Untitled (Folders V). 2022. Pastel on paper. 141 X 216,5 cm. Collection of the Danish Art Foundation.
Exhibition view, Chart Art Fair 2022, C.C.C Gallery. Photos: Brian Kure
Superbloom. Exhibition view, Galeria Anita Schwartz, Rio de Janeiro 2022.
Photos: Gabi Carrera.
- Aukje Lepoutre Ravn
Once in a decade, a rare botanical phenomenon occurs in California’s Death Valley. As the spectacular outcome of an unusually wet rainy season, large quantities of wildflower seeds that have lain dormant deep down in the desert soil meet the right conditions to germinate, sprout and blossom. It is a superbloom. Intuitively, the idea of a blossoming desert seems contradictory. As a botanical impossibility, it is in radical contrast to the general perception of the dry and infertile desert landscape. Yet it is surprisingly real.
A similar exercise of creating visions of contrasting ideas that question our sense of authenticity lies at the heart of Danish-Brazilian artist Andreas Albrectsen’s work. Revolving around a conceptual approach to drawing, Albrectsen examines the visual cultures of our time, their historical references and interlinked paradoxes – predominantly taking the internet and its embedded user experience as his theoretical point of departure. With his use of digital images from operating systems, search engines and social media, the drawings spring from the screen landscape but are also physical manifestations of ideas and time. The manual accumulation of time is also very present in Albrectsen’s drawing technique. Through a slow, meticulous and extremely labour-intensive translation process, Albrectsen masterfully transforms the digitally pixeled image into a pastel drawing, always maintaining a strictly grey-scaled palette. In his works, Albrectsen uses a particular dry pastel powder, which he grinds into fine pigmented dust and applies to the paper with repetitious gentle brushstrokes. This technique enables the drawings to encapsulate a porous and desiccated expression – a texture similar to the feel of desert sand. This subtle associative relation is something Albrectsen likes to emphasise in his work methodology, always trying to draw symbolic parallels to the medium and the materials he uses.
For his first solo show at Anita Schwartz Gallery, Andreas Albrectsen presents a new body of works consisting of three large-scale pastel drawings, each an impressive size of 140 x 218 cm. They were all produced in Rio de Janeiro during a three-month residency. The drawings present slightly different versions of a picture-perfect desert landscape used as a desktop background on a computer screen. Conceptually, the works combine elements of the still-life genre with a digital desktop environment, creating a modern-day vanitas.
This juxtaposition is notably present in the two drawings Untitled (Folders IV) (2022) and Untitled (–) (2022). At first sight, there is something peculiar about the compositions of the white documents and folder icons that hover together on top of the pastel powdered desert desktop. The accumulated icons form undefined silhouettes, sharply contrasted against the porous and shadowy dunes. In Untitled (Folders IV), the delicately outlined composition – abstract as it may appear – refers to the iconic Northern Renaissance oil painting The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein the Younger. The double portrait is considered a forerunner of the later style known as stilleben or more popularly called Nature Morte (dead nature). Another element that stands out is the hourglass. As an archaic measurer of time, and a classical memento mori symbol, the tool is reduced to a pixelated cursor stuck in space in between mediums. As an actual container of sand, the hourglass relates to the desert scenery and the dust grains from the pastel-covered surface.
Untitled (–) (2022) also references a classical still life painting: Cornelis Gijsbrecht’s Trompe l´oeil. Letter Rack with a Barber-Surgeon’s Instruments (1668). Again, the folder composition appears as an apparition in the desolate wasteland. On the left side, Albrectsen has implemented a small icon resembling the digital tool of the magnifying glass, indicating the action of zooming out – a common metaphor for a non-present mental state of being. In computer terminology, the folder icon is referred to as a User Interface Metaphor (UIM) and is designed to trigger immediate recognition. Ironically these UIM icons now represent obsolete and historicised objects, far away from the immaterial and contactless reality of the present day.
In Untitled (Poof) (2022), this ghostlike sense of disappearance or digital erosion is also present. In a similar uninhabited desert scene, a singular white cartoonish cloud, digitally designed and attached to an arrow-shaped cursor, hovers over the dunes like a genie. The icon represents the disposal of an unknown screen element, evaporating from the desert heat and into the ‘trash’. Keeping in mind that computer screens consist of 70 percent silica sand – a primary component of Silicon Valley offices – Albrectsen makes a connection with the sand of Death Valley and that of our digitalised office culture, drowning us in endless online scrolls.
