|The third chapter of this year’s summer trilogy 'Exercises in Harmony' at Kunsthal 44Møen consists of a double presentation of works by the internationally acclaimed artists Ceal Floyer (*1968, British, lives and works in Berlin) and Jarosław Kozłowski (*1945 in Śrem, Poland, lives in Poznan). Both had shown a work in last year’s 10 years anniversary group exhibition Møenlight Sonata and will now be featured with a small survey show each, spanning works from the 1990s to the present.
Jarosław Kozłowski came to wider recognition in 1971 namely through his NET mail art manifesto, which he sent to more than 350 artists and critics around the world; today he is considered one of the most influential conceptual artists in Poland. He usually works in cycles " formal variations of addressing various current topics, which he often returns to. Ceal Floyer belongs to a next, post-conceptual generation of artists who inherited the strategies of the 1970s conceptualists. Her work consists of little more than an idea executed literally, taking her subjects and media to radically rationalist solutions. Both artists share a formal simplicity, linguistic sharpness and philosophical precision, pairing strict matter-of-factness with a sense of humor and poetic sensibility.
Ceal Floyer’s subtle video projection titled Unfinished (1995) shows two hands with circling thumbs " a humorous wink to the saying “twiddle one’s thumbs”, which means to engage in a time-wasting activity or to wait idly, with the result that everything remains, of course, unfinished. A similar double take is performed in her newest video, simply titled Hammer and Nail (2018). The projection of a mundane activity looped and magnified to cinematic scope shows what the title says: a hammer pounding a nail into a board. The progress of metal into wood seems stunted by the movement of the entire filmic frame, which gradually comes up to meet the nail’s head with each blow, enacting a negation of duties and a structural reversal or complication of the usual hammer-meets-nail relationship. In the first room, a black household bucket emits the sound of dripping water " the ‘sound effect’ is however intentionally spoiled with the CD player, speakers and electric cable being on full display (Bucket, 1999). Drill (2006) takes the term ‘closed circuit’ to the absurd: a drill lies on the floor, its jack plugged into two holes that have previously been drilled in the wall at the height of an electric socket. Domino Effect (2015) is a sculptural installation of a situation just before said ‘effect’ comes into play: a neat line of domino stones that will immediately collapse, and thus perform its title, when one stone gets accidently hit by a foot or blow of wind. Rock Paper Scissors (2013) is a set of three photographs of said objects that belong to the famous hand game " one beating the other. A wall is completely covered with black and yellow barrier tape. As the tape is attached diagonally, the diagonal stripes create horizontal lines, turning the warning into pure abstraction (Wall, 2002). Behind it, ten 10% stickers, usually announcing a discount in supermarkets, add up to 100% which is also the title of the work (2012). In the sound piece Goldberg Variation (2002) the title is used as a framing device, determining the identity and meaning of the work. ‘The Goldberg Variations’ was originally composed by Bach as a Baroque keyboard exercise in musical structure and reasoning. It became a standard in classical piano repertoire, consisting of 30 variations of a single aria. Floyer takes the initial prototype aria as her starting point, simultaneously presenting all the different piano recordings and interpretations of it that she could find commercially. The condensation of the individual versions into one composite playfully acknowledges and articulates the conceptual themes of the original. Finally, Warning Birds (2002), an assembly of black bird stickers on the Kunsthal’s rear window adds up to a dense pattern-like flock, which nearly blocks the view in into the wide, picturesque landscape.
In the big hall, Jarosław Kozłowski shows a set of early paintings of common objects (a stool, a ladder, a board or picture) in formal reduction to a flat shape. By inverting the color relation of figure and ground, they also play with figuration and abstraction, meaning and representation.
Color as a way of formally coding or disguising difficult subject matter runs like a red thread through Kozłowski’s oeuvre. 'Counting-out rhyme' (2005) consists of fifteen bowls of dried-up paint. Each color has a matching cloth on which someone apparently has wiped their dirty hands. Each such “soiling/cleaning“-set is ascribed to a site of genocide. Washing hands is a symbolic act of removing oneself from these events and thereby from any responsibility " however, the material testimony remains. Recycled News 2 (2016) is an ongoing series consisting of hundreds of pages of newspapers from different parts of the world. Regardless of language, place of publication or political orientation, they are equally framed and subordinated to the aesthetics of color, rhythm and repetition and, above all, equally illegible. By painting over the entire pages of newspapers with watercolors, just leaving out the newspapers’ names and some edges, the artist not only questions their credibility, but also highlights the aestheticization of the media. Newspapers that pretend to be images launch what he calls “hypocrisy of images” the role of which, like the media, is to cover and distract from reality. Kozłowski does not want to be called a political artist. He poses purely rhetorical questions about the possibility of aesthetics outside politics. His conceptualism was a way of artistic radicalization and analytical inquiry that took on an increasingly critical dimension. But his criticism, reaching the ideological and political foundations of the functioning of society, is formulated in philosophical rather than political categories, with a favorite strategy to abolish and relativize meaning.
Ceal Floyer, Untitled (Suggestion Box), 2008. Photo: Thomas Gunnar Bagge
Ceal Floyer, Warning Birds, 2002. Photo: Thomas Gunnar Bagge
Jarosław Kozłowski, Green Objects & Their Green Contexts (1981)