Sofa. Ponder that thing. A source for many a heated argument in the middleclass household. I have an old IKEA Karlstad sofa-bed myself. A sun-bleached charcoal cotton-thing—very uncomfortable. Carl Mannov once compared being seated in it to being slumped on a wooden bench. I got the sofa for free online four years ago. The schmo who gave it away had used it as a guest bed. Interestingly, he now wanted to get rid of the sofa, not to replace it, but because he had one friend who apparently overstayed his welcome. Rather than being honest with his friend about the limits of his hospitality, he attributed the problem to the sofa. It was the sofa's fault that he had unwanted company, disrupting the peace and privacy of his home. The man had an expensive, well-stocked wine cabinet, a stone kitchen counter in some sort of lustrous labradorite, and cherry hardwood floors: We had to remove our shoes before entering the apartment, only to set the sofa down in the narrow hallway to put them back on when we left. As he sent us off, he did what I've found many do, assured us that we didn't have to thank him for the stained sofa—we were actually doing him a favour. We, of course, already knew that we'd spared him a trip to the landfill and the outside. He seemed relieved to close the door behind us and be left alone with his floors, his wine cabinet and his prickly, new Eilersen sofa—by no means made for guests to be sleeping on—delivered just the day before. It could have been any piece of furniture. This guy just happened to suspect that it was his Karlstad couch conspiring against him.
That person is not unique in projecting onto his possessions, of course. Furniture is commonly used as pawns in the game of constructing one's life. Where I'm writing this, a population of 5,2 million spent a handsome 70 billion NOK on the redecoration of their habitat in 2016 alone: No wonder they spend so much time in them. Mannov's wall hung assemblages seem to illustrate the exterior as viewed from an interior. They are split in vertical sections and adorned with drawings, objects and pages that appear to be torn from magazines on interior design; a detail from a doorknob, a stylized wooden skillet, the view of a street from a window. The subdivisions are narrow, like a cracked door or curtains carefully separated for a cautious eye to look through, echoing the stuttering unease the title of the show suggests. Surrounded by these wall assemblages are shapeshifting sculptures, which effectively grant furniture the agency consumers already anxiously suspect that they have. Their monolithic presence dwarfs the viewer. Part trivial and familiar, part towering fetish, they rouse the suspicion that they might have some hidden intent. The wooden legs carved into zoomorphic feet threaten to start moving, like the spellbound furniture in some Disney fairy tale. Suspicion towards furniture is a feature of our culture. In Victorian England and Wilhelmine Germany, the curvaceous, sinewy lines and laboriously carved details of the furniture's legs would be covered in cloth just to be sure. Not to make sure the wood wouldn't be scuffed, but in the name of decency—to avoid the potential corporeal excitement looking at them might arouse. Mannov, on the other hand, leaves the legs stark naked, contributing to the timid appearance the sculptures take on in the gallery room. They are scattered, stripped of their original functions and therefore presented in states of undress. Mannov toys with the division between private and public life, subjecting his homebodies to the bright light and aesthetic scrutiny of the gallery exhibition.
Nora Joung, September 2018