When looking at the three drawings installed – sparsely and widely spread out in the space – one cannot help draw parallels with the surrounding white-cube architecture and the internal metaphor of the desert. As in nature, the viewer must walk a certain distance to look closer at the objects appearing on the horizon, but by doing so, the viewer might walk towards something that was never there in the first place, awakening this unreal feeling of a distant, surreal mirage.
Albrectsen’s new body of work is not so much a reminder of the transience of life as it is a comment on the eternal presence of our avatars and personal information that will live on forever digitally. Like the visible void surrounding a photocopied page, or the monotone grey desktop display from early Macintosh operating systems, Albrectsen’s drawings remain haunted by their contextual origin. But just as in the process of mass reproduction, the generational loss of information over time eventually allows for an alternative and more autonomous visual presence.
The seemingly inexhaustible container of symbolism that the desert and its aesthetic theoretical framework represent becomes Albrectsen’s muse as he digs deeper into and around its evident internet analogies. Throughout the history of philosophy and literature, not least in postmodern rhetoric, the desert landscape has been the object of hundreds of metaphors and tales of dystopia harbouring an overall sense of philosophical immanence: the desert as arid wilderness, a site of geographical extremity, a sacred and biblical place, the birthplace of man, a metaphor for infinite standstill, of solitude and hopelessness, an existential terrain, a speculative topology (Nietzsche), a site of deterritorialisation (Deleuze and Guattari), an object of sheer, but dry, aesthetic desire.
It is within this context, and that of the superbloom – from which the exhibition takes its title – that Albrectsen makes his point. Comparing the endless internet search with the desert – an infinitely misleading place, with no maps or clear directions, a place that will consume you and leave you drained – there is an element of loss and melancholy in the drawings. By introducing the vibrant phenomenon of the superbloom, a natural outcome of the utmost ecological resilience, Albrectsen creates a sharp contrast, like a tiny rippling effect of excitement, suggesting the possibility of radical change.
 Aidan Tynan, The Desert in Modern Literature and Philosophy: Wasteland Aesthetics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020), pp. 1–3.
Histoire Naturelle. Exhibition view. Mia Edelgart & Andreas Albrectsen. C.C.C, Copenhagen 2022.
Photos: Brian Kure
- Anne Kølbæk Iversen, PhD
To man alone, of all animated beings, has it been given, to grieve, to him alone to be guilty of luxury and excess; and that in modes innumerable, and in every part of his body. Man is the only being that is a prey to ambition, to avarice, to an immoderate desire of life, to superstition,—he is the only one that troubles himself about his burial, and even what is to become of him after death. By none is life held on a tenure more frail; none are more influenced by unbridled desires for all things; none are sensible of fears more bewildering; none are actuated by rage more frantic and violent. (Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, Book VII)
Close-ups of a child's foot with bees on their way out of the hexagonal cells, slowly feeling their way out of the holes on the foot. The sleeping child's body in the dark room is bathed in images. As the child is cradled in sleep, the sleeping body is encapsulated in the projection, and the reproductive work that lies in the care of the child is reflected in the reproductive work carried out by the bees through pollination. Do bees dream of sleeping children?
Mia Edelgart's video work Hearts in Tiny Chests (PS) Pollination Service (2017-22) stems from a study of bees' function in the maintenance of ecosystems and of human's relationship to bees as a mythological, practical and now endangered species. "Not having honey is the least of our problems" as formulated in an article on the impact of climate change on the decline in the global population of bees. Bees - and not just the honey bee - are vital pollinators of all types of plants and crops, but industrial agriculture in particular has contributed to the decline in bee populations globally. Edelgart's video revolves around the question of how we are connected to and can show care for caregivers of other species. On the one hand, it tries to visually capture the close relationship between flowers, bees and humans through footage from the University Gardens at Frederiksberg where a number of hobby beekeepers visit the hives and bees crawl around in bulging flowers with their yellow pollen pants - on the other hand it shows Edelgart's attempt to find a way to address the bees and the challenges man-made changes of ecosystems have posed to them, e.g., by converting caring gestures like reading aloud to them. The work thus also relates to the loss that lies in the experience that having knowledge and language about the bees' way of life does not necessarily contain a safeguard against destabilization and destruction of their living conditions. The disorientation of bees resulting from the use of neonicotinoides (a special type of pesticides, which have, however, been taken out of use in Denmark after the production of this work), is reflected in the video's searching format with overlapping images, inversions and collapse of registers – like groping in the dark.
