Nordin Gallery Exhibition No 19 | 2010
Carla Åhlander, Gernot Wieland, Sofia Hultén, Ivan Seal, Stas Shuripa Gradual Change! 4 November — 16 December
Carla Åhlander, Gernot Wieland, Sofia Hultén, Ivan Seal, Stas Shuripa Gradual Change! Nordin Gallery Exhibition No 19 | 2010 Curator Lars-Erik Hjertström-Lappalainen
It is with great enthusiasm that Nordin Gallery is presenting the group show Gradual Change! It is an exhibition dealing with politics, including five artists from Sweden, Austria, England and Russia. Unlike many other political exhibitions, this one does not focus on the current political situation in our society, and it does not propose an alternative in terms of communities or utopias. Instead, it focuses on the missing link between a present political desire for a different society, and a way of thinking this desire and its object. The situation is thus this: we are incapable of thinking our desire, incapable even of believing in the possibility of a utopical thought, and equally incapable of being satisfied with mere communities. So our political desire is never discharged in a political thinking or action. Without exception, the works at show treats this gap between desire and thinking with a sense humour – humour might very well itself be a first step towards bridging the gap. But for the moment, we are stuck with our political desire, revolutionary as it may be, unable to give another expression than the cry for Gradual Change! The show is curated by Lars-Erik HjertströmLappalainen, an art critic, translator and a lecturer in art and philosophy. Carla Åhlander (Lund, Sweden, 1966) is living and working in Berlin. She has recently participated in Police the Police, Biennial for Young Art i in Bucharest; Time is what keeps the light from reaching us, Liverpool Biennial; Derridas Katze at Kunstraum Kreuzberg in Berlin and Immortality at TENT - Center for visual arts in Rotterdam. In 2008, she did the solo show Terrain at Galerie Andreas Huber in Vienna. Sofia Hultén (Stockholm, Sweden, 1972) lives in Berlin and is currently participating in Modernautställningen, at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. Among other exhibitions this year, she has done the solo shows Past Particles at Konrad Fischer Galerie, Berlin; Familars, at IKON Gallery in Birmingham and Mutual Annihilation at Kunstlerhas Bremen. Two years ago, Magasin 3 in Stockholm presented the group show Betwixt: Sofia Hultén between Kendell Geers, Gabriel Orozco, Jonathan Monk, Cosima Von Bonin, Paul Chan and Mona Hatoun.
Carla Åhlander b. 1966, Lund, Sweden Sofia Hultén b. 1972, Stockholm, Sweden Ivan Seal b. 1973, Stockport, England Stas Shuripa b. 1971, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia Gernot Wieland b. 1968, Horn, Austria
Ivan Seal (Stockport, England, 1973) is living and working in Berlin. This year he has done the solo exhibition I Learn By Osmosis at CEAAC in Strasbourg, and participated in group shows like Postface, Essays and Observations and Dunce at Krome Gallery, both of them in Berlin. Stas Shuripa (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk,Russia, 1971), living and working in Moscow. Earlier this year he participated in Modernikon, a show curated by Francesco Bonami and Irene Calderoni at Fondazione Sandretto re Rebaudengo in Turin, and Lessons of History at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. He has also done a number of solo shows, like Urban Landscapes at Aidan Gallery in Moscow. Gernot Wieland (Horn, Austria, 1968) lives and works in Berlin. Recently, his works has been on display in Time is what keeps the light from reaching us, Liverpool Biennale; EAST international, Contemporary Art Norwich i Norwich, and in the exhibition Zeigen at Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin. This year, he has also done the solo show You do not leave traces of your presence, just of your acts at Galerie Andreas Huber in Vienna, and numerous performance lectures.
Opposite page, clockwise from top: Carla Åhlander, Stas Shuripa, Sofia Hultén, Gernot Wieland, Ivan Seal, Lars-Erik Hjertström-Lappalainen
01â€“06 Gernot Wieland Portrait of Karl Marx as a young god, 2009 (videostill)
Previous page: Gernot Wieland Karl Marx as a young god, 2009, (drawing)
Above: Gernot Wieland Karl Marx as a young god, 2009 (videostill)
04 01â€“04 Stas Shuripa Arrows, 2009 (paper, fishing threads)
Gradual change! Curated by Lars-Erik Hjertström-Lappalainen Text: Lars-Erik Hjertström-Lappalainen
“The works certainly deal with a desire for a different kind of society – a society, not just a community.” If there is a reason at all to put works of art together in an exhibition, it must be the conviction that it will lead to unpredictable synergistic effects. That is why the task of writing about an exhibition in advance is an awkward one. In the case at hand, the situation is even worse than usual, since I have the impression that I never actually did select the works included in Gradual Change! I never had the idea that I would curate an exhibition; I didn’t approach the artists, or contemporary art, with a question or a topic or an idea. The desire to do so ensued from the experience of these works. So, in a way, the works on display selected themselves and proposed the exhibition to me. With a great sense of humor, they all deal with politics. It was like having an answer without a question. By realizing the exhibition, I hope to find or construct the question. No doubt it all has to do with politics, or with our relation to politics, with politics and its discontents. For at least a decade, voting without holding one’s nose has hardly been feasible. Ten years ago, I attended a philosophical seminar in Paris, where someone told that, for the first time, a Democrat had been elected in one of the southern states in the US. What made people vote for him was the fact that he was dead. So, a dead Democrat was better than their usual choice, a living Republican. I thought this story pretty much captured our political situation. The reason for this discontent with the democratic system certainly has something to do with the general shift from a society for the people to a neoliberal society in which politics is in the hands of the economy, and a speculative economy at that. There is
