Hannah Toticki Searches for Our Guardian Angels

COPENHAGEN — Today, it is possible to be spiritual without adhering to a specific religion and to be religious without adhering to a specific political power. Many pockets of modern life have allowed for spiritual practice to be highly individualized. And while this has enabled flexible personal exploration, it also means that we can no longer assume a common ground of belief with the people around us.

For Hannah Toticki: Storage of the Gods at Copenhagen Contemporary, the Danish artist explores this concept with a series of crowns installed in the middle of the space. In “Ruler of Stressed-Out Mornings” (all works 2023), a stoneware crown seems to bleed pink with the heaviness of busy mornings; I wanted to wrap its yarn straps and neon-green buckles around my chin to experience the object on my head. The more prickly “Ruler of Disease” features pointy ends atop a long, slender navy green crown, while the “Ruler of the Income Gap” is a yellow glazed crown with Swiss cheese-like holes that make these gaps literal.

As the exhibition text notes, “Over the ages, rulers the world over have legitimized their power by association with divine forces.” These crowns serve as a reminder of how little control we have, whether it’s around our physical health, our financial security, or something as simple as our morning routines. The fact that they’re made of stone adds to their tongue-in-cheek quality: these crowns aren’t created for wearing.

At the exhibition entrance lies a series of clay human figurines, painted and resting like little green army men in large bags of earth. The series is called Storage of the Gods. Some lie prone, some supine, and others are curled up or stretched in their repose. We’re not supposed to touch them, but I wanted to drop my hands into the earth and feel the ground that held each of them, which reminded me of my many hours spent on the ground in various restorative yogic poses.

The show’s coup de grace is a series of angel wings developed from some 300 testimonials collected by the artist where people requested different types of guardian angels. In “For the Guardian Angel of Fewer Hours at the Office,” pieces of a black office chair hang from a black plywood beam cut to look like wings, making this angel seem almost like an anti-work Batman. In “For the Guardian Angel of the Sleepless Hours,” the angel’s wings consist of fabric eyeballs that are half-closed. Next to it hang the wings of “For the Guardian Angel of Wrinkles,” composed of two cottony, wrinkly ovals that are no doubt friends of those sleepless nights.

I stopped by some of the testimonials collected for the installation, all hand-written in Danish and English. In this secular and uncertain time, they come across like dreams for a more safe and stable world. One person writes, “I worship my guardian angel when I need a clear mind and energy. She comes to me in times of hard [decisions] and [is] there through my toughest [battles], by my side …. She is a part of me, always, and I worship her dearly. She has angel wings, a helmet, a long white robe and a spear.”

Hannah Toticki: Storage of the Gods continues at Copenhagen Contemporary (Refshalevej 173A, Copenhagen, Denmark) through April 1. The show was organized by Senior Curator Janna Lund.

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