Dianne Hagen’s works have no titles. They are rightly named after the materials or parts they are composed of, because these works are not sculptures nor objects manufactured from raw material or made with a purpose or a function that would give them unity or clarity. They do not get round to the unity of a name and the clarity of language. Since they have no name, they can not fit in a whole either: the works do not look for contact with their “environment” or the world, nor with each other. The works cannot be “installed”. One can only look for a place where they can be alone in order to exist in their own space. Neither are Hagen’s works constructions or structures. One can not “formalize” the logic with which they were made. The work is not organised or supported by geometrical forms or by numbers, there is no structure which is filled and which gives the parts a necessary place and stability. No abstraction, symmetry, opposition, equilibrium.... Hagen’s works are compositions which, since they give no evidence of an underlying geometry and do not visualize a concept, appear to be amorphous and fragile and not justified.
What precedes language here, from this side, is an elementary corporality. Not of the body which reflects and basks itself in the longing of the other and already knows what it is and what it wants: a story, meaning. Not the body of desire, which is already “man” or “woman” and is involved in a social play of wanting and asking, display and seduction, give and take. But the body before it becomes image: the corporality of the earliest sensations, of the transitional feeling of the region of the mouth, for instance. That mixture of touch and taste, of the pressure of lips and the weight of cheeks, of the softness and smoothness or semi-roughness of lips and tongue and the hardness of palate and teeth, wet and dry, warm and cold, open and closed. In this sensations, language has not yet run its course - ‘the mouth? cherry, fruit, kiss, bite, cry, word.....”. Here, the body is still a turbid mixture. Hagen’s works are like models of this bodily sensations. They are made of “passive” materials, supple and flexible, solidified, hairy, impressionable, combined with hard, cutting, hurting materials. Hooks, angles, holes, shards, threads becomes parts of a “thing” that no longer has an overall shape. The connections that have been made are always contemporary, never decisive or definitive: hanging and sagging, touching, pricking, bursting, bulging, covering, intertwining, showing through. Each of these materials, formal elements and connections evokes primitive associations, constituting a whole that is experienced and felt rather than seen and understood. When, in her recent work, sound or blinking light - and therefore time- is added too, the work becomes more difficult to photograph.
Naturally, and spontaneously, the works also evokes ideas. But even though the decision to make works of this kind betrays a great awareness of what art is today and of the purposes art may serve, and even though one may, on a second level, read messages in it touching, for instance, on the relationship between art and “indecisiveness”, or between “process” and “work”, still the works do not refer to current issues or to the history of art. One can perhaps find examples in the history of modern art, such as the Coin de chasteté of Duchamp. The works themselves do not refer “culturally” however, but rather remind one of places where one is usually alone.
In front of the mirror, for instance. Not in front of the mirror of vanity, in which one already sees oneself or wants to see oneself in the way the desiring others must do later on, but the mirror in which one suddenly sees one’s own bodily mixture before it is ready to be seen there, outside, with the uncomfortable objectivity of a thing or an image. The mirror, a bathroom, a corner for preparing oneself, where a body is sadly alone with itself. Thus for instance, Hagen hangs a small mirror on a wall, burst open, so that those who look into the frame of shards see themselves in fragments or see nothing at all, with in the middle a solidified beige substance which appears to have been pulled forward through the mirror image by two finger-holds. In another work, a cheap tiolet or shaving mirror is hung at breast level which means that one looks into the mirror from above and into a series of plastic pages, colour copies with an indefinite shape - a hole ? - pealing and flaking of the mirror, barely kept together by some wire: the dissected mirror image is blurred and opaque. Or an early, almost monumental work: a corner composed of two narrow strips of mirror glass in the corner recess. In the corner were a giant spider would make it’s web, a plastic mesh hangs from the wall with a bag filled with pale, undefined substance. Dirt always ends up in a fold or in a corner. Two hooks of a washbasin between which an organic form, pierced with needles - like the palm of a hand, an armpit, a shell - is stretched by threads and thus given the place of the drain or hole through which dirt is drained off and where it always gets stuck. Pain, spell, cure... Hagen’s work grows slowly. Each image is totally developed and complete: a possibility that is totally accomplished and therefore exhausted in one image. Because of the very nature of the work, there is no room for trails or sketches, nor for series or “families” of works. The oeuvre is therefore necessarily limited: up till today, some twenty works or prototypes. The oeuvre is very coherent and homogeneous, but at the same time, it is very diverse. Every image is nearly entirely new. Seen from without, it is hard to make out how one work might lead to another, or how one work would be the continuation of another. But Hagen’s work is very aware of what it wants and is therefore, in a certain sense, always about the same. Yet at the same time, it never says the same thing twice.
From ‘Groene Pasen’ by Bart Verschaffel.