The Way Of The Bummer
30 April 2008 - 18 June 2008
“If Eskimos have two hundred ways to say ‘snow’, I have three million ways to say ‘no’”.
Matias Faldbakken’s diverse visual practice is defined by his myriad explorations of negation. Agitating at the nexus between independence and commercialism, his work questions the potential of artistic intervention to disrupt both the capitalist and moral status quo.
Zeroing in on the relationship between violence, negation, entertainment and politics, Faldbakken systematically finds newer, dryer, funnier, cleverer ways to say ‘no’, in the face of the inescapable fact that all attempts to subvert the system will in time inevitably be absorbed by it and regurgitated as a force for cultural or monetary good.
For his first exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery, Faldbakken has devised a series of strategies to create an improbable marriage between a conceptual, open-ended use of language, where things are defined by their negative or inverse, and more colloquial gestures of vandalism and appropriation.
In ‘REMAINDER II’, Faldbakken graffitis a section of tiled wall installed for the purpose. Transforming the tiles into a wall relief or ‘painting’, the tension between vandal and vandalised is heightened. The deliberate illegibility of the ‘tag’ mirrors Faldbakken’s other conduits for suppressing language and legibility, as in ONE SPRAY CAN ESCAPIST, a spray painting where the same word is sprayed over and over again on the wall until the spray can is empty and the word is illegible. In MDF # …, jagged, overlapping lines in aluminium tape on standard-issue sheets of grey MDF resemble letters and imply meaning but that meaning is erased by the composition. With the NEWSPAPER stacks he adopts the format of centralised language and rationality to dive into anarchic excess, the content deliberately skewed and made illegible through multiple scans. More like a mood board for his overarching concept of negativism, the stacks of newspapers also function as a sculptural object. The MISERABLE MAN series shows a group of men randomly selected and scanned from magazines and papers - their orientation is accidental and depends on how they entered the scanner. They are then generalized by being re-cast as ‘miserable’. They become negative portraits that echo the tongue-in-cheek mean streak evident in Faldbakken’s writing. It is the act of scanning that becomes the central feature of the work.
While Faldbakken’s work is often read through the lens of the Situationists, Dada and Punk, his recent work tends towards the negativistic litany of Ad Reinhardt, whose signature black paintings, in combination with his texts, challenged the limits of art production as such. Borrowing Reinhardt’s zero-format 5ft square scale in the DOUBLE COVER XEROX series, Faldbakken takes the covers of DVDs and videogames as source material for obscuring or abstracting the source of the image. The cover, normally a promise of escapism and the tool which commodifies or sells the content of the product, is here Xeroxed twice in an attempt to form the Reinhardtian square – the result is neither a spectacle nor a total negation.
Faldbakken (b. 1973), lives and works in Oslo. He studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Bergen and later at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. His work has been exhibited widely in group exhibitions and biennials including the Wrong Gallery at the Whitney Biennial, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the National Museum Oslo, the Sydney Biennial, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Städtisches Museum in Lenbachhaus, Munich, CAC Vilnius, the Kunst Werke Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin and the ICA London. In 2005, Faldbakken represented Norway at Nordic Pavilion in the 51st Venice Biennale and last autumn had a solo show at Midway Contemporary, Minneapolis entitled ‘I Don’t Think So’. In the summer of 2007, Christoph Keller Editions published a monograph on his work entitled Not Made Visible published by J P Ringier. He also recently completed his literary trilogy ‘Scandinavian Misanthropy’, written under the pseudonym Abo Rasul. Titled The Cocka Hola Company, Macht und Rebel and Unfun, they have developed a cult following in Europe for their satirical exploration of the vicious behaviour of underground societies and the subversive manipulations performed by people within them.