How to Explain Art to a Civil Servant

-“Why are you speaking English with me, we are in Germany!”

The police officer at the reception yells at me. I make a poor attempt to smoothen things out, mumbling:

-“I’m fluent in Swedish…and I consider this the highest contribution one can make to the Germanic culture…”

This has no effect, and instead I’m ordered to sit down and wait for someone to handle my “case”.

The case? After a long day zig-zagin between artworks/artcrowd in Karlsaue park in Kassel during Documenta press days, and I had stopped for a five min coffee break when the thief ceased the moment and disappeared with my online/city rental-bike. Two phone calls later, some confusion and hardships with an outdated Google-map I finally had made it into the police-headquarters outside the city center. And again:

-“Why are you speaking English with me, this is Germany!”

-“Entschuldigung….entschuldigung” (I’m sorry……i’m sorry), I’m saying to police officer nr.2, Captain Dixelius, who leads the way up to his office and again I’m orderd harshly to sit down. The captain starts typing and after a while (maybe due to of my orderly behaviour) he lifts his eyes from the computer and asks:

-“Are you here for Documenta?”
-“Yes sir!”
-“I have no understanding for contemporary art… For me, being an artist means that you have some kind of special talent and you are really mastering a craft, like painting, sculpting, drawing… Merely presenting an idea, well, that is not art.”

I kept my silence in order not to aggravate the police officer more. After a while the next question arose:

-“Are you an artist?”
-“Yes sir, I am an artist… I’m actually a contemporary artist…and my recent work is a group of sculptures that are really about an idea, and not about having any special sculptural skills.” I told him.

He types on.

“Would you happen to have an Internet connection on your computer?”
-“Ok, go to this website (…) and click where it says Interludes…”
-“What is this?”
-“Ballistic sculptures. What you are looking at are the castings of the cavities produced by the seven most common ammunition produced in Sweden.”
-“Probably the most interesting sculpture for you it is that one” (pointing at the screen) “This is the ammunition used by the Swedish police force. They use the 9mm flat point”
-“What?!” Captain Dixelius gasped, “That’s crazy….that is not possible…there is no police force in the world… wait…look!!” At this point captain Dixelius does something that I think is not really formally allowed, he takes out the clip of his weapon and he pops out a round and handles it to me.

I had to laugh -“But this is plastic?….you shoot plastic rounds? ”
-“Yes!…of course, you don’t want to hurt anyone!”
-“Well you should tell that to the Swedish police…I’m not sure that they would agree.”

Captain Dixelius stills looks mesmerized and confused at the same time, it is evident that he is intrigued by the work:

-“This is really interesting… the sculptures are really beautiful… and terrible at the same time. This is really good!” Captain Dixelius finishes the report and then he follows me down to the reception desk.
-“If you have any further problem here in Kassel you just call me. I’m the only one here that speaks English and I’ll be happy to help you in any way. And if you have an exhibition here in town, do let me know.”

-“I’ll certainly do that! Thank you so much Captain Dixelius!”

Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena

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Julius Göthlin is drawn to difficult tasks. He seeks out challenges in order to overcome them and to find a path into the unknown.

To follow his process has been fascinating. He has not, like most of his contemporaries, worked with video or sculpture; instead he has chosen drawing and painting for his medium. But while he is trying to force the three-dimensional into two dimensions he is hesitant to let the marks of his hand be known to the viewer.

Before, he used to cut and paste painted strips of paper into minimal building blocks for large abstract compositions. The purpose was to investigate how barely visible gradients in a complicated pattern of repetitions can trick the brain into experiencing movement; to suggest a third and a fourth dimension.

But all the while working in a constructivist tradition, he also came to transcend it. Within these beautifully serene yet volatile compositions lies something concealed and treacherous. The minute and grandioses attention to detail served to caption the cruelty of existence.

And then suddenly, he took a leap from the precise,into the far and the unknown. After years of spatial research he superseded his methodic structure and started (via graffiti?) to spray-paint large canvases with breezy blueish-black colours.

And so what was this? Instead of constructivist cool – the overheated cloud congestions of Gustav Doré?

