Reflections on: Copenhagen & art.

We just got back from the alternative Copenhagen art fair. It’s too early to say if we were a smashing hit, but at least some people got smashed so let’s call that a partial win. It’s not always obvious what you take away from a happening like this. You’re supposed to hobnob and get to know others in your field and get invited to co-operating with galleries and such. Etc. Some of us did get invited to other spaces, and Skup Palet is more corporeal now than it was before, which is a good thing.

Because Skup Palet is such a diverse group I guess we all had different ambitions with our presence. I for one wanted to see what this whole art fair business was about — never been to one more than five minutes — and watch performance art or at least talk to performance artists. As therapy, you understand. There was a flesh-and-blood dadaist doing his thing, which was so quaint it went to bad and back to good again. There is little avant-garde left when nonsense poetry is regarded as something “classic.” Goodiepal did a performance in the shape of a lecture, a form I used for my MA and which Olle thinks is awesome; I found it “cool and stuff.”

We represented with Frustration Canon and A Message To Be Found (the latter a project that Olle and I put together) and visitors and other artists seemed to enjoy both. Both were interactive; The former more ambitious and the other taking the shape of the ubiquitous “laptop with a webpage,” where all the relational aesthetics in the world can’t hide the fact that the my Macbook was incidental to the situation. (Much like a movie on slavery needs a person of colour, any colour.)


Frustration Canon is an idea based on something that I threw together some years ago. Ever since I put that thing up, Anna has urged me to do something more with it, to take it a step further as she puts it. Which sounds like a good idea but I have no inkling of what it implies. To me it was only ever about making a webpage where three people bang their heads on a desk. When I envisage “taking it further” I can only imagine variations on a theme, but not all that much new content. More banging, banging on other surfaces, banging in high definition.

It’s flattering when someone likes ones work, and the art fair was an opportunity to make something more of the idea; Anna and Jan took the original concept and ran with it. Together with Pär, who set up the video playback in PD, they attached a contact microphone underneath a table and invited people to bang their foreheads on the red X, a vinyl sticker taped to the surface. There are other details to the setup, but that’s basically it: Invite people to booth, promise them it won’t hurt too much and put them on the big 42″ screen mounted prominently on a wall.

As it turns out, people are quite happy to hit their heads in exchange for a pin and a smile. I don’t reveal it that often, but when I apply myself I can become an intolerably cheerful fucker. With a manic grin, flattery and a kind of friendliness you wouldn’t believe, I raked clients in one after another, all the while most others of our troop looked like undertakers annoyed with the living, doing little to dispel the image of artists as brooding and difficult.

What made Frustration Canon a good choice of work to show as an introduction to Skup Palet is the overly symbolic gesture of literally “banging ones head in frustration” as it applies both to an artistic “struggle” as to working in a group, with all the inherent difficulties of organisation and egos getting trampled. Ten artists pulling together is more often than not an exercise in futility – it’s like herding cats; Angry, philosophical, drunk, cats. It takes a great deal of work to make teamwork work, and if you take away nothing else from the video then perhaps use it as an illustration of your own life as a member of any given collective. Originally, we had talked about letting the “bang” synchronise once every half hour or so, but that was a bit too complicated to pull off at such short notice.

The version below is a more recent edit, with people from Enrico Pallazzo banging their heads, synched to make a melody. I think Robert might have done the edit, I’m not sure. The look and sound of the piece is different from what we presented in Copenhagen, but the individual framing of the shots are more or less the same. In Copenhagen the videos were shown in a 4×4 grid, randomly appearing and occasionally in a different pitch.

My and Olles work, A message to be found, has the shape of a website service; You write a message and then hide it for as long as you like. It’s a delay of a day, a week or tens of years. You can add an image to your message, and are encouraged to tag what you’ve written. If you write a love letter to your boyfriend, you might tag the message “John Doe, love letter, Bombay 2009, honeymoon” and those keywords would end up somewhere on the generated page. The idea being that the search engines (today that means “the Google”) will index the page based on the keywords in lieu of the content – since the content won’t be visible for another n years. Until the message is revealed you only see a countdown timer.

