A mirrored installation by Siba Sahabi allows us to look out, and see our loneliness reflected
The loneliness many of us have felt this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak is not easily put into words. Could it be put into form? This question moved German-Iranian artist Siba Sahabi to create a monumental outdoor installation, currently on show in Utrecht.
Monáx, after the Ancient Greek term for alone, takes the form of larger-than-life windows. The site-specific work, commissioned by the Utrecht urban laboratory and art collective RAUM, is part of Living Apart Together, an exhibition developed during the first Dutch coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.
If the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have provided anything, it is the opportunity to reflect; and to focus on a human state that, while already commonplace, came to the forefront these past months: feeling lonely. In this context, Sahabi began a broad research into the state of loneliness, particularly its depictions in the spheres of art, literature and film. It soon struck her, how rarely loneliness was depicted in comparison to, for instance, love or death – while surely just as acutely familiar in human experience.
The result of Sahabi’s research – and part of it – is a monumental sculpture, which measures 2,5 meters in height and comprises an audiovisual installation. The physical part consists of three geometric elements that allow viewers to take a seat; their mirrored exterior contrasting with the interior’s wood finish. ‘I chose to finish the sculptures with mirrors to stimulate an interaction between the visitors and the sculpture,’ the artist explains. ‘Furthermore, I wanted to reflect, literally, on a rather invisible issue of our society. Loneliness is a theme we don’t feel comfortable talking about. And indeed, it is a complex theme. Fortunately, one of the positive outcomes of the current pandemic is, that the problem of loneliness in our society has become the focus of more attention.’
The windows symbolise our longing for contact: we look out of our windows, when we are curious about what is going on outside our own four walls. The sculptures also function as benches, and when visitors take a seat there, they will hear voices recounting personal stories about loneliness. To this end, an entire podcast series also titled Monáx was created by Chris Rijksen. The podcast includes the experiences of people who have had ‘practice’ with loneliness, such as a psychologist, a nun, an explorer and a philosopher.
Exhibition Living Apart Together
until 7 March, 2021
Photography: MWA Hart Nibbrig