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Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken opens exhibition at Wiels Contemporary art centre in Brussels
Installation view of Matias Faldbakken, PORTRAIT PORTRAIT OF OF A A GENERATION GENERATION,
Office for Contemporary Art Norway, 29 March–23 June 2012. Photo: OCA/Vegard Kleven.

By: Marta Kuzma

BRUSSELS.- This solo exhibition reflects Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken’s ongoing interest in transforming the existing languages of form that emerge from particular periods in modernism. For this unusual project, Faldbakken has sourced iconic Norwegian sculptures of the 20th century to carry out condoned acts of vandalism, destructuring the works of renowed artists Arnold Haukeland and Gustav Vigeland - who’s works veer towards aerodynamic abstraction or minimalistic utopia - as examples of a modernist commit- ment to universal signs. By filling up these forms with new content - wodka - Faldbakken is working through his former processes around bureaucratic vandalism, he’s altering the original material in order to arrive at new meaning. At every level of his practice as artist and writer, Faldbakken displaces and reconfigures cultural signifiers in order to create a field of agitated idleness. He imposes a turbulence on the original sequences of reading and interpretation, thus underscoring the eradication of cause and effect by heightening the symptoms of an alienated and self-obsessed society.

Matias Faldbakken (b.1973, Hobro, Denmark, lives and works in Oslo, Norway) has exhibited widely internationally. His recent solo exhibitions include The Power Station, Dallas, TX, USA; Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany; KunsthalleSt. Gallen, Switzerland and The National Museum of Art, Design and Architecture, Norway. He participated in the Nordic Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy in 2005. As an author, his publications include Search (2011),Unfun (2008), Snort Stories (2006), Cold Product (2006), Macht und Rebel (2002), The Cocka Hola Company (2001). Faldbakken received his education from the Academy of Fine Arts, Bergen, Norway and Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

“Writing is the greatest violence as it transgresses the law, every law and also its own,” wrote Maurice Blanchot about the violence inherent to writing as a procedure in The Infinite Conversation. Reflecting this position, Matias Faldbakken (under the alias Abo Rasul) has completed his Scandinavian Misanthropy trilogy of books (2001–06), which steer the reader outside a linear narrative and against the author’s intention to be “read.” Faldbakken’s writing runs parallel to his artistic practice, wherein he creates a field of signifiers of interruption that point to the eradication of cause and effect in a mechanical, alienated, and onanistic society. In doing so, his works adopt the conceptual patterning of Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897), whereby words are transposed into incoherent image and spatial arrangements that abandon any legibility in order to highlight the spaces between the words, rather the words themselves.

Adopting the vernacular of his generation, Faldbakken situates himself in the perpetual rupture. The Name of a Person That I Want Dead, Written in X’s (2006), for example, through the use of obliterating x’s, evades the naming of the work’s protagonist to situate the gesture toward violence. In another series, Untitled (2006), the mode of suicide is inferred from abstracted images that allude to an untold plot of correlations. For his dOCUMENTA (13) notebook,Faldbakken publishes the results of his primary Google search terms as the effective “tools” of language to build a “notebook” that provides the reader with the voyeuristic experience of delving into the author’s private search practices. The reading of the material is complicated by the fact that the author/artist’s curiosity is steered by a patented search algorithm that analyzes human-generated links to propose the outcome of any one generated listing, rendering Faldbakken’s inquiry as largely constructed.

Faldbakken’s practice as an author-artist affirms the writing of absence in order to illustrate its force toward the anonymous, the distracted, the deferred, and the displaced in a way that brings into question a contemporary society that is affirmative, progressive, and conservative. Just as Marcel Broodthaers transformed Mellarme’s 1897 poetic achieve- ment in Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1969) Faldbakken spatially reconfigures the original sequence to make visible the components of a work of art as artifact. At the same time, Faldbakken updates the Broodthaers trans- position by putting into spatial disarray the components of an existing work to announce a broader, cannily coded discourse not only on loss but also around a permitted vandalism. Faldbakken, with institutional permission, rearranges to set up a field of nothingness and, essentially, of worklessness, perhaps even artlessness.

The title of the project at WIELS draws from A Portrait of a Generation as the title of the Norwegian modernist Arnold Haukeland’s original sculpture from 1969-70, a work originally exhibited within the Venice Biennale. As the artist has done on several occasions earlier, the artist doubled the title as a way of abstracting or obscuring the text by adding more of the same information. According to the artist – “It falls in line with my absenting, editing, censoring aspects and fragments of original sequences, a stuttering of the original meaning. It also reflects my interest in seriality and repetition as a critical and artistic device.Matias Faldbakken produces several works of sculpture by working through his former processes around bureaucratic vandalism – that is by altering the original material in order to arrive at new meaning. Some may refer to this as a deconstruction or desecration but Faldbakken does so with the idea of a seemingly destructive gesture being one of rehabilitation and regeneration of meaning. In referring to Arnold Haukeland’s own words – to fill up forms with new content.

Faldbakken refers to an iconic sculpture that has a personal relation to the artist’s own notion of art history as relevant to his native Norway. In doing so, the artist participates in negotiations for this material in order to proceed and those negotiations are as central to the work as the final work itself. The lenders were in complete understanding as to the final intention of the project and they agreed to participate with that in mind. In this way, the process of negotiations once again fall into the mainframe of the work as was the case with the book project with the Deichmanske Library in Oslo, 2008.

Matias Faldbakken | Wiels Contemporary Art Centre | Brussels |

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