Björn Kjelltoft — I Promise, I Will Never Be Your Friend. No Matter What, Ever…


All things fall and are built again
and those that build them again are gay. [1]

The exhibition of artist Björn Kjelltoft at Gallery Niklas Belenius is a theatrical representation with the relationship plot at its heart. The end of a relationship and the idea of entropy form the dual engine in this story, driven by a set of dramatic events.

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.” These words could easily be used to describe the current state of affairs, but were in fact uttered by economist and retail analyst Victor Lebow in 1955.[2] Today, the cycles of consumption, waste, and desire raise more complex and blurred questions than the standardized and clear-cut opposition between good and bad values.

The title of the exhibition, I Promise, I Will Never Be Your Friend. No Matter What, Ever… is culled the movie Hotel Chevalier by Wes Anderson. The film begins with a scene set in a hotel room in which a bittersweet break-up takes place. The beautiful but callous Natalie Portman goes through the motions of a break-up, while the helpless protagonist plays his role in order to complete the circle. This is of course what is to be expected from the relationship plot; a set of events should take place in which people form relationships or, as in this case, relationships fall apart. Hotel Chevalier thus forms the backdrop for the relationship plot to be played out. I Promise, I Will Never Be Your Friend. No Matter What, Ever… proposes a poetic understanding of the ambivalent relationship between the consumer and the brand.

A slideshow presents a series of photographs of a Dunkin’ Donuts paper napkin gradually dissolving in water, a lazy stop-motion animation. It is a beautiful depiction of entropy, and plays out the eternal battle between order and chaos. Hypnotizing, like staring into the fire, the shifting constellations of watery paper veil and unveil the familiar pink and orange letters of Dunkin’ Donuts logo. The symbolic value of the brand decomposes into a weak matter, becomes ambiguous and takes on a softer and more humane shape. It disintegrates, just like us. It becomes a multidimensional proposition. The oscillation between soft and hard values are also played out in the “soft” letters of the Dunkin’ Donuts logo and the “hard” words being exchanged in the hotel room scene. A series of white curtains embossed with fragments of the dialogue mimics the sporadic showing and hiding of ambiguous words set in candy colored letters.

I Promise, I Will Never Be Your Friend. No Matter What, Ever… suggests a link between the dramatic structure of a love relationship falling apart and the relationship in consumerism. “I will never be your friend” states a simple and clear “no”, one which is undermined by a greater, more fundamental (and elusive) “yes”.

Marianne Zamecznik

[1] From William Butler Yeats poem “Lapis Lazuli” 1935.
[2] Victor Lebow, “Price Competition in 1955” (Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955)