Tobias Sjöberg at Grimmuseum gUG

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Artist: Tobias Sjöberg

Exhibition title:  State of Conservation

Venue:  Grimmuseum gUG, Berlin, Germany

Date: February 21 – March 29, 2015

Photography: Courtesy of the artist and Grimmuseum gUG, Berlin

In repetition there is an attempt at preservation. An intention that becomes a necessity. A model that is emulated and inevitably distorted. Every movement becomes an attempt at preserving the previous movement for posterity.

In the exhibition State of Conservation Tobias Sjöberg continues to explore the mechanisms of action and repetition – as a means of both becoming a part of something greater outside oneself, a unified ‘we’, and, on a purely personal level, of losing oneself in oneself, in an inner incantatory self. A state somewhere between rhyme and reason.

The title of the exhibition, State of Conservation, refers to UNESCO’s definition of world heritage sites, as well as to the paradox of conservation and its attendant problems. With this as the point

of departure, the works in the exhibition revolve around notions of conservatism, culture, heritage and civilisation.

Among them is the series Freikörperkultur, a number of cream sculptures sprayed on mirrored glass. The nutritional components of the sculptures – salt, sugar and fat – are sufficient for the survival of a human being; an artwork to consume and thus experience from the inside. The sculptures also quite physically investigate durability and transience since they differ in their composition, which affects their preservative qualities in various ways. Based on its title, the work Freikörperkultur (FKK/nudism) could perhaps be translated into ‘the liberated body’ in the exhibition, a body and a spirit that have been liberated from a tradition, a heritage or an idea and that create new behavioural patterns out of it.

Through a series of paintings entitled Mamma och Pappa (Mum and Dad), Sjöberg has initiated the repetition of a mantra, in which the loss of control appears to be a revelation. The paintings were created directly with hands and fingers and the pattern is made without measuring instruments, based on visual estimate. The variations that emerge wrench the action itself from its support; it becomes human in its distortions and in its repetition it also becomes some sort of conservation of a pattern. Self-correction, here enacted through painting, becomes

a way of understanding oneself while at the same time foreshadowing oneself. Or someone else. A heritage that is given and received. At the same time the purely visual expression seems familiar, perhaps? It is reminiscent, in parts, of some sort of abstracted, primitive, folkloric pattern.

In Tobias Sjöberg’s oeuvre, the action itself, the act that has narrowly preceded the creation of the work, is often very tangibly present. The works often become manifestations of events and the act of experiencing in itself. Frequently the work emerges from social actions and contracts, in which groups of people, separately or together, are united around

the same movement, idea or expression. The installation Bön (Prayer) consists of hand-painted chewing gum balls, as well as chewed gum strung onto a thread. The necklaces, which bring to mind some sort of rosary, are the collected remnants of a unison performance, a unifying pattern of movements executed by Sjöberg and a parent group, consisting of parents and their children.

The exhibition State of Conservation reflects on a present in which what we believe to have left behind us returns in a new guise. Behavioural patterns shift. History repeats itself. How can an inner experience be preserved and passed on to posterity?

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