In his work, Christian Andersson presents alternative ways of interpreting the truth in order to illustrate that there is no single objectively true story. He poses questions about thinking and seeing to make us aware of the idea systems that penetrate us and that are continually evolving during the course of history.
As a point of departure in art and architectural history, popular culture, literature, and the canon of western civilization, Andersson reminds the viewer that there are always alternatives, other ways of looking at the world. He presents forgotten – or repressed – facts in a new way, challenging patterns of thought that too often have become rigid. Andersson’s art offers plenty of space for meandering thoughts, and explores the boundaries between plausible and implausible. Juxtaposing emotion and reason, he establishes enough momentary doubt to test our powers of comprehension.
In the exhibition From Lucy with love, references to the history of art and architecture are clear in two large-scale works. His sculpture To R.M for EVER is clearly based on René Magritte’s 1950 painting The Art of Conversation, and The Angel of the Hearth is a surrealistic reworking of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s classic Barcelona chair. Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion also plays a prominent role in the exhibition. The work for which the exhibition is named, From Lucy with love, is an incomplete timeline, a contemporary cabinet of curiosities that negotiates the museum’s role as both conservation archive and conveyor of truth. With the help of thorough research, a sense of humour, and a bit of chaos, Andersson gives us a new, personal version of history.
Christian Andersson and Andreas Nilsson
Sent: 5 November, 2010, 04:03 PM To: Christian Andersson
Subject: our discussion
A natural starting point for our discussion, I think, is the title of your exhibition at Moderna Museet Malmö. The working title has long been Dream the Same Dream Twice. As you know, this immediately made me think of the Sonic Youth track "I Dreamed I Dream", recorded in 1981. But I suspect a fascination for surrealism lies behind your choice of exhibition title?
Sent: 6 November, 2010, 10:55 AM To: Andreas Nilsson
Subject: Re: our discussion
That is true, to some extent. One of the major works in the exhibition had the working title Dream the Same Dream Twice from the start, and that line has lingered and greatly influenced my thinking when I compiled the exhibition. The word dream can be interpreted in two ways; either as night-time dreaming, or our dreams of something different, of change. Sleeping dreams appear to be very hard to influence. Although we often wish we could choose what dream we have at night, we are governed by brain activities that are hard to control. When we talk about a dream, in the sense of "dreaming of a better world", our dream is more focused, more like a plan or a wish. That sort of dream we may try to fulfil, realise. That dream can have utopian or political aspects, which, to me, relates it to the second major work in this exhibition, reproducing a modernist form and a dream about the new.
So I felt the word "dream" was appropriate both to the surreal dreamscape I had built after a painting by Magritte, and in relation to the set, inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion. If the Barcelona Pavilion which has been reconstructed – after being a mere memory for 55 years – can conjure up a kind of dream state, then this is certainly true of my three-dimensional representation of a dreamscape from a surrealist painting. Dreaming the same dream twice is re-creating, rather than dreaming. It has to do with controlling and giving physical form to that which was merely a dream before, and this is accompanied by a sense of loss or melancholy, perhaps because an old dream obstructed a new one.
You could say that my exhibition oscillates on the boundary between dreaming and waking. A place where fact and logic jostle with other, more vague interpretations of familiar phenomena or objects. Perhaps the exhibition we see is like a dream that could come after having visited an exhibition at Moderna Museet or some other museum...
Sent: 6 November, 2010, 05:05 PM To: Christian Andersson
Subject: RE: our discussion
Going back to Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion. Don't know if you've seen Manon de Boers film installation Dissonant (2010). It portrays the Belgian dancer Cynthia Loemij and it starts with Loemij listening to a piece from Eugène Ysaÿe's "3 Sonatas for Violin". The music stops, and Loemij begins improvising her dance according to what she remembers of it. We hear nothing but her dance steps and breathing. Every four minutes (when the reel has to be changed) we see a black film frame. But the sound of dancing continue, and as viewers we are more or less forced to rely on our memories of what we have previously seen, and, of course, on our imagination, to fill in the visual blank while the film reel is being reloaded. de Boer efficiently controls not only the viewer's memory, but also time.