It’s a message to be found but we don’t know by whom or under what circumstances. In five years time pages might be indexed differently. HTML 4 might only be accessible by legacy browsers when the whole Internet moves into the next iteration of Second Life or Facebook or smell-o-vision. The project is based on Flash which looking back hasn’t been the most search-friendly format, although that might resolve itself with time and more computing power thrown on the ambition of a semantic web.

There are similar services, like Future Me which allows you to delay messages, as well as services that send out notices if you don’t ping their server for a while (the service, assuming that you have died, sends out your missives from beyond the grave) but A message to be found differentiates itself by being a delayed public publication. The distinction is small, but it’s an interesting enough experiment and it’ll be fun to see what indexes will pick up the messages, and what messages have been written. Every once in a while Olle checks in on how many messages have been written, and there’s a small but steady stream of them being entered.

As an aside, Radio Lab recently made en episode where some of the above mentioned services come into play. It’s the After Life episode and you could jump to the end of the show if you want to hear that segment, or listen from the start to an excellent hour of excellence.


Well hung

Yes, well hung indeed. The gaps between the four prints is visable, but since they align quite well, it doesn’t bother much. What I ment to write is it doesn’t bother me much, but that goes without saying. The first fucker to ask me the symbolism of the cross-pattern the prints make will get a blank stare though.

I managed to surprise myself with how the finished work actually resembles the photoshopped dummy I made a couple of days ago.

Show opens Friday.


I tried to distill the motivation I have for The Boy with Half a Pinky, and arrived at these three paragraphs:

A project to measure the load-carrying capacity of text, an attempt at outright lying without speaking falsely and an illustration of automatic, biological narrative.

How far can one stretch the imagination to accomodate for ones beliefs in the face of contradictory (or inconclusive) evidence, and what is the quality of succesful propaganda (both the quality of the propaganda and the quality of our reaction to it, as well as the mechanisms that bridge the gap between what is presented and our internalisation of a message)?

Where exactly are you lost in the transition between presupposed understanding (unselfreflecting knowledge) and the rest of the world?

The galleries webpage is located here, where you’ll find more info about the exhibition.

Work in progress…

I’m working along the lines of the title The Boy with Half a Pinky and this photoshop is one way to pull it off.

Here’s the idea, as it is:

* The boy with half a pinky is an image of a young man sitting and smoking and looking slightly miserable. It’s blurry, except for the hand that holds the cigarette & which doesn’t miss any digits. Looking at the other hand you can’t really tell, because of the angle.

* What would be the point of this?

* This might look like an excercise in stearing the viewer, but it’s such an obvious point to make. Look, if I tell you that an image is about one thing, you’re gonna interpret or at least look at the image in relationship to what I’ve told you. And if I lead you on by saying something that either is

1) not verifiable
2) not verifiable & an outright lie

You’re not going to get anything true out of looking at the image, and it might actually make your perception of the image, and thereby your grasp on reality, slightly more false than you’d like. Of course, we’re constantly reminded of that others lie to us, or are otherwise not in a position to communicate anything un-false to us (how few and far between are the experiences of understanding, anyway?) and maybe we’re aware of this well enough.

* Basically, the above line of reasoning could lead one to believe that I’m just taking a piss and want to annoy any viewer, while at the same time creating an argument based on the falsehood of images and making a Descartian demon out of myself; An imbecile sitting by the roadside giving false directions to passersby, chuckling under my breath.

Ugh. But maybe that’s good enough? Or maybe good isn’t the right word to use. Maybe it’s plausable enough? The good part might come in if someone gets anything from looking at this while it’s hanging in a gallery, eat a breadstick and between munches says “uhm, this was nice. I’d say it’s even good.” That’s where the good part comes in?

I can’t seem to stear clear of the obvious trap here – I tend to treat what I’m doing as riddles that I have to reverse-engineer in order to figure out the true meaning of. Darn it. Darn it to heck.

One way to make clear that this image doesn’t matter in the slightest is this:

The second image is a heavily rasterised version of the one on the left. You can’t really make out any details unless you back a few steps away. Both images are made up of smaller parts – they’re stapled to the wall, taped with duct tape on the back, i.e. not being cared for very much.

