Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s interest in metalworking and casting lies beyond the material processes that she employs, incorporates, and sometimes makes explicit reference to in her practice. The utilitarian objects, anthropomorphized sex toys and religious figurines that are the impetus for several of Hansen’s artworks often refer to the physiological effects and sexual drives that manifest through labor and production. As such, these works often fall into two camps: individually, handmade pieces such as her recently steel-forged and bronze wax cast series Hooks (2023) based on designs of rudimentary meat hooks, while her remake of moulds used in both industrial and artisanal casting are emblematic of the mass-produced reproduction of objects.
Visible across all her work, however, is a desire to pull into focus the surrounding context in which things are made and how they are used. This is notable in two short films Maintenancer (2018) and Baby Jesus (2023) made together with documentary filmmaker Therese Henningsen. Maintenancer is filmed in Bordoll, a German sex doll brothel, and documents the routine of a cleaner responsible for their upkeep. Baby Jesus, meanwhile, follows the daily lives of members of the Little Sisters of Jesus, a small community of nuns in the East of England, including one sister who makes decorative figures of baby Jesus. While worlds apart, these works both circle around symbolic objects of transaction and spiritual devotion, attributes which Hansen likens to her own secular contemporary art practice.
The films contextualize accompanying sculptural pieces, each based on moulds. In last year’s exhibition The Milk of Dreams at the Venice Biennial, Maintenancer was shown alongside Daddy Mould (2018), a fiberglass mould of a sex doll that the artist reverse-engineered by casting its original form to create its negative. Whereas a readymade appropriates a preexisting object’s commodity status, Daddy Mould points to the value of product design in a changing economy of sex work geared towards standardization. Hansen swaps the parental assignment from the ‘mothermould’, a commonly used term in commercial mould making with the patriarch by way of its title’s implied psychosexual relationship.
Non-reproductive parenting of another kind also underlies Baby Mould (2023), for which Hansen recast an intricate, fifteen-part terracotta mould used to make one of the Little Sisters of Jesus’ figurines. In the film, one of the sisters speaks of living a ‘spiritual childhood’ in which God is parent. As well as the mould’s already womb-like resemblance and reproductive function, the artist’s specific material use of glass to remake it brings about a further association with the assisted fertility procedure In Vitro Fertilization (in vitro is Latin for ‘in glass’ and refers to medical procedures that take place outside of the body). Baby Mould conflates the removal of sexual intercourse in biological reproduction with the virgin birth of Jesus. Both Daddy Mould and Baby Mould strip the mould of its reproductive function and render it useless as an art object that craves ownership instead.
- Saim Demircan
Missionary by Sidsel Meineche Hansen, is a two part exhibition including new works by the artist, developed in partnership between Édouard Montassut, Paris and Company, New York.