A work that has the same effect on me is your Untitled (Endloser Morgen) (2010), where Georg Kolbe's statue Morgen is removed from/reinstalled in (?) the Barcelona Pavilion. Your work captures the time that has passed from the original building of the Pavilion in 1929 till its reconstruction in the 1980s. Its character of being an image of an image enhances this impression. In your last letter you wrote about controlling and dreaming. Reconstructing the Pavilion in its original location after more than 50 years – isn't that to some extent about controlling the past? At the same time, this control is shattered through your work. The spell is broken, time has elapsed. On site in the Pavilion, Kolbe's statue also works as a distinct time marker, between classicism and modernism, the past and the future. Perhaps between reality and dream.
Sent: 7 November, 2010, 07:48 PM To: Andreas Nilsson
Subject: Re: RE: our discussion
I haven't seen the film you mention, but it's interesting that we are led to the topic of dance, movement and time, since Georg Kolbe's sculpture is interpreted by many to capture a woman in a dance movement. Kolbe, along with many other German sculptors in the late 1920s, was interested in rediscovering the human body and its movements, with inspiration from expressive dance. Apparently, the sculpture was given its name, Morgen, when it was installed in the pavilion. A name well suited to the politics of the neighbouring German Pavilion at the world exhibition in 1929. The Weimar Republic was presented as the new Germany, and Morgen, which appears to rise from the water, could obviously be interpreted from that perspective: a new dawn, a new era and a dream of a new, modern Germany. The events that followed would eventually give this dream, and the name of the sculpture, a gruesome note, and it is mainly the changes that took place around the sculpture and pavilion that aroused my interest in them. When the pavilion had been torn down, a new, dark dream was born in Germany, the dream of a thousand-year Reich.
It's true what you write. The image reveals a sort of time gap. The first time I saw the picture of the sculpture, suspended in limbo, I thought the photo showed the sculpture being installed in the pavilion in 1929. It wasn't until I looked closer that I saw that the sculpture is packaged in bubble-wrap, and realised that it actually shows the sculpture being placed in the reconstructed pavilion in 1986. There is something uncanny and rather violent about this picture. It reminds me of a crime scene, with the numerals in the background, and the hanging body makes me think of a lynching.
I chose to rephotograph the picture, frame it behind cracked glass, and then photograph the framed picture again. This image is shown with a new frame, behind undamaged glass. To me, this was a way of enhancing the feeling of recreating time without actually acknowledging what had taken place along the way; instead of mending the glass, photographing the picture again and putting new glass in front of it. It's the same feeling I get when I visit the pavilion; the perfect reconstruction seems to convey a dream of a second chance, of resurrecting 1929, and thereby try to forget what followed. That feeling of controlling time is something I focus on in my exhibition.
In other words, it is no coincidence that Untitled (Endloser Morgen) is hanging right next to the work From Lucy with love (2011), forming a sort of time line, as a muddled attempt to explain the exhibition and the different eras that flow through it. The framed photo on the wall at the end of this time line is a reminder of the difficulty of interpreting history, and the pitfalls along the way. Untitled (Endloser Morgen) is the smallest work in the exhibition, wedged between three large installations that vie for attention, but in many ways, the small picture is the linchpin of the whole show.
All the best, Christian
PS. The model of RÊVE/EVER is finished now. Pictures attached.
Sent: 10 November, 2010 09:59 AM To: Christian Andersson
Subject: Re: Re: our discussion
Sorry for my delay in replying.
I agree that Untitled (Endloser Morgen) is asort of the key to the whole exhibition. It connects the elements of time and history in a good way and refers poetically both backwards and forwards in time. From Lucy with love, which you mention, seems to explain the state of events. It is hard not to draw parallels to the renaissance's curiosity cabinets and their attempts to explain and categorise the world. These disparate collections created both order and chaos and frequently revealed the collector's own passions and curiosity. I see the same curiosity in much of your work, and showing your references in a contemporary cabinet, as in this work, is generous. but suddenly, there is a gap in history that must be acknowledged. I refer to your interest in unfinished stories and conspiracy theory. The two works in this exhibition that refer most distinctly to this are perhaps Paper Clip (The Baghdad Batteries) (2009) and The Philadelphia Experiment (1984 VHS Copy) (2005). In different ways they relate to historiological truth and falsity and also ask us who controls our history? It's one thing what is said, and another who is saying it.
PS. The model is impressive!
Sent: 10 November, 2010 08:59 PM To: Andreas Nilsson
Subject: Re: Re: Re: our discussion
Nice to see you're back in the loop.
