If one takes the works in Simon Dybbroe Møller’s first exhibition in Italy, ‘Not Nature Near’, at face value, it is possible to identify correspondences that would otherwise be obscured by the systems of reference established by their titles and explanations. The five sculptural works are split between the gallery’s two spaces: two in each, with a fifth announcing the show in a display window next to the entrance. Waiting for Different Times (all works 2008) consists of plinths piled up in no apparent order in the window, like a huge bubblegum vending machine. This sense of disproportion is repeated with Mass, Weight and Volume (Fallen into Place), a kind of gigantic pick-a-stick game made of metal tubes, alongside which Economy, a book without a cover, truncated just below the word ‘Economy’ on the imprint page of the first chapter and hung by its ribbon page-marker, almost disappears. There is also a group of plinths with supports mounted on them (13 Problems) and a curtain that covers part of the large window onto the courtyard: Curtain for Louisiana (No More Moore).
What the works have in common is the way they explicitly address their character as sculptures, focusing on mass and gravity. We see hangings, arrangements of parts and set-ups. However, each work is clearly intended to be viewed from one specific angle. Rather than proposing a spatial experience, each appears instead as a three-dimensional picture. This may seem like rather a bold claim, considering, for example, the lengths Møller went to in having Mass, Weight and Volume made out of Corten steel tubes; the sheer mass of the individual sticks means they actually constitute a real danger. But just as the contents of the display window can only be viewed from one side, so Mass, Weight and Volume fully occupies the depth of the space, keeping the viewer at a distance. There is a reference implied to Richard Serra’s ‘propped’ works in steel, which are familiar to most viewers from pictures in catalogues; Møller’s work seems to be a three-dimensional presentation that is already imagining itself as an illustration.
The works emphasize their own construction. The rods of Mass, Weight and Volume, for instance, are discreetly fixed to the walls in ‘unnatural’ positions, and the Curtain for Louisiana (No More Moore) is inscribed with densely hatched red biro strokes, obscuring the view out of the gallery windows: a reference to the window-front of the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, which opens up towards a view of Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure No. 5 (Seagram) (1963–4), placed in its sculpture garden. A question arises as to the appropriateness of the means used. Would it not have been clear enough to have, say, over-scribbled a photograph of the Moore sculpture, rather than go to the lengths of an entire large curtain? Those works which point to possibilities, such as Waiting for Different Times, or which raise questions without offering ready explanation, such as 13 Problems, take us further. These are reconstructions of empty plinths and supports that Møller once saw in a museum after the works themselves had been removed. Although they are identifiable as plinths, they develop a strong identity of their own in the absence of any knowledge about the missing objects that sat on them. Rather than pointing to something that is absent (as with earlier work by Møller that heavily references, for instance, Sol LeWitt, August Strindberg and ‘rational mysticism’), they focus attention on themselves. Even if, as the exhibition title ‘Not Nature Near’ suggests, we are in the world of art, making references to its history is inevitable, for these objects the referential has become second nature and thus not quite so pronounced, allowing them to take on a life of their own.