The Animals or a dialogue between mother and son

Once upon a time, when the streets were silent and shops stood empty, a mother started noticing recurring shapes emerging in her son's drawings: colorful elongated ovoidal silhouettes floating effortlessly on white pages. Were these enigmatic species of an abstract bestiary? Perhaps mesmerizing shimmering jewels or sheltering cocoons? Or were these some kind of carnivalesque adornment, evocative vestiges of an extraverted past?

The persistent silhouettes started to detach from the surface of the paper, slowly gaining volume, coming to life in their newfound habitat. In their three-dimensional form, they were composed of a patchwork of medical gauze sewn together and hand-dyed in a similar palette to their graphic counterparts. As playful as they were, there was something mysterious and uneasy about them. Their fragmented skin made of juxtaposed geometric portions of translucent fabric formed a tactile grid of organic straightness. Their sharp angles and rigid profiles, surrendered to gravity, betraying the materiality of their own weight. This didn’t deprive them from swaying gracefully, breathing in and out into their edgier folds, insufflating their sagging bodies with gentle and ethereal movements.

Initially, they would linger behind the windows, below the carpet or beneath the bed only to sneak out and find other ways to trigger the child’s attention. As they got used to the humans, they would approach them and even witness their conversations, dragging their metamorphic contours in a bumpy and clumsy walk. Over time, not only they became regular visitors but also the protagonists in a now shared microcosm. The states of emergency and the distress of the collapsing outside world, opened space for this imagined intimacy to unfold in a fictional interspecies cohabitation.

What you see here are the remains of not-so-remote times and of contradictory emotions ranging from playful inventiveness to fear in face of uncertainty. As a gesture of profound care, a mother channeled the surrounding anxiety into strengthening her affective bond and non-verbal communication with her son through communal creation. The result unfolds before your eyes: hanging gauze-skinned beings confronting you with their abstract corporeality while their elusive stop-motion afterlives animate the room. Or is it the unvoluntary dance you are part of by provoking a subtle shiver while walking through these zoomorphic creatures? For it is by breathing in and out mutual existences, that the potential choreographies of resilience, hope and transformation might emerge.


The Animals is a sculptural series made with medical gauze and based on drawings by Maria Kley’s four years old son Rune during the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. In Locomotion, these drawings were partially animated in a stop-motion projection inhabiting the gallery space. The ensemble is completed by the diptych Inhale, Exhale also composed with medical gauze and reminiscent of the conventional mouth masks so characteristic of the pandemic.

Olivia Ardui

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