The work From Lucy with love originally had the working title Why I got sacked from the Museum, which perhaps reveals my thoughts around the work. I was imagining how someone had broken the tacit rules in a museum presentation on time and history, letting more hidden narratives and associations take over. The time line starts with Lucy's skull but develops gradually into an alternative, chaotic, personally interpreted time line. Suddenly, we don't know whether to trust the presentation before us, since the sender appears to have his own agenda. This naturally brings in the issue of preservational institutions such as museums, and their role as archival and correcting bodies. As you point out, this is something that has preoccupied me for a long time.
In many of my works, I have focused on generating temporary doubts concerning facts and truths we take for granted. I do this to test our perceptions, and to find out where we draw the boundary between reason and unreason.
I perceive that there is a contemporary tendency to understand only that which we have been taught, and that approach feels hazardous. In our increasingly specialised expert culture, it becomes harder and harder to get an overview of the system that surrounds us, be it politics, economics or other sciences where we increasingly trust what we are told, as long as it comes from a source that someone else tells us is reliable. Not only does this widen the gap to the system that largely constitutes our society, it also prevents us from understanding the world as it is. That this (self-inflicted?) ignorance about the system makes us vulnerable seems to bother very few people. We generally accept the facts, and the truths, that we are presented with, that we are taught to understand.
Many of my works concern references that in themselves contain gaps or doubts. This can be historical spoofs, conspiracy theories, forgotten or hushed-up phenomena, and so on. When I create my works and include these references in the process and style, it is largely about spreading information. You could say it serves as a form of affectation-based encyclopaedia, where the nature of the work in some cases guides the onlooker to the source. I see this as a way of highlighting places or events that do not have the same dignity in our perception as many other things we are taught.
New opinions are constantly cropping up to make us review our notions of the present and the past, and at these times old and new notions compete with each other. When paradigms shift we are faced with a choice, and our beliefs are challenged; on the one hand, we have an opinion we have been taught is correct and thus included in our notion of ourselves and the world around us. On the other, we are suddenly presented with a new theory that we are told to accept as the prevailing, correct version. A conflict arises, between that which is lodged in our emotions and sense of trust, and that which we are expected to understand as the new, the next rational step in our development. For a period, these two perceptions co-exist, until one of them dies and the other takes over. You could say that I am trying to create a model of this condition in some of my works, to offer the spectator the potential to realise that they assume a point-of-view in their perception.
If Paper Clip (The Baghdad Batteries) is most overtly about providing the starting point for an alternative historiography (by proposing that an archaeological finding from ca 100 BC may have served as a chemical battery), then The Philadelphia Experiment (1984 VHS Copy) is an experiment on what we believe (in this case, partly, believing what we see, when an object appears to dissolve before our very eyes, and partly whether we are prepared to believe a rather implausible conspiracy theory). How does the viewer recall these works when she can no longer see them, since the work has a dual nature, where perception and logic don't really tally? Perhaps, some sort of dual memory is generated, existing in two parts of the brain simultaneously, one in the left half and one in the right half. This dual nature, and the agony it could potentially cause the spectator, is (although it may seem rather cruel) what drives me to create many of my works.
Sent: 11 November, 2010 06:42 PM To: Christian Andersson
Subject: Re: Re: Re: our discussion
Hello again, Christian,
I understand if you are striving to challenge different power systems, challenge human thinking and seeing. still, what you are presenting is a new sort of truth. And I guess this is the paradox of institutional critique: that it is often presented within the walls of the institution itself. Your critique of truth may, thus, perhaps, become the new truth... Museums have a problematic position, to say the least, as truth-sayers. When Marcel Broodthaers takes on the role as museum director and organises exhibitions, he does this therefore partly based on Foucault's theories on power structures and discourse. But he also does so with humour, as you also do occasionally (hope you don't mind me using that word about your work). It felt inevitable not to refer at some point to Broodthaers in this context, since you both also flirt openly with Magritte.
Themes such as power and control, over time, seeing and space, have popped up repeatedly in our discussion. The boundaries between different eras, and between dream and reality, have also been broached. In order to be a tad more specific, I would like to conclude with a question concerning another of your new works, namely the 16 mm film based on Mies van der Rohe's design classic, the Barcelona chair. Is this the first time you have worked with 16 mm film?