There is a similar nocturnal atmosphere in Andreas Albrectsen's series of film strip frottages (Untitled) Sleeper (2022). The frottages, mounted horizontally, bear resemblance to railroad tracks cutting through the landscape, something which the title also alludes to with its ambiguous connotations of railway sleepers, sleeping wagons, and the state of sleep. At the same time, they carry with them a secretive relation to imagination and dreaming. Although it could be the representation of a landscape, it is impossible to decode what is on the film strip's images. Of the photographic reproduction, only the direct imprint of the surface and contours of the negative remains; rubbing the graphite chunk over the paper with the strip underneath. Where Max Ernst in his Histoire Naturelle (ca. 1925-26) evoked motifs from wooden floors and leaves and made a surrealistic natural history of fantasy beings and dream-like tableaux, in Albrectsen's works for this show under the same title the medium becomes the motif itself. The landscape here is latent or it lies dormant as an imagination embedded in the negative or is a faint afterimage visible to the inner gaze.
As Foucault already pointed out in Order of Things (1966), in which he examines how we arrange things with words, every natural history is at the same time a story of the human being who recorded it and the notions that presupposed it. In connection to this he refers to the well-known surrealist motto "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.” Our relationship with the outside world of which we are a part is therefore marked by paradoxes; we must at once acknowledge our deep entanglement with the world and try to lift ourselves out of it in order to understand it. A shameful humanistic drama seems to unfold these years, where it is increasingly clear how that very human (the European anthropos) who has seen himself as a neutral center of enlightenment and development has exploited both the globe, others species and marginalized, minority and enslaved groups that have been used, wasted. It points to a close connection between the ideal of the Enlightenment to gather and categorize knowledge of everything and then the systematic over-consumption of resources that accompanies industrialization and the growth logic of capitalism, which together have given rise to the designation of the anthropocene or rather capitalocene age, we are now in. And as long as we hold on to the special status of humans in relation to other species and the outside world, it is also an age of loneliness, the eremocene. Albrectsen's and Edelgart's works in the exhibition Histoire Naturelle open up to visualizing and imagining new connections and ways of expression – or maybe it's something I dreamt.
Untitled (Bella) 2021 I Graphite pencil on paper, 215,5 x 114,5 cm I
Collection of The New Carlsberg Foundation I Photos: Malle Madsen & Brian Kure.
Materialities of the Weather Forecast
- Anne Kølbæk Iversen, PhD
I believe it was sunny when I went to see Andreas Albrectsen’s exhibition at C.C.C. in Vesterbro, Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago. I had gone swimming in the morning - a new routine I have caught - or that has caught me - during the current lockdown. Even though the weather was fair, compared to how it can be and mostly is in Denmark by early March, I know we didn’t talk about the weather in its typical sense. Instead, I joined the artist and the gallerist in a conversation about the materialities of the weather forecast and how it relates data, visualisation, and "the weather" as an embodied phenomenon or situation.
C.C.C. excels in minimal and often also quite conceptual shows, and Bella is no exception. The exhibition entails two new works, meticulously hand drawn by Albrectsen: the central piece of the exhibition Untitled (Bella) 2021, a single large-scale pencil drawing that is displayed in the front room of the gallery, and the smaller drawing Untitled (UK Forecast) 2020, which is hung in the back - as a b-side or appendix to the main attraction. Both drawings depict predictions of weather, in Europe and the UK, respectively, but are different both in style and in how the data is abstracted and visualized. Where Untitled (UK Forecast) resembles the visualized forecasts you would normally see on TV with the lands of Britain covered by clip-art-like icons for rain - however in black and white - Untitled (Bella) rather resembles a screengrab of a data-stream.
An exhibition displaying weather forecasts seems timely at a moment when most people have grown unaccustomed to small-talk, whilst simultaneously having gained expertise in talking about predictions of infection curves, risk, and exponential growth as they relate to the day-today experience of lockdown and social distancing. With only a single work in the main gallery space and no accompanying text to contextualize the works (and silence the visitor) one is invited to take another look and to share his/her thoughts.
Untitled (Bella) is based on the data-driven predictions and visualizations of a forecast of wind directions, extracted from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts at the end of December 2020, when the storm Bella hit the UK and the Netherlands, as well as parts of Norway and France. In the drawing, the expected wind directions, as well as high and low pressures, are represented by thousands of arrows of differing size, effecting a dynamic flow of distributed movements and shifting intensities across the surface. Reaching wind speeds of more than 100 mph and resulting in flooding chaos across the UK, as well as collapses of electricity lines, the storm Bella provided a dramatic backdrop at the turn of a year marked by corona outbreaks, US presidential elections, and the culmination of Brexit, in addition to otherwise typical anticipations tied up with the turning of a calendar year.
