Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Monday, June 19, 2017
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Sonja Thomsen: in the space of elsewhere

Sonja Thomsen: in the space of elsewhere

On view June 17—November 11, 2017


MADISON, WI— The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) announces Sonja Thomsen: in the space of elsewhere, a site-specific installation that spans the length of the lobby and ascends the full height of the museum’s iconic windows.

Artist Sonja Thomsen brings her photographic way of seeing to this commissioned, multistory installation. Mobilizing the properties of light and time, she has created an immersive environment that plays with the way light and shadow interact with the museum’s bold triangular architecture. This project emerged out of a desire to amplify MMoCA’s unique structural features, particularly the soaring glass icon, and as a way to explore public space, transverse the interior and exterior, and energize the museum’s relationship to the surrounding community and its visitors.

Thomsen’s thoughtful placement of large-scale photographic murals, mirrored and faceted objects, and sculptural elements direct and scatter beams of light across the lobby walls, floors, and surfaces. This work delicately interrupts views of the building’s interior and transforms visitor’s encounters with the space itself. At the same time, materials reflect light out to the street, playing with notions of transparency and threshold, while also drawing people into the museum to experience the wondrous potential of light. The rhythm, movement, and reflections of light within the tangible space of the museum encourage an awareness of the intangible space of observation, a space where people can engage in the act of seeing and the state of being. In reference to her artistic practice, the artist explains that her interest lies in “creating spaces that highlight the inaccessible. There should always be a place for wonder; it is a direct line to new knowledge.”

In the space of elsewhere is accompanied by a limited-edition artist book that is available for purchase in the Museum Store. The creation of books informs the way Thomsen constructs an installation and helps the artist develop the vocabulary she uses to direct movement in the space. Just as Thomsen’s installation enlists undulating magnitudes of scale and time, so too does her thee-part publication, which, like the folding of a map, contracts inward and then expands out and away.



In conjunction with the installation, a number of interdisciplinary programs will take place, both at the museum and off-site, to explore the space of collaboration and knowledge sharing.


Reveal Event

Saturday, June 24

MMoCA Lobby: 3–6 pm

Beginning at 3 pm, guests are invited to join Thomsen in MMoCA’s Lobby to experience her awe-inspiring installation. At 4 pm the artist and a multidisciplinary panel will discuss the role of wonder in the creative process. In addition to being among the first to view the installation, guests to this event can also enjoy a poetry reading by Rita Mae, music by DJ Frozen Horse, cold beverages from Brenner Brewing, and an Edible Experience presented by VEA featuring Chef John Churan.

Admission to this event is free.


ART+ Mass

Monday, August 21

MMoCA Lobby and Lecture Hall: 5:30 pm

In conjunction with Forward Fest, MMoCA will present ART+ Mass with Sonja Thomsen and physicist Wesley Smith. This event will offer a dialogue on art as a lens and tool for exploring and documenting new discoveries in particle physics.

ART+ Mass is free for MMoCA members, employees of member businesses, and Forward Pass holders; $10 for the general public. Register online at

 ART+ Mass is generously sponsored by Perkins Coie LLP.


Talk and Workshop: Artist Books

Saturday, September 16

Arts + Literature Laboratory: 2 pm

As part of the Arts + Literature Laboratory’s creative workshop series, Sonja Thomsen will discuss the role of bookmaking in her installation practice. She will also offer critiques to any participants who wish to share work with the group.

ALL’s workshops are low-cost and intended for individuals at all levels. See the ALL website for more information.


Artist Talk

Friday, October 13

MMoCA Lobby: 6:30 pm

Sonja Thomsen will discuss the conceptual framework and material process for in the space of elsewhere, her site-responsive installation on view in MMoCA’s Lobby.

Admission to this event is free.


Kids’ Art Adventure

Sunday, November 5

MMoCA Lobby and Education Classroom: 1–2:30 pm

Artist Sonja Thomsen will discuss her interest in “wonder” and lead an art experience based on the forms and materials used in her installation. Kids’ Art Adventures invite children ages 6 to 10 and their adult companions to explore artist’s ideas and processes. Organized in conjunction with the Wisconsin Science Festival.

Admission to this event is free. Pre-registration is required and will open late summer on


Gallery Talk: Professor Karen Schloss

Early November (date and time forthcoming)

MMoCA Lobby

In conjunction with the Wisconsin Science Festival, professor Karen Schloss will discuss her scientific investigations into sensory perception of color, shape, and motion and relate her work to Thomsen’s artistic practice. 

Admission to this event is free. Date and time to be announced on MMoCA’s website.


Dance Performance Series: Maria Gillespie

A series of site-responsive dance performances by choreographer and performer Maria Gillespie will take throughout the duration of the installation. Much of Gillespie’s work focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration and improvisation, and her performances at MMoCA will activate, complement, and be in reciprocal conversation with in the space of elsewhere.

Dates and times to be announced on MMoCA’s website.



Sonja Thomsen is a Milwaukee-based artist whose multifaceted practice combines photography, sculpture, interactive installation and site-specific public art to create spaces reflective of our own perceptions.  Since earning an MFA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute (2004), she has exhibited with Higher Pictures, DePaul Art Museum, Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Gallery f5,6 in Munich among others. Her work will be included in the upcoming exhibition at Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin, titled New Bauhaus Chicago: Experimental Photography

Thomsen's work resides in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, Reykjavík Museum of Photography, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Accolades include the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists, Milwaukee Arts Board New Work Commission, Digital Artist in Residence at Columbia College Chicago and a Hermitage Artist Fellowship.

Sonja Thomsen is a member of the international photography collective Piece of Cake and co-director of The Pitch Project. Thomsen is a Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.



Funding for Sonja Thomsen: in the space of elsewhere has been generously provided by The Steinhauer Charitable Trust.


Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays. 

Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli-designed building on State Street, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art offers exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The four galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The award-winning Museum Store offers contemporary American craft and fine jewelry, while Fresco, the museum’s rooftop restaurant, features local, seasonal ingredients in fine American cuisine.

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