Monster Soup | 2019 - 2022
Exhibited at KØS Museum of Public Art, 2021.
Alu-dibond, gel medium, laserprint, varnish. Dimensions variable
Monster Soup is a series of works initiated in 2019 before the outbreak of the pandemic while the artist was in residence at ISCP in New York. During his subway commute Settergren would encounter advertisements for domestic cleaning products. He began to wonder about the Western obsession with hygiene, and how bacteria were strangely portrayed as terrorists, aliens, and homeless people – in other words 'the Other'. Bacteria are not only undesirable, but also invisible to the human eye. They are thus the optimal repository for our fantasies about otherness—representations of bacteria as 'monsters' channelling collective repressed societal fantasies about alterity. As children often experience, otherness can take the form of monsters. Yet absurd as it may seem, advertisements depicting germs as monsters in a childish way still hold the power to affect the adult imagination. Monstrous entities point to deeply ingrained fantasies about the other as invisible, alien and threatening.
Settergren investigates the ideologies upheld and reproduced in the Western world's bacterial imagery, where the representation of bacteria and viruses unveils disavowed fantasies about purity, gender, race, class and sexuality. Bacteria are alien agents to the human organism, and even if they might end up adapting, our bodies’ first reaction is to expel them.
The work is presented in the proximity of transit areas like restrooms and elevators close to the hand sanitizers the museum has installed as a part of a COVID-19 prevention strategy. Indirectly, it reflects on the subliminal desire of sanitizing hidden fears through a gesture that might make us immune from disease, eventually.
- Curator Irene Campolmi
Photo: Anders Sune Berg