Press Release of the Exhibition
DREAMCATCHER is the third exhibition by Christian Andersson at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, in Lisbon.
The language of dreams—as well as the temptation of utopia—is present in this exhibition: it is as if an aura of
freedom and reflection upon the world was being seen in absolute parallax. The video Dreamcatcher can be seen
as the index of the show, in the sense that some of its pieces refer to visual and mental images that a seemingly
broken narrative sequence gradually builds within a physical space, a house, or a compartmentalized basement
where we are confronted with a painting by Giorgio de Chirico [The Child’s Brain (1914)]. If, on the one hand,
the feeling of seeing images within images, like paintings inside other paintings, is plausible, on the other hand,
we feel as if suspended in a perspective of mise en abyme that surprises us as the camera progresses to the last
room, where we have a quick glimpse of images on a wall that comprise the surreal atlas of the spaces through
which we traveled in the first half of this piece. The path is asymmetric, leading us through modernist interiors and
other spaces that can either be part of some oneiric universe or an amalgam of loose pages that once belonged
to an encyclopedia of the history of humankind—not forgetting to include the unpredictable field of science fiction,
as in it resides the imagination that is anchored in the surpassing of the utopic projection of reality.
However, an animated sequence in which a marine animal—the Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis)— progressively envelops a model of the DNA molecular structure and tips it down, breaks the temporal cycle
marked by the digital clock and sends us back, through a shapeless sequence, to images we recognize as
real filmed objects, until the moment we enter that first room of that indiscriminate basement. Nonetheless, this
relation between fictional, illustrative or documental images and the space where the film is shot is betrayed, or
to be more precise, punctuated by small spheres (magnets) that support the cut out images of the atlas. This
subtle difference between planes establishes an ambiguous relation between what stands out in the image and
the visual plane. Filmed in slow motion, the latter appears to be immense and creates an equilibrium between
the fanciful mirage every image has the power to trigger and the image’s own plastic reality as the model for an
ambulation filmed in close proximity. This allows us to focus on each micro-event inscribed in each image, much
like what we could see in Godard’s Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo (1993), a film in which a single image may contain a
myriad of references that make us doubt the tragedy this document focuses on, but that are overpowered by the
reality described by the voice-over and dissected by the slow camera movements.
Let us go back to de Chirico and to how Christian Andersson implicates us in this duality between the space for
the image and the images he uses to construct the space for the spectator. A kind of colonnade descends from
the gallery ceiling, creating a fragile architecture—as pliable as a paper ruin—where we can recognize a shape
from the work by the Italian painter we saw in the film. In the original painting, is this element the fragment of a
column or a curtain? It is in this sense that the sensation produced by fiction and by the materiality of the works
can induce us in error concerning the different manifestations of what we consider to be real. Much like that hand:
is that really a hand caressing and waking up the young man in the painting? What kind of melancholy can the
reality of an automaton express? How can (in Andersson’s work) the metaphysical universe of de Chirico coexist
with Heinrich von Kleist’s On the Marionette Theatre?
This also happens with the piece Year One, a panel of drawings that, without repeating the “atlas” of images we
can see in the film Dreamcatcher, invites us to a similar process of imaginary construction of yet another chain
of fragmented narratives. This duality I refer to finds in the double clapperboard (a sculpture made of wood
with the title Clapper) the reason to initiate the two takes that define us as humans: the dream (freedom) and
its correspondence with ineffable aspects of the real, which can be obfuscated by everyday experience and its
Press Release of the Exhibition
'NEVE R O DD O R EVEN'
Sep 16th > Out 13th 2010
'Seeing is harder than it looks.'
What do the Baghdad Batteries, The Barcelona Pavilion, the Rorschach test and the Sistine Chapel all have in common? Not much, actually. Except for the fact that they all are points of departure for works featured in Christian Andersson's second solo exhibition at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art. Any common ground, however, they might share is less a result of being referenced in the same exhibition than of being deployed along a similar line of inquiry. Interested in the historical and psychological mechanisms that ensure a given object, idea or phenomenon its accepted place in space and time, Andersson has created a body of work that examines the notion of the anachronism, the revelation that invariably attends it, and its epistemic ramifications and/or hold on reality.
Of all the works in the exhibition, Paper Clip (The Baghdad Batteries), 2009, most explicitly puts all of these questions into play. Based on the discovery near Baghdad in 1936 of what is purportedly an ancient battery, the installation consists of 49 replicas of the object (clay pots), whose interior compound (copper, iron and vinegar) and combined force supposedly produce enough electricity to magnetize a paper clip to an iron rod. If this is indeed the case, the existence of the battery antedates Alessandro Volta's 1800 invention by more than a millennium. Faced with what to all intents and purposes seems to be an anachronism, the viewer is first of all bound to wonder if this is true or even possible, and secondly and consequently become the site of a minor epistemological breakdown by virtue of the struggle to assimilate such revisionist information. But is this a bona fide anachronism, i.e., a projection of the present into the past? In other words, a historical impossibility? Or does it not rather challenge the self-assured logic of linearity that undergirds the anachronism?