Julius Göthlin had constrained himself with the straight-jacket of process so that he could learn to master both himself as well as the tradition, in order to overstep the accepted boundaries. His style became organic rather than technical. Sensuous and grotesque, with associations to the rhythm of bodies, as well as to the outer and inner depths; a transition from macro to micro-cosmos.

And now he is letting chance play a role. The canvases are wrinkled before the painting begins. Creases, pebbles and dust leave their mark. The material leads the way.

But even as I, the observer, am tossed into a chaos I come to realise that there is a hidden connection between the earlier and later works. The corset of comprehension that the artist so skillfully embraced is starting to appear very much like the troublesome hypothesis that there is order to be found in chaos.

The very idea of existence?

/ May 2016 / Ingela Lind, author and art critic

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Opening 26.5 16-20
Mindepartementet Art & Photography och Muralen, Kungliga Konsthögskolan, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm

Hilde Retzlaff ’s ever so simple object, a fragment from a styrofoam packing that has been cast in concrete, is surprisingly complex. It feels as though she has treated a found object, a piece of packaging, as a collage in itself, a completely external compound of a form and a material. When the combination of material is considered arbitrary, everything around that object begins to sway. It is no longer a protective volume, but more of a sign or a logogram that might repre- sent a word, a sound, and its meaning. What word? I think you should view the work with the mystical assurance in mind that what is found on the ground wasn’t what it first seemed to be, but curiously enough, a logogram. Now it lies there. One that better fits a sign that has been chiseled in rock has replaced the extremely light material of the usage object. Unfortunately, its sound and meaning has fallen into oblivion or has yet to be found, the sign nevertheless lies there like the black monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ( 1968 ). Retzlaff ’s object is now also an impression of something else. One can see how it emerges from the void of another object. The sign is a materialisation of a space that isn’t claimed, a different space. Retzlaff has once, in a completely different context, said that: ‘I think we sometimes tend to underestimate people’s need for escapism, much as we tend to underestimate people in general when we think that art and culture has to say something about their daily lives.’5 I’m not sure whether she would like to put this thought in direct relation to this particular work, but I, for one, think she’s right.

Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen, April 2016

Belenius/Nordenhake welcomes you to join us in the Armory Presents section for our solo presentation of Sophie Tottie.

Tottie has had major solo and group exhibitions including MoMA (2014 & 2010), Malmö Konstmuseum (2011), Liljevalchs konsthall (2007) Konrad Fischer Galerie (2009), Lunds konsthall (2005), the Drawing Center (2006), daad galerie at Berliner künstlerprogramm des DAAD (2001), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1998) and at the Venice biennale (1997). She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard University (2009-2010) and is currently professor at the Royal Institute of Art (Kungl. Konsthögskolan), Stockholm,

Tottie (b. 1964 in Stockholm) studied at the Institut des hautes études en arts plastiques in Paris for Pontus Hultén, Daniel Buren, Sarkis and Serge Fauchereau and in Stockholm at the Royal Institute of Art during the 1980s and 1990s. She has had a long career garnered with international attention while working with for example Jessica Morgan (Urban Visions, 1999), Carlos Basualdo (The Crystal Stopper, 1997) and Okwui Enwezor (Mirror’s Edge, 2000). Currently Tottie’s work is on view in the collection of Moderna museet, Stockholm, Sweden with works by Martin Kippenberger, Rosmari Trockel, Jutta Koether, Etel Adnan, Fredrik Vaerslev, Günter Förg, Joe Bradley and Wolfgang Tillmans.

The Armory presentation will be accompanied by a text by Jacquelyn Davis which will be available on our website next week. Should you find yourself in New York city for the week, please feel free to contact us for information on related events.

Linnéa Sjöberg – Oppositional Cyborg

This sentence precedes a quote that – without this sentence – would have been the first words of the essay you are reading. They would have tinted the text and guided you, dear reader:

There is a hierarchy in the arts: decorative art at the bottom, and the human form at the top. Because we are men.
– Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant, 1918

Not so long ago, this quote by two proto­Modernists may have constituted the beginning of a text. Even more than that, it may have been followed by Sigmund Freud’s assertion that the “unique” contribution of women to civilisation is weaving, a decorative art per se. In his lecture on “Femininity” from 1933, the late psychoanalyst propagated that in weaving, women imitate how nature conceals their “genital lack” with pubic hair.

