On the occasion of the exhibition Versuchsstation des Weltuntergangs, Bergen Kunsthall’s lecture series Platform presents a talk with the artist in conversation with American writer and curator Bob Nickas.
Over the past decade Einarsson’s exhibition practice has followed a highly consistent thematic trajectory, continuously tracing out what one could call an ‘iconography of resistance’. The signs and symbols we can read out of Einarsson’s works often refer to fundamental conflictual structures between a society of control from the time after September 11th, 2001, and the individual’s rebellion against and threat to central power. At the same time Einarsson points to historical examples of tragic, abortive attempts to achieve individual freedom. Popular culture’s treatment of the outsider ideal often draws its vocabulary of myths, signs and visuality from examples in reality where instances of extreme individualism have resulted in terrorism and crime.
The exhibition “Versuchsstation des Weltuntergangs” presents a new chapter in Einarsson’s artistic career. Cue words like negation, resistance and opposition are still central elements, but explicit slogans have been replaced here with an underlying sense of unease that lurks beneath the surface among the abstract paintings and apparently silent objects. The works, all of which have been produced specifically for this exhibition, refer less to individualized violence than to a kind of collective nightmare where patterns of oppression and control are articulated and suggested in a more indirect way. As a whole the exhibition forms a unified tableau or scenography that is dominated by what the artist himself calls “pop apocalypse”. The juxtaposition of objects, images and cultural references seems to have survived an apocalyptic state — a structural crisis. Everything appears to be interconnected in a densely woven texture of codes and references.
“Versuchsstation des Weltuntergangs” relates to the kind of paranoid experience of phenomena that underlies conspiracy theories and mythologizing ideas of ‘the Other’. If you search in the ‘right’ way you will be able to find meaning where meaning does not exist, or patterns and causalities with no basis in reality. Einarsson draws parallels between conspiracy theories and art’s own decoding and interpretation practices. The exhibition invites you to engage in a kind of ‘pattern recognition’ in overdrive, where you sense as a viewer that everything has an internal connectivity, but where the connections cannot directly be combined into an unambiguous totality. For Einarsson “the exhibition as conspiracy” becomes a complex but often also humorous launching pad for analyses of power structures, mechanisms of control and subtle strategies of influence.
Bob Nickas is a critic and independent curator. A regular contributor to Artforum, his writings and interviews have also appeared in numerous catalogues and monographs, as well as several journals and magazines. His latest publications include Theft is Vision. Collected Writings and Interviews (JRP Ringier, 2008) and Painting Abstraction: New Elements In Abstract Painting (Phaidon Press, 2009).
Nickas contributes with a new assay in the book published on the occasion of Einarsson’s exhibition. In a text that finds it’s place somewhere in-between catalogue essay and a fictional story, Nickas situates the reader in a sience fiction inspired future scenario where a book that turns out to be an exhibition catalogue forms the basis for the attempts of the main characters to penetrate into the artist’s universe of signs.
Platform is Bergen Kunsthall’s lecture series.
Supported by Fritt Ord.