Perhaps it all depends on where you stand, as in another work in the exhibition Sistine Chapel (B.C.) 2009. For this literal and disfigured slice of time, the artist has created a table top out of black glass-- which, for him, represents a piece of time-- broken off the end, and placed it at folded, vault-like angle on top of the table (broken and scrambled time). A reproduction of a B.C. comic strip, which has been placed upside down in the interior of the vault, can be read in the reflection of the table only from a single angle. Not as simple as it may initially seem, the comic strip features two supine cavemen marveling at the shapes they see in the clouds, such as, apparently, The Sistine Chapel. This observation, however, is immediately followed by the revelation of its anachronistic impossibility (represented by a shared stoner-like 'Whoa!'), given that the Sistine Chapel hasn't even been built yet. The flawed logic upon which such a revelation is predicated is hard to hold in the mind, as the only thing more farfetched than these two cavestoners seeing a renaissance masterpiece from an as of yet un-conceived Western canon in a cloud is their realization of such an impossibility, of catching themselves in flagrant délit of an anachronism. Inverting the image and investing it with an anamorphic resolution, Andersson literally reflects the ideal viewing position presupposed by such wistful thinking, while again complicating its assimilation to the point of aporia.
If these works critically exaggerate the inherent instability of the anachronism, are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era (2009) highlights the dubiousness of potential revelation that generally seals the anachronistic deal. For this work, Andersson has surreptitiously inserted certain optical associations into the complex history of Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion, which was destroyed in 1930 and rebuilt in 1986. He has taken a photographic reproduction of the onyx walls of the 1986 remake, whose symmetrical, butterfly patterns are evocative of Rorschach tests, and somehow merged the famous blots into the reproduction, which are rendered visible only for a split second every few instants with the aid of a back lit flash. Germanely, although conceived in 1927, the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach's test was not used until 1931, two years after the original pavilion was built. Andersson's semi-explicit commingling of the two investigates to what extent such a conflation is an intuitive response to its mere possibility. It's as if the generic image of the Rorschach test was so thoroughly imbedded in the collective cultural consciousness that the perception of it in patterns which antedate it is a perceptual knee-jerk reaction. Thus does the work not only explore how revelation (in this case 'assisted')-- that which is implicitly associated with incontestable truth-- become something to be doubted, but also how the past tends to dissolve into the indistinguishable soup of the present. Because time and history as such have a way of undoing themselves without our even noticing it, much like, say, the circular logic of the palindrome of the work's title are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era undoes the progressive logic of beginning and ending.
Press Release of the Exhibition
May 13th > Jun 21st 2008
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art is pleased to announce that it will be presenting a one-man show by Christian Andersson on the evening of Tuesday, May 13th.
This show – the artist’s first in Portugal – presents a group of four recent and new works where Andersson, a rising Swedish artist, continues to deal with the unstable and transitory nature of perception through sleight of hand and optical illusion, but more specifically, where themes of evidence, duplication and transformation are differently explored.
In Memo, 2008, the exhibition’s centerpiece, Andersson recreates the inside of an office cubicle with shelves, carpets, wastepaper bins and other miscellaneous, commonplace 'props'. Within this nondescript, lifeless interior, a facsimile of reality in itself, nothing remarkable seems to take place with the exception of a certain trace, a ghostly slither of light that moves back and forth, unremittingly. The attentive viewer soon realizes that this almost invisible light corresponds to the once-present photocopying machine and its recurrent use, and that Memo forms a trope which encapsulates the idea of the transience of technology, and in turn, of memory.
The Xerox machine, a must-have to any fully-equipped and functional office in the early eighties and late nineties, that obligatory and glorified prosthetic limb of modern Bureaucracy, which once made such an impact on our lives with its potential for reproduction, now belongs to technological rubbish heap, and the papers we once photocopied as memoranda or evidence on modern acidic paper are now disappearing, eventually turning to dust.
In another related work on view, 1984 (1984), Andersson presents a Portuguese edition of George Orwell’s novel by the same title in a state of flux. This book, which has become a cultural-political icon, presents a dystopian vision of the (now past) future – a vision which has incessantly been re-appropriated for today’s society, even though it has long past its sell-by date. Andersson’s semi-transparent version of the book becomes an undermined icon, illustrating how history changes fiction, which in turn affects reality, and so forth. In this particular instance, Andersson’s interest lies in identifying how each culture graphically portrays the book’s vision and how the cover potentially mirrors the political state of a specific region at a specific time.
With Matt Damon (Near Mint), 2007, Andersson further addresses the issues of cultural exchange and value. This work is comprised of three separately framed, identical autographed posters of the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The counterfeiting apparent in the posters reflects that of the film’s central character, Mr. Ripley, and the installation becomes a mirrored hall where cultural, sentimental and economical values are set against one another, whilst the work is driven forward by a hybrid, three-fold creature consisting of the Artist, the Character and the Actor.
In The -- Record 2008, another work on view, the idea of memory and the writing of history are dealt with as an unstable and theatrical act. This piece consists of an A4 document that rests atop of a filing cabinet (another referent of modern Bureaucracy). The document inexplicably shifts in colour, going from dark black/grey to white. When 'white', the viewer is able to read the document, whilst in its darker state, the text is impossible to read. This effect brings viewers full-circle in that it directs us back to Memo and the progressive motion of the Xerox machine, and by extension, to the developing, unfixed photograph or celluloid film. CA/ND