Display Date: 

Mireille Eagan (Curator of Contemporary Art) interviews St. John’s-based artist Malin Enström. Enström’s exhibition “Inversion” is now open on Level 2.5 as part of the Present Tense series. The exhibition runs until January 11th, 2021.

What launched this project?

The whole world is focused on taking their temperature right now. This is why I picked “Inversion” as the title. In a way, the world has turned upside down and we have turned ourselves inside out.  

We all have a hard time wrapping our heads around this pandemic. It’s been months and we are still not fully understanding it. My way of reflecting that is to show the inner — my temperature. Temperature is a way of communicating discomfort, but also awareness. An awareness of my temperature became essential to being in control. It gave my life normalcy, routine. 

How many days did you take your temperature?

I started on March 24th and ended on July 31st. 130 days. I kept pretty steady in terms of temperature. I realized that my body temperature mean was 36.7 degrees Celsius, which means my temperature is normally below the global average of 37.4. I thought I would be much, much warmer.

I transformed the information I collected into data on a daily basis, putting the data into an excel spreadsheet and colour coding it. Data can tell a story when you colour code it because you can see patterns. Numbers tell a story but when you add colour it becomes a visualization of that story. 

When considering the colour scale I could use, I thought it was interesting that the world temperature as a population is rising because of the pandemic. This mirrors increased global warming in our nature. I thought that was, in a way, beautiful. The pandemic has brought about an incredible focus on humanity through events like Black Lives Matter. It has shown us the importance of care and attention to those we normally undervalue or don’t pay attention to. The individual experience is therefore reflected in the global; each of our lives is connected to larger events. 

The project seems like such a simple concept, and a final presentation that many might not consider to be art — collecting data. And yet, it describes complex feelings many of us encounter currently. Why connect the two spaces of data collection and art?

Taking a concrete measurement became a way of being in control in very uncertain times, but it was also the act of creating art that helped. I think a pandemic was, in some ways, easier on creative minds because we are already very comforted in isolation in order to create. But others who may not have creativity as part of their lives as much are still consuming creativity and comforted by it — be it through music or art or shows or books. For me, the pandemic marked the obvious place that art has in our lives. It is a way of sharing our experiences with others, in whatever form it takes.

About Malin Enström:

Malin Enström explores shapes, surfaces, patterns and textures in landscapes and objects, and celebrates their often-unexpected relationships. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, she has also lived in Southern Europe, North Africa and North America. She won the Arts & Letters Award twice (2013 and 2017) and was a finalist for the Emerging Visual Artist Award (2014 VANL-CARFAC Excellence in Visual Arts). Enström was nominated for the YWCA: St. John’s Women of Distinction Award (2016) for her first solo exhibition, One Out of Nine. Her work is found in many private and public collections. She is represented by The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art.

Image: Malin Enström. “Body temperature taken at 6 am from March 24th to April 7th, 2020.” Digital print. Collection of the artist