The turbulence of the storm, however, is not directly apparent in the work. In effect, there is a clash between the neutrality of Albrectsen’s work with its quiet drama and the images of flooding and wreckage left by the storm. The represented cartography underneath the arrows: Europe, North Africa, a snippet of Russia and the southern tip of Greenland, lies unaffected by the arrows dancing above it. The black and white technique of the pencil drawing only enhances the abstraction. Bella - a perfect storm, not because of her spectacular, sublime fury, but rather in her guise as information, data.
We talk about the tradition of cloud studies in painting and how the metaphor of “the cloud” inevitably echoes any representation of actual clouds and skies to this day. As a view from above, the work turns traditional studies of clouds and skies upside down, reversing the perspective from a phenomenological, or symbolic, to a scientific and abstract one. Instead of displaying what has been referred to as “psycho-meteorological” states of romantic landscape paintings and literature, it has a matter-of-factness leaving it to the viewer to invest sentiment and meaning. It’s the cloud as a form of thinking. Untitled (Bella) in this way expresses the virtual capacity of the forecast in more than one sense: as an abstracted image far removed from the embodied experience of “the weather” on land or at sea, and as the depiction of a simulated future scenario, which may not be identical to the actual weather to come. A virtual storm, a potential storm, not unlike the potential outbreaks, which governments repeatedly warn against.
Looking at the drawing: its grids and shades and all the lively arrows scurrying over the plane, I try to wrap my mind around the relations between representations and predictions of the sky and the technologies and methods employed to produce them. Even though the numerical predictions of today’s weather forecasts, projecting behaviour of clouds, winds and pressures are not cloud-based, they are the result of thorough and complex correlations of data. Inspired by the contrasts between symbolic and scientific approaches, I cannot help but imagine a weather model based on data collected from on-site mobile devices, combining statistical data with idiosyncratic descriptions and reports.
When standing close, one notices that Untitled (Bella) is equipped with not just one, but two grids: the cartographic grid provided by the forecast service, as well as that of the artist, who has divided the image into no less than 128 fields, each measuring 13,5 x 14,5 cm for his translation of the image to paper. That grid is evidence of the labour inherent in the production of the drawing, a trace of a bodily presence and the human factor in the making of the otherwise abstract visualization. In this respect, the work of Albrectsen connects to Lucy Siyao Liu’s A Curriculum on the Fabrication of Clouds (2017-) and Nanna Debois Buhl’s Cloud Behaviour (2018) and On Thunderclouds (2020), similarly drawing attention to the fabrications of forecasting methods and how human computing relates to increasingly complex computing systems and networks.
Thinking of the layers of virtual images behind the perceivable ones, I emerge back into the soft sunlight of the street. Looking up, there are no arrows and no grids in the sky, only a couple of fluffy white clouds. It’s a beautiful, fair day. Bella.
Untitled (Dynamic Desert) 2020. Charcoal on paper, 140 x 232 cm I Courtesy of Region Skåne public Art Collection.
Exhibition view: Galleri Arnstedt, May 2020. Photos: Martin Brink.
Untitled (Folders I - II) 2019 I Charcoal on paper, 140 x 232 cm each I Collection of SMK - National Gallery of Denmark.
Exhibition view: Edstranska foundation scholarship 2019. Photos: Youngjae Lih
(...)"The word screensaver gives associations to screen memory or replacement memory. This is a psychoanalytical phenomenon where a completely banal and ‘innocent’ memory has replaced a traumatic one. To maintain the illusion of control, we ‘forget’ the trauma. Ironic, isn’t it? Computers comprise the most effective preservers of memory thought up by man to date, infinitely greater than the metaphor for human memory and knowledge, the brown Library of Alexandria. In the 1950s in Aniara, Harry Martinsson envisaged humanity heading for space with a Mima, a gigantic keeper and viewer of memories as the only guide. At present, we each sit with our personal mimes in our laps. But far removed from the tragic grief of Miman’s guard, we stare into screensavers and recall – nothing. Andreas Albrectsen reminds us of our condition." - Excerpt from text by Gertrud Sandqvist, rector Malmö Art Academy
Reversed Endings 2020 - 2021. Graphite pencil & charcoal on sealed paper pads.
26 X 36 cm each. Photos: Malle Madsen & Brian Kure
Reversed Endings is an ongoing series of drawings based on multilingual end-titles from 20th-century films produced during times of ideological censorship. The selected end titles have been mirrored and cross the reading experience - and by doing so, liberates the impasse state of the original image. The drawings are done on the first page of sealed paper pads - adding a physical weight to the work while also referring to a history of closed chapters.
