Installation view of Special Affects at Galleri Image, Aarhus (DK), 2022.
HD video and sound (12:00) on three custom-made screens (200cm x 120 cm), LED lights.
Exhibition Text:
Galleri Image has been transformed into a speculative universe, where myths of the past are manipulated into contemporary reality. In Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger's exhibition Special Affects, the Sea People is intertwined with today's technology. It gives us an opportunity to consider the significance of the story of the Sea People in a new language, and to examine the conditions of gender and power within the myth. 
It is no coincidence that the exhibition room is sealed off, coloured and almost foggy. The total installation Special Affects by Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger does not take place in the reality we live in but is not far removed from our own world. Special Affects is an absurd narrative about 3D-animated queer Sea People and a military, who is testing technology on them, presented in a video projected on three screens. The Sea People may not actually exist in this world, but their myth is real and so is the 3D technology in which they are presented. In this perspective the Sea People are not that far from our reality. We can imagine and perceive them, and therefore, we may also contemplate them as a mythical and historical character.  
The story in Special Affects starts in an abandoned beach resort. A strange sound has caused the inhabitants to have amnesia and lose their sense of balance and the place is now in a declared state of emergency. The beach resort is taken over by a group of queer Sea People opposing the local military. The military have been training dolphins as coast guards and wants to test new weapons, exoskeletons, on the Sea People. The narrative is not limited to a single perspective. The artwork requires movement and exploration of the room because the story is being told by three Sea People, each delivering their own monologue in separate acts on different screens. We also have a barrier to the Sea People; we speak a different language and so the video is dubbed to English in order for us to understand it. Unger pushes the figure further from Greek myth and to a historical legend: the Sea People, whom she speculates is a historical parallel to the mermaid myth. The Sea People are peculiar in history; an undocumented seafaring people in the Bronze age (1200-900 B.C.), who are thought to have attacked ancient Egypt possibly caused the collapse of this big civilisation. In Special Affects, the mermaid is encapsulated in the Sea People, becoming queer sea people – a mixture of both myths.  
The connection between them is unclear, as the piece is presented in separated monologues – a kind of testimony told by the figures themselves on different screens. One must actively move with the story and one’s own speculations in accordance with a personal and unstable account. There is no certain knowledge for us to perceive, and it presents and opening for us to speculate even further. The mermaid, like the Sea People, are an elusive legend about destruction by a powerful, mythic, group. In Unger’s work they are also being threatened with the equipment of weaponry, a male coded tool, and are suddenly even more dangerous. Even though, this is a speculation, the content and significance of the myth is being contemplated too. The mermaid may be understood as a dangerous power symbol.
This is not far from today’s societal fears of powerful women. In some way, reality is always lurking behind this strange and foreign universe. When the Sea People of Special Affects are 3D animated and overlaid on a background of shot footage, it is obvious that technology affects our thinking. Today, it is not possible to animate figures in our images and accept their resemblance to our reality, but we are close enough to these images for them to affect our sense of truth. When Unger, in Special Affects, speculates in technology, myths and histories with feminine figures in powerful constellations, the artwork never abandons our beliefs, rules and idiosyncrasies. The myths always disclose something about our reality. This is what Unger manipulates us to perceive with the myth of the Sea People.
Edited press release, text by Emil Valdemar Meyer.
Photographs by Mikkel H. Kaldal.
Installation view of Special Affects at "Cypher", Arcade, Seoul (KR), 2023. Curated by Hyun Jeoung Moon.
HD video and sound (12:00) on three custom-made screens (180cm x 120 cm).
Back to Top