no real alternative to this within parliamentary politics, no leftwing or conservative politics. All these topics are relevant for the exhibition. But I knew this political situation already before seeing the works, and I got the impression that they suggested something new to me, something unknown. So this is not an exhibition dealing with our political situation on a social level. The works certainly deal with a desire for a different kind of society – a society, not just a community. No, a community will not do. In one of Carla Åhlander’s photographs, People Training Dogs, what we see is the futility of communities compared to the organization of a society. At an eminently political place, a large square made for mass meetings, dog owners have gathered to train their dogs, i.e. teach them to obey. It is a picture of a society abandoned by politics, and of a humanity without a caring society. In the background, we see that the thermometer registers 0°C. The fact that the dog educators are portrayed at such a political location indicates that there still might be a political desire, yet one without a proper object. This is also what comes forth without ambiguity in Sofia Hultén and Ivan Seal’s work, Liberal Protest. We hear typical, political choral speech, shouting: “What do we want? Gradual change! When do we want it? In due course!” The political situation leaves us no room for agitation for political goals, desires, and thought. We can only claim more of the same, or nothing. We’re living the post-political, but not because our political goals (like freedom, justice,
and equality) have been attained, but because they have been abolished. Still, there is this desire for politics, expressed by the shouting and the question & answer form. The problem that really concerns us in this exhibition is not our actual society or political situation, but our incapacity to think in accordance with this political desire. We are simply unable to think what we desire. And we are also unable to discharge this desire in a way of thinking. The rupture between our desires and our thinking: this is the problem. We desire and would like to conceive a different society, the conditions of a fair society to come – but we are unable to even think things could be different. That is why craziness lurks in the work by Hultén and Seal (just as it does in all the works in this exhibition). Hearing their work, I came to think of something Sören Kierkegaard wrote. He tells the story about a man who tried to avoid going to the loony bin by only saying things that everyone agrees on – so he kept repeating the phrase “the earth is round” until he was placed in treatment. This is a craziness that pertains to our very existence today, to our reluctance to admit that society actually could be organized in a completely different way. I believe this might be what this exhibition is about: living with the desire for, but without the capacity to form a notion of, a radically different future, a future that not only is the extension of what is today, only adjusted and corrected, but is really other. So it is not an exhibition about utopia, rather one dealing with the problem of not being able to see how a utopia would be pos-
sible even as a thought. This incapacity surely functions as a blockage of our political desire, but might also, I hope, be the condition of a truly surprising, spontaneous thought or action. The disorientation of our political desire under the present conditions, and the quest for a new way of thinking, is present in the works by Stas Shuripa and Gernot Wieland. Shuripa’s various arrow-works illustrate this thought amply, but also complicate it by a play with shadows, pointing to the fact that this political desire remains unknown as long as we lack a proper way of thinking and constructing its object. His work also draws attention to its own fabrication; one can associate it with the kind of therapeutic work carried out at mental institutions. Shuripa told me that it also “is a way for the artist to keep himself busy, as if in the hope, or like in some ritual that prepares long-awaited but still unimaginable transformation of the world.” In Wieland’s film, there is a similar combination of art, or at least picture-making, and therapeutic work: a group of people, or maybe only one person, draws thousands of portraits of Karl Marx. The work deals more with
the other side of post-politics. Not the neoliberal side, but the one of the new communists claiming anew “the idea of communism”. They avoid utopian thinking, and instead of thinking in relation to the future, they turn to the already present conditions for a different society. So does the man in Wieland’s film, and he finds them everywhere – in every direction pointed out by Shuripa’s arrows. Streets and emotions are Marxists, but so are also crystals and horses. His inability to think the politics he desires comes from the abundance of favorable conditions at hand. And this point of departure in the present conditions leads, not to a thought, but to a hope resembling Martin Heidegger’s, when he said “only a God can save us now”, but here it is Karl Marx who appears as a young god. If we are threatened by a mental disease consisting in desiring what is the case only because that is the way things happen to be right now, i.e. the pure will to obey, maybe we could find a resort in the thought of a new and unknown future, a future that is a creation. Not a fatum or a factum but a creatum.
“What do we want? Gradual change! When do we want it? In due course!”
Above: Ivan Seal Liberals Anonymous, 2010 (drawing)
Above: Carla Åhlander Potential areas for projection, 2010 (digital print)
Previous page: Carla Åhlander People Training Dogs, (Malmö), 2000 (C-print)
Gradual Change! Exhibition Inventory
Carla Åhlander People training dogs, (Mamö), 2000 C-print, 119 x 84 cm Potential areas for projection, 2010 18 digital prints, 34 x 22,5 cm Gernot Wieland Karl Marx as a young god, 2009 Mixed media installation, 1 minute video loop Ivan Seal & Sofia Hultén Liberal protest, 2009 Sound installation Stas Shuripa Arrows, 2009 Installation (paper and fishing threads)
Lars-Erik Hjertström-Lappalainen wishes to thank Annika von Hausswolff
Nordin Gallery Tulegatan 19 SE –113 53 Stockholm Tel +46(0)706 934 528 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nordingallery.com
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Nordin Gallery Exhibition 19 Carla Åhlander, Gernot Wieland, Sofia Hultén, Ivan Seal, Stas Shuripa Gradual Change!