September 24 2021—January 16, 2022

Cooper & Gorfer

Between These Folded Walls, Utopia

Are we living in a loss of Utopia? And if so, who’s Utopia is it that we have lost? Struck by the political turmoil facing the world and the waves of immigrants and refugees resettling in Europe, the artist duo Cooper & Gorfer focus their lens on a group of young women whose lives have been influenced by forced migration, and what it means to uproot their sense of self. Using their continued mastery of identity narratives, the artists imagine a utopian theatre starring this new diaspora, where they explore the idea of Utopia, how it is envisioned, and who is allowed to join.


This exhibition is closing on Sunday, January 16th, 9 PM. Other ongoing exhibitions are open until 11 PM as usual on this day.

Sarah Cooper, from Pittsburgh, USA and Nina Gorfer, from Vienna, Austria, are based in Sweden and have drawn international acclaim for their visually rich reflections on women and their stories. In this series of monumental portraits, Cooper & Gorfer explore the lives of first and second-generation migrants who have made Sweden their home. Untangling the layers and symbols of each woman’s sense of self, of homeland and of projected future, the duo has built a lush labyrinth of utopian visions. The women portrayed are from Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and Somalia, amongst others. Some are balancing their family’s trauma with their Swedish identity; others are struggling with the loss of their homeland and the expansive possibility of their new lives. Their narratives are woven realities from many disparate parts. Cooper & Gorfer articulates this with their use of surreal mazes and trompe l’oeil of walls, gardens and surfaces. The world they build combines elements of gardens and classicism European architecture like the Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana in Rome and textiles from museum collections such as the Victoria & Albert in London, to small personal items from the women portrayed.

The resulting series carves out a space for a traditionally marginalized group. The women photographed are revealing their projected future selves in elaborate tableaux. By reclaiming Utopia for this group of women, Cooper & Gorfer challenge the concept of the philosophical and historical Utopias of the past. The use of highly saturated color and augmented landscapes gives the work its hyper-real power and invites both the subject and the viewer to experience the transcendental. The exhibition is a visual dance between abstraction, philosophy and figuration, connecting us both with ourselves and each other.

Sarah Cooper (b.1974, US) and Nina Gorfer (b.1979, Austria) have been collaborating since 2006 and are based in Sweden. Their work has been shown at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, NOMA New Orleans Museum of Art, Nuuk Art Museum in Greenland, and Fotografiska New York among others. In 2018, Cooper & Gorfer won the prestigious German Photo Book award for their monograph I Know Not These My Hands.

We questioned what cultural symbols and artefacts are we measuring ourselves against, and how do they influence our time and identity

A lot of our work deals with the idea of empowerment,’ says Sarah Cooper. We like women to be Amazonian, where it feels like they could crush you with their gaze.

There is something very powerful about this exhibition returning home to Sweden and the women who inspired the work being reunited with their own image,’ says Cooper. Their stories seem to have even more relevance in the face of the current political and humanitarian challenges of today, says Nina Gorfer.

© Segal And The Tiger, 2018
© Yellow Roseline, 2020
© Israa With Yellow Boxes, 2020