There’s something fun about putting so many hours into a work that you finally decide to staple the shit out of. This might actually come as close to release as I’ll get on this side of legalised prostitution.

* Just had a smoke break with Mark, and he asked me the unwelcomed question I don’t see what you’re getting at, especially with the rasterised image.


So, what we end up with are a bunch of negative descriptions; Things that i’d like to point out that are wrong, but without offering an exit or a way out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since I just need to offer a way in, but, well, anyway. Nevermind. I’ll just prep the image for printing (it’s gonna come out on four sheets) and go home and eat soup.

Soup is good for you,
Soup is good for me,
and when you eat soup together
the company is free.

My camera makes people hate me, then they run away, then they cry.

Well, no. Not really.

Loop anything and it’ll look funny. The only solution is to never ever under any circumstances get caught on audio or video tape.

Interesting concert on saturday. Experimental electronica. It was so pretentious and with such a lack of thought (except the thought “if I look very goth and light some candles, it’ll all work out”) that I found myself listening with closed eyes. Then it was sort of okey half the time.

Kriget ended the show, and they’re nice.

Today is Monday, bloody Monday. The show at 300m3 opens at Friday, I haven’t finished the images, my mum comes by to celebrate her 50th birthday on Thursday, so I need to be finished before then, and jolly crap my last-minute ideas (I’ll leave a jar of peanutbutter on a plinth and call it “revenge of the Sith”) seem better and better in the shoddy light emanating from caffeine-fueled braincells shining out through my manic eyes.

Post exhibition traumatic syndrome

Yesterday, in spite of the hang-over, I could actually be seen whistling and even humming to myself. Not often that happens; I’m in a sweet spot – I’m not totally broke, I finished my two week stint at the store, the exhibition came together “well” (by “well” I mean “it’s over and no-one has hit me in the face”) and the allergies & accompanying asthma have left me for now.

Here’s the video I’m showing at monumental, followed by the text from the exhibition catalogue.

“The uncontested order of things: A slideshow curated by Google image search.” 2006

More a proof of concept than a finished work, The uncontested order of things was created by following a set of predefined rules applied to google image search.

The search query consisted of each letter of the Swedish alphabet (A-Z + Å, Ä, Ö), and the first forty resulting images were downloaded. Duplicate images were not downloaded, nor were gif animations, although they retained their position in the “top forty”, resulting in some queries resulting in less than forty downloaded images.
One random image per queried letter was then put into a slideshow in the order of the alphabet, and the resulting movie was adapted for the 90-second screen time.

The motivation for this process, of which the resulting slideshow is but one possible combination (let alone one possible way to present the combinations) is:
1) To see how many apparently random images we can fit into a narrative, and
2) Given the omnipresence of Google, how easily received/understood/accepted the images are when
3) A qualitative analysis of the images (and search results in general) shows an (apparently) unproportional US/EU presence, which in turn should
4) Kick us in the nuts for too easily accepting the perceived “freedom of the Internet”, and not reflecting enough on what our online behavior tells of ourselves, but also what actual and very manifest power we are supporting by our actions.

And of course, since Mark actually beat me in ping-pong this afternoon, T don’t command respenct around here anymore, and am thus reduced to making comments in poor taste about people who are dead:

The pretty pictures of the past days

Our Apropos 90 show opened yesterday, so now we only have another show at gallery 300m3 to worry about in two weeks time. The catalogue for the Valand spring show is here: [2MB pdf link]

The ones finishing their MA this year showed at Konsthallen, but even though I made my best effort imbibing, nothing much was exciting (mind you, I rarely find anything exciting, so this is more of a rule than an exception), although some of the stuff shown by the un-masters was quite nice. (Problem is that as long as we’re in an institution, there’s a feeling of school assignment creeping in. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the work, but rather that we’re showing at the university with other people who are our class-mates)

The rest of the evening followed a by now familiar pattern of fine drink, fine people and some fine ping-pong.

And it’s always rewarding to look twice at images. For example, I hadn’t realised that the terminator was at the same party as I, standing behind me.