Sent: 12 November, 2010 09:59 AM To: Andreas Nilsson
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: our discussion
Exciting! You make it sound like I was a polite terrorist who is challenging the system! Perhaps I am, although I primarily aim at making systems obvious by asking questions about thinking and seeing. but naturally, there is the risk and sad reality that institutional critique confines itself to a place within the institution's walls. I guess we have to regard that as a sort of model-building, creating examples that, hopefully, reflect the full-scale systems.
And naturally, there is a paradox inherent in the idea that, instead of opening a concept I run the risk of falling into the same trap that I am criticising, that I simply add one more truth to the pile of truths. However, I claim that a "truth" of dubious nature (which in itself has something unstable and self-destructive about it) can, ideally, destabilise the structure of previous layers, to refer back to the "dual memory" I mentioned in my earlier e-mail.
Still, I want to avoid any inference that this is the only reason I do what I do. My works are not created with the intention of telling anyone how to think; on the contrary, I want to face the spectator with a situation where thoughts can play freely, to offer a feeling that a case is never entirely closed.
Regarding Broodthaers, I have long admired his humour, which allowed him to generate a creative chaos in the midst of order. With his museums and cabinets he evokes the feeling that there is a lot around us that is still chaotic, regardless of how we try to sort and define it, and this in itself is a sharp and inspiring reminder. His work is also a good example of how a critique of institutions or power can win acceptance, since humour is often used disarmingingly on the very doorstep. Sometimes, I get the impression that institutions are most apt to acknowledge critique that is delivered in the same dialect spoken by the system that is being criticised, and that is obviously something we can exploit. But even if, say, humour can be a strategy, there is also the risk that the format stands in the way. What I mean is that the art scene is extremely sensitive to the expression used, rather than how it is used. I myself tried for a long time to reveal fragile systems by making unstable, illusory installations. One of the results of this was that one critic called me "the Joe Labero of art"...
But let's quickly move on from that embarrassing episode and instead concentrate on your question: my choice of using film instead of video is largely about the time aspect, and, more specifically, of conveying a sense that the material is intended for an archive (or perhaps even taken from an archive). This is the first time I've worked with film, or moving images at all, and it feels both exciting and difficult. I have been more inspired by films than by art, and have tried several times to tackle moving images. In some way, these ideas about moving images have always developed into static images and ultimately taken the form of installations or sculptures. Therefore, it felt logical to begin from the other end this time; to film a sculpture. That the sculpture is based on an (in) famous design (Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair) means that I can avail myself of the era with which the object is imbued. The filmed sculpture gains a form of dual nature, partly design, partly the history associated with what the sculpture resembles.
My film has a surrealist character, which contrasts with what Mies van der Rohe's chair usually represents. In many ways, you could say that I am playing with what the chair was holding behind its back, so to speak, when it was first designed in the late 1920s. The modernist design and architecture that emerged at that time eschewed ornament, darkness and mysticism, and I explore how far back in time this design classic can be taken before it transforms (or retrogresses) into something else. Again, I have toyed with the Rorschach-concept, and the chair will experience a world where its chrome-plated terseness is thrown into a Thoreauesque nightmare...
Advocacy, humour, admiration, stigmas and dreams, have your pick!
Sent: 30 November, 2010 09:25 PM To: Andreas Nilsson
Subject: change of plans...
I hope all is well.
I must admit to having once again failed to make a film. I realised that the chair must after all remain a sculpture. My ideas concerning the chair have evolved as it began to take shape. While the initial intention was that it would be a 3D ink blot, it is now moving towards some sort of organic sculpture. The frame is covered with a detailed surface resembling burned wood that seems to be expanding and slowly bursting its mould. I like the idea that a sculpture has somehow taken over the chair, or perhaps always possessed it.
The nature vs. modernism streak that permeates the replica of the Barcelona Pavilion is entirely appropriate to the current style of the chair. I have chosen to call my sculpture Angel of the Hearth (2011). This can be seen partly as a reference to Max Ernst's painting L'ange de foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme) from 1937 (with its ghost-like "angel" dancing across the landscape as a portent of what was to befall Europe), and partly as a continuation along the line of modernism's metamorphosis that I have been pursuing. It is as though this "angel" were growing out of itself, into something else, something we have not yet seen the end of.
And, to entirely disrupt the order, I have decided to change the title of the exhibition. it will now be called From Lucy with love. This rhymes better with the exhibition, where an attempt to explain something on the basis of given facts eventually lands in my own interpretation of them. That's what a process is like: something new pops up, things change shape...
See you, From C with love