This essay is on Linnéa Sjöberg’s latest body of work, in which weaving plays a pivotal role. A year and a half ago, Sjöberg bought a loom and ransacked her parent’s house for old pieces of clothing. She took what she could find as long as it was black, from her favourite disco dress during her teenage years, to an old umbrella, to her grandmother’s last skirt. Back at her loom, Sjöberg wove the materials into a 15­metre long quilt with only 30 cm of the fabric visible at a time, due to the way the apparatus is built. The work titled Four Generations of Darkness became an elongated, cadavre exquis ­a metaphor for separate yet interwoven generations and biographies.

As art historian Lucy Lippard pointed out in 1976 with regard to Eva Hesse’s work, “tying, sewing, knotting, wrapping, binding, knitting,” have long been regarded as “female” activities ­and hence less valued than other “male” work. Textile art was perhaps most associated with the keepers of the domestic home, a dubious privilege only, if at all, applicable to white­middle and upper­class women. However, textiles have since also become a symbol for subverting this notion. In the banners of the Suffragette resistance, the “primitive” and “natural” connotations projected onto textiles by the West were overthrown and artists like Eva Hesse transcended the entrenched amalgam between fabrics and “women’s work” through repetition and ritual.

Working away to the monotonous, wooden­clunking sound of the apparatus, weaving is a physically exhausting labour. The compulsive use of the body in everrepeated movements, Lippard goes on, can also “be a guard against vulnerability; a bullet­proof vest of closely knit activity [that] can be woven against fate”. Sjöberg does not create comfy soft­on­the skin garments, but kneads together personal materials loaded with history, some of which border on the abject. Her quilts Layers of Shit, for instance, consist of yellowish rubber stripes cut and torn from an old mattress in the artist’s studio. God knows what happened on the bed before, and where the stains stem from.

Another series of work is made from embossed parchment, cow skins. Sjöberg’s engraved tattoos from her own body onto shine­through and black leathers. While some of the works are made by the artist herself, others are produced by a company that serves luxury brands like LVMH. Sjöberg conflates high and low in the same way she interweaves art and life. After her all­in performances of first being a business woman and then a tattoo artist for several years, she is now a weaver. In weaving, the inside and outside are blurred. As critical studies researcher Sarat Maharaj wrote in 1991, textile art cites “established genres and their edges as it cuts across and beyond them” to throw out of joint “handed­down notions of art practice / genre /gender”.

Sjöberg’s weavings – just like her parchment works – mess up the borders between the inside and outside, high and low, art and life, male and female. Her incisions penetrate the skin and her fierce engravings leave burnt scars on and in the body. Her threads are entangled inseparably in epic tapestries, similar to her total interweaving of art and life. Weaving, as Donna Haraway once put it, is for “oppositional cyborgs”.

– Stefanie Hessler

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Evan Roth — Kites & Websites



Belenius/Nordenhake is proud to present our fourth collaboration with Evan Roth, born 1978, Okemos, MI, USA. For this occasion we will produce an artist book co-published with Aksioma featuring a text by Domenico Quaranta, which will be launched on the opening night of Stockholm Art Week, Tuesday 19/4/2016 18–20:00.

Kites and Websites collects a selection of works developed along the last year in the framework of the Internet Landscapes project, Evan Roth’s ongoing investigation into the physical infrastructure of the internet: a research that brought him to study the global submarine fiber optic cable network, and to do pilgrimages to various submarine fiber optic cable landing locations all around the world: from the UK to Sweden and New Zealand.These locations, where the national or local network infrastructure actually joins the global internet, allowing people to instantly communicate with the rest of the world, are often remote locations, not easy to reach and not meant to be visited. The nature is wild, and signs announcing the presence of the cable are placed to be seen from the sea, not by anybody walking on the beach, or the cliffs. In other words, they provide a beautiful opportunity for landscape painting.

