Real Life... As though literature, theater, deceit, infidelity, hypocrisy, infelicity, parasitism and the simulation of real life were not part of real life!* Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc.
Hreinn Friðfinnsson - Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir & Markús Þór Andrésson - Cecilia Nygren - Lucia Simek - Arild Tveito. Curator: Gavin Morrison
This exhibition is about the lives of real people, albeit people that are somewhat extraordinary: an Icelandic artist, a Swiss ski jumper, a Swedish polar explorer and a Norwegian philosopher. The work that the artists and filmmakers have made about these individuals may be biographical but they are not however conventional biographies. They tell the stories of these people from particular, and sometimes peculiar perspectives. Uncertainties often occur, at times through intentional fictionalization but also through the process of an individual becoming a subject. The fallibility of memory, the absence of facts, the reinterpretation of facts, and even the telling of a personal history makes evident that there are always other perspectives available. This accumulation of fractures and fallibility contributes to the creation of an open imaginative terrain; something between mythology and documentary.
The artists in the exhibition pry at the space between the subject and their attendant depictions—the tangle of the subjective of the subject. The works have an added dimension in that the featured individuals have some level of existing public presence but are seen in these works in ways that are often divergent from that which would be expected. These divergences arise either through fictional extension or an attention, on the part of the artist, to little known details. While this may add to a sense of biographical instability, it also provides an opportunity to rethink what is known of them. The exhibition does not seek to document comprehensive biographies, but is rather more concerned with the intangible aspects of biographical narratives and, in particular, how these can unsettle perceptions that will reflect back upon the activity of trying to understand any another person and their actions.
Cecilia Nygren’s 2012 video my dreams are still about flying concerns Walter Steiner, the protagonist of Werner Herzog’s The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974), a documentary about Steiner’s hobby of wood-carving while being the world’s preeminent ski jumper. Nygren’s film finds Steiner in northern Sweden where he works as a custodian in a church, and he relates his memories of his time as a ski jumper, the work exists, in a sense, as a codicil to Herzog’s. It is a recollection of a life seen in retrospect from a distanced point of view, and is reflective of the nature of the biographical documentary.
Lucia Simek has been creating a body of work, realized in various forms, concerning the ill-fated expedition by Salomon August Andrée (1854-97) to fly by balloon to the North Pole. He and his team survived the initial crashing of the balloon onto the ice. However, they didn’t make it back to their take-off site on Svalbard but perished on another uninhabited island in the archipelago. Simek’s work relates to the mis-ascribing of Andrée and this expedition, and the necessarily fragmented details of the disaster which create a porous narrative.
Arild Tveito’s interest in the Norwegian philosopher, Peter Zapffe (1899-1990) – an instrumental figure within a Norwegian pessimistic philosophic tradition and also a prolific mountaineer - concerns the intersection of Zapffe’s philosophical activities and his other creative activities of photography and drawing. Tveito has been working with the Zapffe archive at the National Library of Norway.
Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir & Markús Þór Andréssons film Time and Time Again(2014) is a fictional work based upon the real artist, Hreinn Friðfinnsson (b. 1943). With surrealist and science fiction inflections, the film creates a story around twins, separated in infancy, where one is raised in the mountains of Iceland and the other by the sea in Holland. The film wraps fiction around truth - and vice versa – and contemplates an instability of time and place, and their repercussions upon identity.
Hreinn Friðfinnsson’s(b. 1943) work is generally in the idiom of conceptualism, and often is made from found objects with only slight modification. The work is infused with biography, that is not always his own, and a concern for the role which time plays within the construction and fragmentation of it. The work tells stories and uses stories to tell other stories.