History resembles photography in that it is, among other things, a means of alienation*
- Siegfried Kracauer
“Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth.” With this statement, the ancient Greek mathematician and physicist Archimedes described the concept of an ‘Archimedean point’ – a fixed point of reference or hypothetical vantage point. The exhibition Sleeper, which presents works by Andreas Albrectsen and Otavio Schipper, takes as its theme precisely this question of view points, sight and perspective – in particular, that which the Danish historian Søren Mørch has called ‘railway vision’). According to Mørch, ‘railway vision’ – or the ‘modern eye’ – emerges with the invention of the railway and photography. In particular, the new speed of railway travel afforded a radically new view of the landscape, in which the foreground blurs and the horizon appears as a visual constant, a fixed point of reference.
As the title emphasizes, it is precisely the railroad and the lines of the landscape that are important common denominators in this exhibition, while the two artists employ their own independent means of expression and media. The artists not only share a common cultural view point (Schipper is Brazilian with European roots and Albrectsen is half Danish, half Brazilian) but also a common artistic strategy. This has made it possible to create an exhibition where the individual works interact with each other in a dizzying game of associations – toying with concepts such as history, perspective, perception, tracks, memory, constants, infrastructure, communication, modernity, rationality and subjectivity. Both artists work with the shifts of meaning that occur when found objects are isolated, processed and reinserted into new temporal and spatial contexts.
Albrectsen presents two groups of work. The first consists of three frottage-drawings based on film strips of photographic negatives from a trip to the Brazilian railway town of Paranapiacabia, located to the southeast of Sao Paulo. Paranapiacabia is Tupi Native American for ‘a place to view the sea’, and the railway was built with the purpose of transporting coffee beans from the mountains to the coast by the British-owned Sao Paulo Railway Company. The city was built in the mid-1800s by Jeremy Bentham in a Victorian style that included a copy of Big Ben. The railroad had only a short period of glory, however, and was finally decommissioned during the 1970s. Now it stands as a dilapidated memorial to an era of transatlantic trade and industry. The frottage-drawings do not show the content of the negatives. They focus on the morphological characteristics of the film strips, which display some similarities to railroad tracks. The film strips thus appear to be ‘containers’ for a latent travel narrative.
Albrectsen’s other group of works consists of two larger charcoal and pencil drawings on paper. These works are based on snapshots of rainbows found on social media – snapshots taken on the go through car windows. Albrectsen’s slow method of working, where he works across the image stroke by stroke, stands in strong contrast to the ‘instant’ media from which the subject matter originates. The black and white of the drawings distances them further from their motif, with one of them even appearing as a photographic negative depicting a black rainbow – a kind of de-masking of nature’s spectacle or a glance into another dimension.
Otavio Schipper’s installation La Ciotat can be described as something in-between a materialized coordinate system, a physics experiment, a painting by de Chirico and the Flying Dutchman. The work consists of a piece of train track placed horizontally on the floor with railway nails cast all around, a vertical iron bar attached to the track as a ‘mast’, a long silver chain connecting the mast to the wall and a pair of pince-nez presented with embossed dollar coins from 1890 as lenses. The title refers to one of the first films in history, by the Lumière brothers – L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat – which shows a train arriving at the La Ciotat railway station. The film has become legendary because of the allegedly violent effect it had on cinema-goers of the time, who were overwhelmed by the film’s ‘realism’. In addition, Schipper shows other smaller works such as the wall installation The Modern Eye. This work consists of a pair of antique eyeglasses and a silver chain which, as a medium that appears to be something between an eyeglass cord and a telegraph wire, connects a wall-mounted series of old, handmade electrical insulators.
Otavio Schipper has a background in physics, and his works are often inspired by Einstein’s thought experiments involving both trains and elevators – experiments that laid the basis for his theories of relativity. Similarly, Schipper’s works can also be described as thought experiments, albeit in a materialized form. In his installations, he stages a selection of ‘constants’ (i.e., things that come from an earlier ‘analogue’ era, such as telephone poles, train tracks and telegraph machines) in various combinations and contexts, thereby constructing an alphabet of things. - Lotte Møller, art historian (Mag. art)
* Siegfried Kracauer, History. The Last Things Before the Last, Princeton 2014, p. 5
* Søren Mørch, Vældige ting –63 fortællinger om verden, som den er, Kbh. 2009, pp. 51-59
- Ida Schyum
(...) "It is remarkable how digital speed has overtaken railway vision. Had we been confronted with a Twitter user’s image of a rainbow, the picture would have captured our gaze for only a millisecond before being discarded by the swipe of an index finger. However, Andreas Albrectsen, by stark contrast, lets us grasp the world slowly. Through zealously executed drawings of rainbow snapshots found on social media, he presents us with his radical devotion to the appearances of this world. The gentleness of the line shifts our patterns of perception, allowing for an intimacy with the subject that exposes its complexity.
