Toll (adj.): the German word for “mad” or “astounding.” Colloquially used to mean
“great” or “fantastic.”
Daiga Grantina’s bold installation, entitled Toll, dominates the floor of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Her sculptures resemble highbrow blanket forts made out of alien plant matter. Licorice-red PVC ribbons dance over the floor.The light streaming through the skylights animates the textures of the materials, which balance precariously on scaffolding while remaining harmoniously grounded within the greater work. Grantina drapes and hangs fabric, plastic, and bulbous foam in ways that feel both organic and entirely unnatural.
Grantina speaks to the linguistic ambiguity at the foundation of her piece: “Toll is a vessel or receiver of a social context that shows how meaning moves inside of it...I imagine the title as a sort of musical scale that all of these planes set as the tone of the show.” Grantina’s art acts as a “vessel” for semantic meaning, gravity, and light. The different pieces of the installation begin to organize themselves as various interpretations of the German slang word, “toll.” The malleability of the term is reflected in the fluidity of shapes within the installation, rendering the Palais a vessel in its own right.
Grantina was born in Latvia but has lived most of her life in Germany and Paris. In Germany, she studied art at a science-focused high school, where she came “into contact with non-categorical pedagogy.” Grantina was one student-teacher generation removed from conceptual titan Joseph Beuys: a German Fluxus artist whose performative installations made a visible impact on Grantina’s practice.
Many of Grantina’s works resemble plant matter, both in materiality and in their form. For Grantina, “plant is medium.” Just as her sculptures utilize screens and moving imagery to express the temporality of film, she draws great inspiration from the natural evolution of plants. She explains, “They reach from almost animal to almost stone, like coral... we can see the invisible world through them. It mediates between the soil and our body as food and air, the invisible world.” These tensions— between autonomy and stasis, hard and soft, growth and gravity—are an integral part of her work. “I find it comparable to the sense of being under water, but slower, and the role of density is heightened, more visible sometimes. This has an effect on perceiving composition. The Toll composition was thought through on multiple planes and from multiple angles,” she remarks.
As part of a collaborative artist association called “Doc,” Daiga is able to experiment within a multitude of planes when it comes to her own practice. “We experiment with how to make a community and invent rules from experience when preexisting models fail,” she explains, when I ask her about Doc. “It sounds slightly utopian and abstract, but in our case, it’s an organization of scale and one’s own desires.” Many art collectives have emerged in opposition to the rigid and often exclusionary structures of fine art institutions. As other creative spaces are brought into being with the rising generation of artists, maybe a space to invent “free from rules” won’t be as far-fetched as a “utopia.” Perhaps artists like Daiga and experimental collectives like Doc are a prelude for the kind of collaborative art spaces we can expect to see on the horizon.
Written by Helen Sibila