And it is as a Romantic painter that Evan Roth approaches these places, even if his tools are a little bit different from those of Turner and alikes. He uses an infrared camera to shoot pictures and videos, and he records audio using an instrumental transcommunication device that he has custom built, that captures ambient sounds and scans radio frequencies at intervals regulated by the artist’s heart rate. This recording, though, is not made for documentary purposes. As a romantic “wanderer”, Roth travels to these Internet Landscapes to experience them, and portrays them to capture their essence: “For me, visiting the Internet physically is an attempt to repair a relationship that has changed dramatically as the Internet becomes more centralized, monetized and a mechanism for global government spying. Through understanding and experiencing the Internet’s physicality, one comes to understand the network not as a mythical cloud, but as a human made and controlled system of wires and computers.”

Kites and Websites are the forms that this landscape painting takes in the exhibition. Kites are a reference to childhood innocence, but also to the history of communications: their hexagonal shape reminds the first patent drawing of the internet, and the hexagonal kites used by Guglielmo Marconi to send radio waves. Websites are actually “web sites”, places on the network that mirror both visually and conceptually the physical places they portray, in a complexity of layers and references that makes the experience of the project richer as long as we dig deep, but that doesn’t prevent us to enjoy it as a simple aesthetic experience: as a exercise in immersion, contemplation and slowness.

The Internet Landscapes project is currently part of the Black Chamber exhibition (Skuc Gallery, Ljubljana) and of the Sydney Biennale, and has been awarded a production grant as part of the Masters & Servers European co-operation project. More info:

/Domenico Quaranta

Evan Roth is an American artist based in Paris whose practice visualizes and archives culture through unintended uses of technologies. Creating prints, sculptures, videos, and websites, his work explores the relationship between misuse and empowerment and the effect that philosophies from hacker communities can have when applied to digital and non-digital systems. His work is in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Israel Museum, and has been exhibited at the CentrePompidou, the Kunsthalle Wien and the Tate. He co-founded the arts organizations Graffiti Research Lab and the Free Art & Technology Lab (F.A.T.). Awards in recognition of his work include the Golden Nica from Prix Ars Electronica, Rhizome/The New Museum commissions and the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award.

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Welcome to the launch of Transparent Movement, an artist book by Julius Göthlin. The book is published by Moon Space Books in 150 numbered copies. The release is accompanied by a small selection of new works that have never previosly been shown, but make up the content of the book.

Transparent Movement

While writing this text for Julius Göthlin in connection with the release of his book Transparent Movement, I ended up getting stuck on the idea of inner peace.

I told Julius that his paintings open up an idea of serenity much like the backdrops used in New Age and Mindfulness movements with their imagery of space and vastness, which would presumably lead to a clear mind. I showed him meditation videos on Youtube and discussed the different images. The idea of space brings out anxiety in me personally, which has to do with endlessness without constraint.

I’ve done yoga for about ten years, but I’ve never used it for clearing my head. It has been a way of challenging my body instead. Being calm is a bit foreign to me. Instead I let outer problems and procrastination take over my entire headspace. Trying to break this cycle, I would look at images of Julius’ cloudy, almost magical paintings to see if I could feel that mindfulness and be able to write. It was as if not only being calm was foreign but also pictures of serenity seemed to have the opposite effect on me.

During this time a friend introduced me to Ultimate Fighter, a reality show where MMA-fighters compete to get a contract with the UFC. I mean, I’m not an MMA-fan, I don’t follow the sport, but it kept my mind off writing and put me at ease in my procrastination. One of the contestants really stood out: Jonathan Brookins, a yogi who meditates daily. In the beginning I couldn’t really see why HE would win anything, because deep down I’ve always felt that meditation is quackery. While watching seven hours (with small breaks to buy food and smoke cigarettes) of this show, we would guesstimate the winners of each fight in each episode and I would never pick Brookins. Well, I was wrong… It was like this guy had control of his focus through yoga and meditation. I felt confused. The idea of inner peace, that endlessness and vastness of being in one’s own head, is scary.

There is a duality here. Opening up one’s mind to emptiness leads to being more focused. But how does one get rid of the anxiety that comes with the idea of infinity? Julius Göthlin captures this paradox in his paintings. They move with such ease and have a calming effect in their speckled blues, but they also capture a feeling of endless expansion, just like space. That ambiguity is the reason why I will probably never give in to mindfulness.

Text by Alida Ivanov

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