WE HAVE BEEN CALLED MANY NAMES

04.11. - 16.12.2017
PREVIEW 03.11.2017

Nils Stærk is proud to present Runo Lagomarsino's solo exhibition We have been called many names. The exhibition is Lagomarsino's third solo presentation in the gallery. On occasion of the exhibition PhD candidate at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Katarina Stenbeck has written an essay on Lagomarsino's practice.
 
A Language of Inversion

Katarina Stenbeck

Capitalism was the first system to make the regimentation and mechanization of the body a key premise of the accumulation of wealth. Indeed, from its beginning to the present, one of capitalism’s main social tasks has been the transformation of our energies and corporeal powers into labour power.
Silvia Federici

Scattered around the gallery space are 28 plaster casts of the insides of hats, placed on simple wooden constructions so they form a group and become a formation of kinds of bodiless figures. The casts are all different as a result of the variety of hats they are made from and the tactility of the plaster surfaces tell stories about the specific types of hats, their material, age and how they have been used. Even slight traces of the person wearing the hat can be read in the inverted language of the cast. Runo Lagomarsino collected the hats in Los Angeles from people working as cleaners, gardeners, security personnel and other service job that remain in the margins of visibility. We have been called many names is the title Lagomarsino has given the piece as well as the exhibition. How can we understand this ‘we’?

A large piece of fabric separates the main gallery space from a smaller space. This fabric acts as a support for a black and white print of Guiseppe Pellizza da Volpedo’s monumental painting of 1901, The Fourth Estate. The painting depicts a group of workers on strike moving towards the viewer. Lagomarsino has hung the image upside down. To reverse the position of conventional representations can destabilise the way we perceive them and reveal the construction behind naturalised concepts and world views. In his drawing América Invertida (1943), Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García turned the commonplace map of South America on its head, placing the Equator at the bottom and Uruguay at the centre, hereby reorganising dominant ideas of centre and periphery. A simple gesture of inversion like this, has the power to make visible that which was previously invisible.

The centre is what we, in our self-proclaimed centre, most commonly refer to as the ‘West’. Evidently, the West was not always the centre. In the Christian world Jerusalem was the centre and Europe, since it was located west of here, was merely the West. Europe only began to occupy the centre with the expansion into the Americas in the 16th century. The conquest of new land initiated the colonial system of domination and extinction and is closely linked to the advent of capitalist modernity. With this system of power, Western Europe became the point of observation and classification, it was from the West that the rest of the world was described, conceptualized and ranked.i

Indias Occidentales was the name the Spaniards gave to their newly claimed territory; other names given to the continent include America, Latin America and Anglo America. The act of assigning a name to a place, a collective or a social group is a crucial part of constructing an identity. A name also demarcates a border, a frontier for inclusion and exclusion, and the name Indias Occidentales indicates the location of America as part of the Occident, the West, yet placed at its periphery.ii

Naming the world has continued to be the privilege of the West throughout the 20th century. After World War II, the world was divided into three parts by the West with the West being the first, the communist bloc the second and the rest labelled the Third World. The implied hierarchy of this division is also implicit in the post-1989 term ‘the developing world’, which replaced the three-world system, and is used to name the nations that need to develop according to Western standards. The global South has been introduced to replace these terms, but is no less contested.

Sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos argues that the global South is not a geographical concept but rather a metaphor for the human suffering caused by capitalism and colonialism and we should understand that “it is a South that also exists in the geographic North, in the form of excluded, silenced and marginalised populations, such as undocumented immigrants, the unemployed, ethnic or religious minorities.”iii The historical conditions for the current economic divisions of the world into a global South and a global North are shaping the conditions for today’s marginalised labour forces in Western societies. In the global North, cheap labour is predominantly of immigrant background, which reflects the color line that also defines the global labour market. Additionally, many people working in the service sector are illegal immigrants, rendering them with no rights, no representation and to a large extent no visibility.

In Lagomarsino’s exhibition we meet the worker as a global figure, a figure whose identity is continuously transformed according to geo-political developments and the demands of capital. As the capitalist economy destroys ‘old’ industries and their workforces attracting ‘new’ workers from around the globe, the shape of work and workers changes.iv Lagomarsino employs a poetic language to portray the changing figure of the worker, one which renders abstract the specific cultural or geographical characteristics and opens up a space for considering these people beyond their identity as ‘worker’, ‘immigrants’, ‘Latinos’ or other. This way, it becomes possible for us to imagine them as individuals beyond their relation to labour and capital. A new people as in Volpedo’s painting.

In his work Lagomarsino seeks out the fractures of dominant narratives and teases out new understandings of the world. But rather than merely being an act of revealing the hidden structures of meaning, it is also a language with the power to reconfigure existing ideas and ways of conduct.

Lagomarsino has recently participated in exhibitions at institutions such as LACMA, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Fondazione Trussadi, Milan, Moderna Museet, Malmö, The South London Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art University Pennsylvania and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid. In 2015 he participated in All the World's Futures the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.

