

One central characteristic of the works of Canell and Watkins is their use of unorthodox sculptural materials and combinations - including found debris as well as precise custom-fabricated objects. Heat Sculpture (2007), for example, comprises a leafless branch, trapped or cradled in the fingers of four neon lights, the whole composition tied together with cables. Another characteristic of the duo's work - and one which emphasises its extra-linguistic properties - is its use of music. In a recent interview Canell and Watkins said that, "in contrast to audio-art which foregrounds perceptual effects, technological progression, and self-referentiality, [we are] interested in engaging with acoustic phenomena as a catalyst for collective imagination, the construction of a magical image [...]". Music, whether played live, pre-recorded or merely signified by the presence of instruments, is a key mechanism within their work, and always an agent of transformation.

Isobel Harbison