Contemporary Obsessions

Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen / Denmark

November 8–December 20, 2019
November 20, 2019
Galleri Bo Bjerggaard
Flaesketorvet 85A
1711 Copenhagen

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Alexandra Leykauf (DE), Inge Ellegaard (DK), Matts Leiderstam (SE), Mika Rottenberg (AR/IL), René Schmidt (DK), Simon Evans™ (UK/US)

Contemporary Obsessions revolves around passionate, myopic investigation of things. The exhibition brings together a number of very different artists, whose works all with great intensity delve into different subjects and materials in search of unique connections and systems. Everywhere things are scrutinized, as artists unleash their minds into their material, repurposing it into new sequences revealing unknown or overlooked interrelationships.

In so many ways, looking at things with a detail-obsessed or whimsical eye, discovering patterns in a field of objects and wringing new meaning from them, is intrinsic to art-making. It is both a contemporary fascination and a perennial condition of art. There have always been artists who were obsessed with painting a specific mountain or capturing shimmering foliage, exploring the nuances of skin or the abstract three-dimensional volumes of drapery. The variety of ways in which a sharp-eyed, painstaking or manic approach to the material is expressed in today’s art is the starting point for this exhibition. It does not aspire to present a comprehensive overview of all these disparate strategies. It is simply an invitation to be carried away by the vortices and unique universes that emerge when artists delve into a subject with a particular overheated intensity: algae as infinitely expanding algorithms, diagrammatic reworkings of mundane clippings, poetic-systematic arrangements and readings of book titles, obsessive daily “notes” on amaryllises, a “catalogue” of people found online with unique attributes (hair, musculature, dance moves), overlooked erotic connections in works of art history—all are put under the microscope.

All the works in this exhibition share a starting point in intimate observation—at a desk, with paper and scissors, or at a computer. But what appears to start out as noodling for the artist’s own sake in actuality carries with it a greater perspective. As has often been art’s function, these artists push certain general trends to the point of exaggeration, or create their own systems and parallel universes. Shedding light on systemic faults and conventions, they point out alternatives to entrenched power systems, gender conventions, forms of reproduction, architecture, etc., though never in the guise of a manifesto. The critique of the system is not proclamatory but is kept at a human level. Society’s ostensibly functional authorities are pushed over the brink and lose it. Simon Evans™’s transformations of directions, instructions and maps, rendering them misleading and bewildering, cause the social compact to split at the syntactic seams. Inherent in René Schmidt’s work is a critique of society’s confusion of function and aesthetics. Functionalist architecture must be cleanable: surfaces must be easily stripped of graffiti; spikes in the pavement prevent homeless people from lying down. Moreover, Functionalism ends up viewing humans as a problem rather than serving the human function, characterized in part by a joy of expression. Mika Rottenberg creates mockeries of global living, while Matts Leiderstam and Alexandra Leykauf shine a particular light on the conventions of art, wringing alternative information from standard forms of image reproduction. Ellegaard’s Amaryllis series, like many other works in this exhibition, shows that visual obsession about a particular thing can be simultaneously an escape and a desire to delve deeper into reality—a little bit at a time—as a way of being in the world, in which details come before the whole.

Humour and absurd cheer can be sensed as an echo resounding through many of the works. Humour goes hand in hand with obsession, and by means of it many of the works subvert the uniforming of social orders.

Curator: Helle Brøns, PhD, curator at Sorø Kunstmuseum.