Runo Lagomarsino (b. 1977 Lund, Sweden) lives and works in Malmö, Sweden and São Paulo, Brazil.


i Walter Mignolo: The Idea of Latina America, 2005, pp. 35
ii Ibid pp. 34
iii Boaventura de Sousa Santos: “Epistemologies of the South and the future” in From the European South 1, 2016 pp. 18-19
iv Michael Denning: “Representing Global Labor” in Work & Culture 2006/5, pp. 13-14

FENCE STUDIES / WORDLESS

26.08. - 21.10.2017
PREVIEW 25.08.2017

Nils Stærk is proud to present Torbjørn Rødland's fifth solo show at the gallery since 2001. 

The exhibition comprises two distinct series. Fence Studies is a series of six small works, while Wordless consists of five larger photographs, each showing a human head held by a pair of older hands. The relationships between the persons touching and the persons touched are unclear. 

The people in Wordless are backlit, creating glowing silhouettes, separating the subject from the background and inducing a sense of impending transformation. Equally characteristic of Rødland's photography as the lighting is the tactile combination of surfaces. Viewed against younger faces, the hands become landscapes of skin, sinews, liver spots and wrinkles.

In Fence Studies, different materials are likewise experienced through their combination. A section of fence connects with a striped canvas bag and flowers; a thicket and a pile of blocks and bricks.

The internal tensions of the works are heightened by the relationships between individual photographs. Plasticity and unity are recurrent themes in Rødland's work. The bizarre pliability of the world and of the medium of photography can also be said to be at the heart of this exhibition. 

In recent years, Rødland's work has notably been shown at the Henie-Onstad Art Center in Oslo, Manifesta 11 in Zurich and the 9th Berlin Biennale. He was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art's series of public installations in New York, and his photograph Baby was on the cover of the September 2015 issue of Artforum. This fall, Rødland will have solo shows at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London (29 Sept.) and at C/O Berlin (9 Dec.).

Torbjørn Rødland (b. 1970, Norway) lives and works in Los Angeles.

COLD ANIMALS

05.11 – 17.12.2016

Nils Stærk is pleased to announce Olaf Breuning’s solo exhibition Cold Animals with new large drawings along with absurd and humorous hand-painted ceramic sculptures.

Since the beginning of his career Breuning has worked with drawings as a starting point for his photography, sculptures and film production. Drawing as an independent media in Breuning’s production has now for more than 10 years been an integrated part of his exhibitions, while his ceramic sculptures, like a tree-dimensional portrayal of his drawings, are new to the artistic practice.

Brett Littman, director of The Drawing Center New York, has traced the process behind Breuning’s seemingly simple and immediate drawings and his general practice and inspirations in an interview from August 2016.

Excerpts from the interview:

Your drawing practice is very regimented. I know that you used to draw at Balthazar, a restaurant in SoHo, where you would go every morning for breakfast. You would have a specific kind of notebook and the B2 pencil that you use to make your drawings. You also did a series of drawings on the Queen Mary during two cruises from NY to the UK. Why do you need this kind of structure to draw?

Well, in the beginning of my career I did not take drawing seriously as an art medium. I generally used drawings as plans for my photographs. I would make very detailed drawings for my very complicated big photographs. (…) All of a sudden, I looked at these drawings more seriously and people around me started to look at them too and think that they were pretty cute and good – that encouraged me.

However, for me sitting in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen alone in a studio isnotagoodwaytowork.(…)Ihadto find that place where I can focus on drawing —a busy place like Balthazar or on the Queen Mary — where I could observe people and generate ideas.

I like people. I want to tell stories about humans and the tragedy of life. I feel a lot of empathy for the worldview of someone like Woody Allen or Larry David. I am a very optimistic person, but at the same time I want to deal with things that are kind of sad like death and war. When I am in Balthazar and I see a waitress serving something, I might have an idea of someone serving food in a French maid costume, then all of a sudden my brain starts to work. The thing is that I fish for ideas. I look out there and I see certain things, and suddenly one small idea pops into my head and I try to take that idea and turn it into a snowball that starts an avalanche. (…)

When I have a successful drawing session I am pretty sure that in my case it has a lot to do with my neuro- biological state of mind, you know? Sometimes I am just enthusiastic and stuff just floats out, and sometimes I just sit in Balthazar and try to make a drawing and make a circle and then nothing more happens. (…)

What makes a drawing successful for you? Does the horizon of success for you end with you just being satisfied with the drawing or the drawing communicating something specific?

Being satisfied with the drawing personally is where the horizon of success ends for me. (…) I’m not someone who really needs other people’s opinions about a work. People can always say whatever they want about my work because we have seven billion people on the planet. One person thinks this and another person thinks that and I am just fine with that.

The interview will be published in its entirety in the forthcoming book Olaf Breuning – Drawings published by VfmK, Verlag für modern Kunst

Olaf Breuning (b. 1970, Schaffhausen in Switzerland) is educated from Zürich University of the Arts, but lives and works in New York, USA. Most recent institutional solo exhibitions include: NRW-Forum, Düsseldorf, Kunsthall Stavanger. Haifa Museum of Art, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Kunstmuseum Luzern. Represented in public collections like Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, DK. Kunsthall Hamburg, DE. Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine, FR among others.