Karl Holmqvist

Karl Holmqvist is a poet and visual artist. In his publications, readings, collages, wall texts and installations he problematizes the text and the mutable potential of language as the bearer of meaning-content.

The texts are often assemblages of ‘found texts’: quotations, pop lyrics or political slogans – with a rich diversity of references that point to both activism and alternative culture. Holmqvist’s works can be compared to concrete poetry, but also to graphic notation or text-based scores in experimental music. The written text functions as cues for improvisation-based readings. In a strange, flat, almost hypnotically chanting voice, Holmqvist exploits repetitions, variations and combinations to make constant changes in the nuances and layers of meaning inherent in an often quite minimal textual starting point.

In sustained alternation back and forth between layers of linguistic meaning and the potential of the text to constitute a visual field and a spatial entity, Holmqvist’s installations often move away from the text as a communicator of meaning to the text as a visual object. It is not clear whether the text in Holmqvist’s works should be seen as autonomous works or as a script for the artist’s own readings and performances. The multiple meanings of his works enable the viewer to put together his or her own different possible meanings, and in thus help to counteract an authoritarian understanding of language based on ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

At Bergen Kunsthall Holmqvist will present a new exhibition where the kind of activism that has long been an aspect of his texts takes a new turn towards a kind of ‘cosmic’ protest or a ‘rejection of the earthly’. The exhibition is part of an annual collaboration between Bergen Kunsthall and the Borealis Festival. This year’s Borealis has the concept of ‘protest’ as the general theme of the festival programme.

Karl Holmqvist (b. 1964) lives and works in Berlin and Stockholm. His recent solo exhibitions include Hollybush Gardens, London (2011); Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (with Joachim Koester, 2010); White Cubicle, London (2009); and Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2009). In 2011 he has participated in a number of group exhibitions, for example “IllumiNations”, the Venice Biennale; “The Sun Shines for Everyone”, Kunsthalle Zürich; and “Dirty Literature”, The National Portrait Gallery, London. He has published a large number of books, Xeroxed publications and other printed material with poetry, collage and text.

At the opening night on 9 March Holmqvist presented a new performance: Word Text Vortex

The exhibition has been produced by Bergen Kunsthall in collaboration with Borealis. The Borealis Festival: 14 – 18 March 2012.

To accompany the exhibition, Bergen Kunsthall in collaboration with Kunsthalle Zürich and JRP Ringier are publishing a new book with texts by Karl Holmqvist.

The Visit