The rainbow’s multi-coloured arch is formed when water reflects and refracts light, causing the light waves to bend. As white sunlight the colours neutralise each other, but the rainbow disperses the various colours from the highest to the lowest wavelength: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. It is worth noting that Andreas Albrectsen has drawn the rainbow in black and white, so that the colours die away to recompose again as white light. But the rainbow seems to have disappeared, as if its white line points to its own absence. Albrectsen, however, compensates for the loss with a negative version next to it. Like a black serpent the rainbow suddenly becomes matter again, while the rest of the landscape suffers a loss of presence. Along with Albrectsen’s hatched negative film rolls, the dark rainbow plays havoc with our definition of a negative landscape and points to a parallel world invisible to the eye.
Chasing rainbows means pursuing unrealistic goals. Man has forever been drawing rainbows in an attempt to capture them – a pursuit of rainbows in a metaphorically as well as a literal sense. The craving to be able to observe the world objectively, plotting out exact truths about it, corresponds precisely to the longing for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But the matter that makes up our world is neither created to be, nor can it be imprisoned as, fact alone, and the rainbow excellently demonstrates this. A rainbow is an optical manifestation caused by the refraction of light and having no geographical location its appearance depends on the observer’s position. It is thus the result of three phenomena: light, water and viewpoint, which testifies to the fact that man’s experience of the world is developed in the encounter with materiality. The rainbow cannot be kept isolated from this encounter, for then it will not exist. Upon seeing its colours we are forced to realise that we are connected to the rest of the world, which cannot be contained in a fancy system of isolated facts. Art, on the other hand, can open the door to a connected and complex world because of its outstanding expertise in the art of avoiding straight routes and straight answers. Although Andreas Albrectsen’s rainbow drawings are done in black and white, they make the world less so. For the drawings emphasise the fact that the medium he uses to approach the rainbow causes it to change as a phenomenon. Into dark matter and a white disappearing act.".
Cast Away. Galleri Tom Christoffersen, 2018. Group exhibition with Simon Rasmussen, Mia Line,
Jean Marc Routhier, Lydia Hauge Sølvberg, Jóhan Martin Christiansen - Curated by Andreas Albrectsen.
- Andreas Albrectsen
The finicky and time-fixated FedEx employee, Chuck Noland, managed to reach the shore of a deserted island following a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean. Here he spends four years of his life having to improvise a modern remake of the life of Robinson Crusoe. By collecting flotsam and developing an intense friendship with Wilson, the volleyball, he manages to make it back to civilisation. Chuck ’No Land’ has officially been resurrected as a human being, but society has long since filled out the void he left behind. Chuck goes from a life as a survivor to one of a living dead – a transparent voyeur in the world. That is the plot in a feature film from 2000 whose title is shared by the exhibition in the second gallery space. The Harvard professor Svetlana Boym describes in The Future of Nostalgia how Hollywood often reverts to the story of aboriginal people in nature – in tandem with the emergence of computer-generated images. Since the release of Jurassic Park (1993) up to, and including, Avatar (2015), a post-apocalyptic pattern within technology and nostalgia has emerged in the American film industry. With the spread of 3D printing, relief presentation has undergone a democratisation process. In theory, anything can be designed from home and given a manipulated spatiality. A tool with which to materialise not only our basic needs but also our longings. In the exhibition ‘Cast Away’, the five artists’ work form a fragmented anatomy. The material DNA of the works is industrial, digital, and organic. The artists have used steel, concrete, plaster, clay, paper, chewing gum, and cyberspace, respectively. A common feature shared by the works is a bodily memory that is visible or implied. Moreover, all contributions to the exhibition are based on existing models or ‘ready-mades’ – e.g. drawings, photos, or found objects.
In Simon Rasmussen’s work Floater (Not To Be Reproduced), the title refers to an optical phenomenon where small irregular spots, ‘floaters’, are suspended in the eye’s vitreous body, disrupting the field of vision. Where Rasmussen’s title refers to microscopic material, the work itself functions as a real obstruction of viewers’ ability to move freely about the gallery space. The 180 cm long 3D-printed exhibition bench in aerated concrete is self-contained and not designed for anyone to rest on. As an object, it has no function hence disregarding all design principles.As a work, however, it invites viewers to reflect on their own physical presence in relation to the room and the other works.
