By Peter Buggenhout The Blind Leading The Blind #21, 2007, Household dust, hair, wood, polyurethane, foam, aluminium, polyester, polystyrene, 117 x 105 x 184 cm. From a show called The Shape Of Things To Come at the Saatchi Gallery. Thank you Jake Walker
Malmö Konsthall presents Poul Gernes-Retrospective, open 21 May–21 August 2011.
The painter, sculptor and filmmaker Poul Gernes (1925-1996) is considered a modern classic and numbers among the most influential of Scandinavian artists. He constantly sought to link art to life by means of colour and design. In the 50 years Poul Gernes was active he had numerous exhibitions and he shaped the face of more than 150 buildings in Denmark. He left behind an impressive œuvre, which is fascinating on account of its extraordinary complexity.
Persistence is commonly considered a virtue, especially when
one persists ‘in the face of’ an opposing force or the horrifying
indifference of the world at large. If the subject has persisted
successfully then they have ‘persevered,’ a word that suggests
heroism. Persisting for the appropriate amount of time suggests
that you are passionate, purposeful, and humbly know when to let
go. Then again, persistence is not an innately admirable trait. An
obsessive compulsive persister does not instinctively understand
the unwritten laws of appropriate repetitive action, loses their style,
and eventually risks becoming irritating to those around them.
The distinction between appropriate and inappropriate persistence
is not clear, though both require a sort of bravery, an unveiling
of your own vulnerability and a willingness to publicly admit
devotion to your chosen path.
The sculptor Louise Bourgeois has described her emotions as
being ‘inappropriate’ to her size. These emotions are her self-
confessed ‘demons:’ unmanageable forces that she uses as energy
and motivation to create. This ‘inappropriateness’ is an indigestible
lump in the throat, an element of oneself that cannot be nice-i-fied,
adequately understood or put to rest. Without a solution to pacify
her hurt and perceived trauma Bourgeois turns this inappropriate
excess of feeling into an ostensibly useful act: the creation
In the creation of all artwork there is the question of
inappropriateness and uselessness. In one view art can only
be classified as ‘Art’ if it is a gloriously useless object of
decoration, or if its reason to be is obtuse or esoteric. It’s inherent
impracticality is a vital ingredient of its being. Art is not science,
it is not math, it is not philosophy, yet it can draw form all these
fields and speak to us in a sideways language, becoming something
quite other than all these topics it imitates. Where it can becomes
alive is in the realm of absurdity, a place where comedy also
Mound activity—the uselessly persistent pursuance of mound-like
forms—is the self-conscious need by the artist Sarah crowEST
to ‘give more than what is presently requested’ to the art world
at large. CrowEST has created an artistic fate and given herself
over to it, this being the creation of animistic mound-like forms
that repeat themselves ad nauseam in a seemingly meaningless
process of evolution. Not one mound is exactly the same but
yet they are all alike. The endless manufacturing of mounds is
glorious in its impracticality. Why would an artist, with their full
faculties, huddle down to such a dribbling project? Why go on
and on muddling together the same non-forms for your individual
‘Why’ is a pertinent and often terrifying question. Every artist
has at some stage in their career asked with a sort of adolescent
existentialism, ‘why bother at all? It doesn’t mean anything. What
is the point of any human endeavour? I mean in the end we’re all
For me, CrowEST asks this question again and again with the
creation of each mound and perhaps the mounds answer this
question by cancelling the question out with insistent repetition.
The question becomes no longer ‘why?’ but rather ‘why not?’ If
mounds, then why not any other act of creation?
A well-read German friend of mine once attempted to explain
Camus to me, an author I had never read but of whom he was
particularly enamoured. He described the story of The Outsider to
me in his endearingly faulted English, summing up the moral of
the story as: ‘If you recognise the absurdity in life, yet continue
despite, this is heroic and cool.’
Lacan has said that ‘Love is giving what you do not have.’ It
is recognising your lack, the gaping hole in yourself and then
offering that up to another. In effect offering up your innate
uselessness as a form of devotion. Art can also be seen as an act in
love in its suspension of disbelief—the way it works through faith
in the artist’s vision.
CrowEST’s persistence could be seen as a form of devotion to an
absurdist God. I like to imagine that towards the end of her mound
making life CrowEST will be surrounded by a Borges-esque
museum of mounds whose corridors stretch out towards eternity, a
sea of endlessly glimmering and differentiating non-forms.
To fruitlessly endeavour to continue on an absurdist path without
a seeming glimmer of cynicism strikes me as a heroic move
that belies sophistication. As though the seemingly compulsive
persister has taken one step past existential dilemmas to forgive
themselves for their inborn futility and instead exalts joyously in
their void of meaninglessness—a place where everything becomes
simultaneously trivial yet vital.
Posted by mistress of bodge at 7/16/2011 11:52:00 AM
Text by Matthew Lorenzon
I see these ankylosed bodies in the street, shuffling along hunched and bowed. I know I am looking into a possible future, but how far? Ankylosing spondylitis has its own tempo marked by an ache that carries you, like a minute hand that barely seems to move, towards its mark. T. S. Eliot writes that
Old men ought to be explorers,
Here and there does not matter,
We must be still and still moving,
Into another intensity,
For a further union, a deeper communion.
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
Ankylosing spondylitics do just that, moving inevitably through painful intensities of union and perverse communion. In ankylosing spondylitis a hyperactive and misdirected immune system attacks its own body. To stabilise the swelling tissue around the spine, the sacrum (“sacred bone” or “cross bone”) fuses to the hip bones.
Then the vertebrae grow into each other, drawing the head down into a hunched prayer to the deformed core.
One becomes, in short, a mound, still and still moving. As an immobilised patient, socially speaking, one moves outside time along with the sick, dead, and distressed. As Mark R. McCullogh quotes from Sebald’s Austerlitz in his article “The Stylistics of Stasis:”
“The dead are outside of time. the dying and all the sick at home or in hospitals, and they are not the only ones, for a certain degree of personal misfortune is enough to cut us off from the past and the future.”
Being outside social time gives you a certain freedom to move amongst the timelessness of forms. Not that you are gifted with any remarkable insight: pain is pain and one would prefer to be outside in time rather than inside and out, staring at the ceiling. Unwillingly, perhaps, one adopts the stiff body and whirring mind of ankylosed time, and with that, a change of priorities.
It seems that, at some point, the artist Sarah CrowEST moved into ankylosed time. She suffered under a diverse arts practice, a swelling of identities. As a reaction she is now dedicated exclusively to moundmaking. Through this physical restriction she has proliferated forms that seem to inhabit the timeless spaces of the hospital, museum, and church.
Warmly lit and smooth, glimpsed only through holes, some mounds are hospitalised. They are objects of wonder and pity, cathartic for the pitying viewer. Others are strewn with candles as objects of worship, asking the viewer to step outside time and apprehend their actuality. Still others confront with their size and colour, refusing to be part of the everyday. My favourite, however, are the mounds with eyes. They are the ankylosed bodies of CrowEST’s earlier creations: the sympathetic stuffed creatures. Beset by gravity, the ankylosed bodies stare out from Crowest past into Crowest future.
Stéphane Thidet, Sans titre (je veux dire qu’il pourrait très bien, théoriquement, exister au milieu de cette table […]), 2008. Billard, matériaux divers. 400 x 200 cm. Courtesy Galerie Aline Vidal, Paris. © Stéphane Thidet