Hennix retrospective exhibition opens Feb. 10 in Amsterdam

Catherine Christer Hennix

Catherine Christer Hennix, ‘C- Algebra w Undecidable Word Problem,’ 1975-1991, acrylic paint on canvas, 195 x 270.5 x 5.5 cm. Stedelijk Museum image

AMSTERDAM – The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam will present “Catherine Christer Hennix: Traversée du Fantasme,” the first institutional solo exhibition in over 40 years of the Swedish composer, philosopher, poet, mathematician and visual artist Catherine Christer Hennix.

This retrospective exhibition collects Hennix’s visual work, including a series of paintings, wall drawings and sculptures. The exhibition is set across two rooms, loosely configured in the form of an analyst’s office and waiting room.

While Hennix is most well-known as a composer for her sound environments, she has also maintained a practice as a visual artist, drawing on a wide range of references touching on logic, intuitive mathematics, modal music and psychoanalysis. Her work plays with the transmission of meaning through the use of a highly formalized and at times inscrutable personal language.

For this exhibition, Hennix reconfigures her past works in light of today’s discussions around gender nonconformity. The public restroom, which are most often divided into binary male or female gender designations, has become an unlikely, almost absurd focus point in discussions about gender and trans rights.

Traversée du Fantasme looks back at a partially realized body of work that was first initiated with her partner Lena Tuzzolino in the 1990s. Together they attempted to create a series of performances and installations based on each of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s seminars. The exhibition takes its starting point from a suite of paintings Hennix created for the 1991 group show at Museum Fodor, “Parler Femme,” in which Hennix recast four-color and black and white painted math equations inspired by Lacan’s infamous formalization of sexual difference.

In the 1960s and ’70s, sound art pioneer Catherine Christer Hennix frequently worked with the American anti-art philosopher, composer and violinist Henry Flynt. Hennix also found inspiration in Japanese Gagaku music and the early vocal music of late-Middle Ages composers Perotinus and Leoninus. Hennix is professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. In 2000, she was given the Centenary Prize Fellow Award by the Clay Mathematics Institute for her collaboration with the Russian-American poet and mathematician Alexander Esenin-Volpin.

On Feb. 16 and 17, Blue(s) in Green to the 31 Limit, a new work by Catherine Christer Hennix, will premiere with two performances as part of the Sonic Acts Academy at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Teijin Auditorium. This new work, performed with Benjamin Duboc, Rozemarie Heggen, Hilary Jeffery and Marcus Pal, elaborates on concepts of space—specifically attempting to halt our experience of space-based phenomena—and continues the musician’s ongoing experiments in micro-tonality, just intonation and the space of sound.

In 2017 the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Sonic Acts initiated a long-term research trajectory dedicated to the lesser-known pioneers of sound art. The first stage of this collaboration activated the archives of American composer and sound artist Maryanne Amacher (1938-2009). The performance Blue(s) in Green to the 31 Limit and the exhibition Catherine “Christer Hennix: Traversée du Fantasme” are organised by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in collaboration with Sonic Acts as part of their collaborative mission to diversify the canon of sound art.