Whereas Rasmussen’s title refers to a visual disorder, Jean Marc Routhier’s work in the exhibition applies an optical illusion. With his characteristic laser-printing technique, Routhier creates a micro relief of toner dust on the paper, resulting, from a distance, in a figurative effect – a muzzy black smiley. Nevertheless, the face in Routhier’s work is a psychological trick of perception played by our brains. From nature, we are geared to instinctively creating familiar patterns in our surroundings – a practical measure for primeval people to spot eyes and faces of pursuers in hiding. Routhier’s laser-printed smiley is actually a xylographic reproduction of J.Th. Lundbye’s drawings from 1873. In the industrial A3 format, landscape and portrait fuse into a physical foreground and background between past and presence.
Jóhan Martin Christiansen’s plaster relief titled PAD is approximately the same size as an average face: 31 x 23 cm. If you place the work at eye level, your identity would, in theory, be concealed from the surroundings. In the Inuit culture, for example, the mask is a tool allowing the shaman to step into the world of spirits without being recognised. The title PAD refers to the English term for a flat, soft layer or a relief cushion. However, PAD is written in capitals, reminiscent of a digital world of screens and tablets – a world where you can also exist incognito. ‘Product (dis)placement’ would be an apt description of Christiansen’s work – the plaster cast was made from a piece of cardboard packaging material found in a waste container on a building site. The yellow repeated fragments of text form the word Ecophon; an insulating product used to optimise the acoustic environment in open-plan offices. It is a nice term for padding. In Christiansen’s work, the casing is also the content. PAD is an after-image, a materialised shadow that viewers themselves must try to grab hold of.
The drawing and the sculptural image originate from the shadow cast by a sleeping young man. The outline of the shadow was drawn by a woman, who wanted to keep him for herself. When he left, his shadow stayed behind on the wall and the silhouette was later transferred to a relief by the father of the woman: the potter Butades. So, according to Roman tradition, the originator of drawing was a woman. Lydia Hauge Sølvberg’s relief combines line and sculptural image. The hand-drawn surface of the work emerges and activates the gallery space. Tegnet øre (Drawn Ear) can readily be interpreted as a shorn-off sensory organ, listening and silent. But changing the stress when pronouncing the work title, Tegnet øre will suddenly take on a different semantic meaning.‘Tegnet’ (The Sign) becomes a symbol. Sølvberg’s ‘ear’ is now somewhere between figuration and grammatical punctuation and its shape recalls the characteristic curve of a question mark – a personified keystroke one can confide in.
In Wilhelm Jensen’s novel Gradiva from 1903, the protagonist Norbert Hanold is speaking to deaf ears. Hanold is a German archaeologist and, during a museum visit in Rome, he becomes obsessed with a classical relief representing a young woman walking, whom he names Gradiva. She appears to Hanold in a dream and he then embarks on a journey through Italy to find her. Wilhelm Jensen’s novel is unwittingly a description of a fictitious psychoanalytical case. Hence the novel (and therefore also the Gradiva relief) was examined with considerable interest by Sigmund Freud, who published an analysis of it. Freud even had a plaster cast of Gradiva hanging over the famous couch in his office in Vienna. Mia Line’s work is based on a copy of the relief located at Kurfürstenstraße in Berlin. Line has systematically photographed the relief and then made a digital 3D model of it, which she then, by using a CNC-machining process, has formed in jesmonite. To accompany this, she has created a Gradiva website which works as a fragmented view of the treatment of the female figure and the constant male gaze that she has been subjected to throughout history. In the digital space, Mia Line tries to add new layers of meaning to the interpretation of Gradiva – a revised female perspective on the mythological and objectified walking female figure.
How To Move Forward?
- Text by: Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen
Big Brother Brazil, Hurricane Irma, the Truman Show, and DIY slime: the motifs of Andreas Albrectsen’s meticulous works in carbon, pencil, and pigment powder range widely. Albrectsen found the inspiration for his works in Google’s image search tool based on the company’s own Year in Search 2017: statistics on the issues, people, films, etc. most frequently searched for. In other words, a kind of statistical evidence of the themes most often entered in the search field of the Internet giant. In all their almost tragicomic diversity, Albrectsen’s works directly address our times: how we consume and search, are worried and entertained – as individuals and as humankind.’Privacy is political’ people used to say. ’Privacy is marketing’ they probably say at Google. But in Albrectsen’s work, something else is afoot: the mass searches are brought back to the intimate sphere created by the drawings and where questions such as ‘How to move forward?’ perhaps first emerged. In the remediation of the image flows from the news media and the entertainment industry to the authenticity and originality of the drawing, there is a short break from the acceleration of time, searches, money, entertainment. Here the drawing becomes a tool with which to ’look’ – different from scrolling using your index finger on the mouse or, in the case of the phone, your thumb. And this ’looking’ – and sometimes ’overlooking’, forgetting – is a general theme in Albrectsen’s practice, which often circles around themes such as memory and the relationship between history and the contemporaneous as well as the shift in meaning which images, in proper Kuleshov style, are capable of producing in the mind of the viewer.
The works in How To Move Forward? constitute in many ways yet another layer of the surveillance culture represented by Google. It is a partial mapping of the surveillance itself, a fragmented overview of the most pressing issues in a global context, a kind of glimpse of the subconscious of humankind. For what exactly fascinates humankind? What remains forgotten? In 1930, Sigmund Freud published Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (in English: Civilization and Its Discontents) where he described everything that a well-functioning society is unable to deliver, which, in simple terms, can be boiled down to the happiness of the individual. In other words, if you go along with Freud, there is a disparity between the individual and society. What, then, is the relationship that emerges between the individual and society in Albrectsen’s works? Is it the surveillance of the individual – like the two partly anonymised people in an unmade bed – which ultimately contributes to sustaining a society that only functions when everyone is watching everyone else? Or is it the case that society will not function when individuals are allowed to abandon themselves to the quick fixes provided by search engines?The question mark in the exhibition title How To Move Forward? is nothing if not significant. For it is in the very question mark that the works come together. The exhibition is not a ’how to’ guide; it is an open question: How? Where? Whence? Albrectsen’s works do not provide the answers; instead it could be argued that they are working within the context of the question mark: they expose the flaws of the oracle replies offered by the search engines and the blurry boundary between crisis and entertainment, reality and fantasy. Perhaps it is precisely in this questioning space, in the opportunity for critical reflection created by Albrectsen’s works that an alternative to the endless searches can be found. It is not an alternative with no questions asked, but an alternative asking different questions.
Notes (17.08.01) 2017. Inkjet print on post-it notes I 263 x 380 cm
The work is based on an analogue photo I took as a young tourist from the top of the World Trade Center in New York, August 17th 2001 - a little less than a month before the two towers were destroyed. The dimensions of the photograph has been enlarged so that it matches the height of the WTC window, where it was originally taken. The image has subsequently been manually printed in RGB colour across 1.750 individual canary yellow post-it notes on an ordinary A-4 ink-jet printer and mounted directly onto the wall of the exhibition space. Over the course of two months where the work was shown, the notes slowly lost their grip and fell to the floor, gradually occupying the floor space while changing the apperance of the picture plane from day to day.
"(...) What would have just been a badly framed amateur photo suddenly becomes loaded with meaning and memory of a specific historic event that the image actually does not portray. An event that had not yet taken place when the photo was taken but now in retrospective has attached itself to it. (...) The exhibition not only borrows its title from Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street from 1853 but is also inspired by the passive resistance that is inherent in the statement. I would prefer not to is a sentence uttered by the story’s main character Bartleby in response tohis boss’ repeated requests; a polite refusal to do his job that grows into a rejection of any form of production or even consumption. Bartleby has since become an example for exerting free will and protesting structural and societal demands of self-discipline disregarding ones own needs. By rejecting demands that are so reasonably expected of him to follow, his behaviour escapes the logic of modern society. We turn to art and artists as our companions in this conversation because art is both praised and criticized for being without use value. Again and again the same debate arises about whether or not the arts are worth taxpayers money. It seems to be a phenomenon that escapes logic and evades conventional measures of value. It is both essential to a society and unnecessary. It can be sold at astronomical prizes and escape economic circulation. Art is paradoxical – a cliché, no doubt – but still a valid observation. It has the potential of being a waste of time, of money or some other form of excess. For this exhibition we have invited a group of artists not because they necessarily escape economic circulation, but because there are elements within their practice, their work process or the art itself escapes and challenges an economic sense of time".- Excerpt from press text by meter Exhibition Space.
Paletten. Tidsskrift för Konst no. 2, 2015.
'Art and psychoanalysis, The Rat, The Mother and The Unconscious' - essay by Gertrud Sandqvist.
Works included: Untitled ( White Lie) & Projections
Untitled (White Lie) 2015. Charcoal and graphite on Paper. 114 x 146 cm. (Private Collection)
The broken frieze which constitutes the subject in Untitled (White Lie) is borrowed from Classical Greek Mythology – a fighting scene, symbolizing the struggle between reason and unreason. The motif has been processed by disassembling and piecing the image together in a randomn order.The ressurected motif has then been composed and meticulously reproduced with charcoal and pencil. on paper.