Artist: Steinar Haga Kristensen (with guest artist Audar Kantun)
Exhibition title: ULTRAIDENTIFICATION PAVILION
Curated by: Caroline Krzyszton
Venue: Futura, Prague, The Czech Republic
Date: December 7, 2021 – January 16, 2022
Photography: Jan Kolský / all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Futura, Prague
Steinar Haga Kristensen’s ULTRAIDENTIFICATION PAVILION gathers around the avatarization of a humanoid figure that constitutes the main motif in the intaglio print series Jubileum 2020 (2020). The avatar is placed and programmed for limited interaction in a virtual total world, constructed from digital reproductions of the singular works in the exhibition. Intaglio print, oil painting, ceramics, fresco and sgraffito painting, glass mosaics, crocheted children’s clothes, lamps, furniture, etc. act as components in an idealized public space where you can interact with other avatars in an eternal game. The game annexes and anticipates the aesthetic impulse of the viewer and leads her through a world that hyper-contextualizes the relative conditions of things and the viewers relevance.
Steinar Haga Kristensen’s art is characterized by an extensive productivity unlimited by technique and medium, but most of all by the artist’s tireless repetition and perversion of the artist’s work in ever new constellations. The core activity of this seemingly simple gesture is to transcend the dialectical field of aesthetics, in order to allow a radical exploration of the core of human creative potency.
A User’s Guide written by Eirik Senje
As a site for leisurely activities, the pavilion stands apart from the functionally essential building body – an addition of surplus rather than necessity. The scene of temporary activities in a public, semi-private or private environment – a distilled environment for lavish displays of social activity, romantic connections in amongst strictly regulated greenery, romancing of the subject by ideology, mass, destiny – dreams big and small – intimate exchange in the cursory representation of habitat; suspended ceiling granting scant respite from potential showers beneath an uncertain sun. An occasional temple. A shack. A playhouse.
As everyone knows, a play orchestrated in honour of the Gods must only be presented once: Who after all, could stand to watch tragedy repeated indefinitely? There they are again, going through the same motions with such sincerity, one would think they were the first to ever see the sun rise. Will it ever end? The poor immortals, they must be spared. Or alternatively, could it be that what happens only once is comedy? That one rare, deviant step which connects at an unexpected point along the curve: Some interruption came along – slippery leaves after an autumn shower, crack in the pavement – balance was lost, errant matter set afoot flailing with wildly exaggerated compensatory gesture. A guffaw, quickly but futilely supressed, is heard echoing through the landscape – it’s been said that God will forgive that human anything, who can engender such an outburst.
Who is there, looking over their shoulder? It must be Orpheus! Surely? There she is, beloved Eurydice, and nothing was in vain – my heroic love is witnessed! Oh, but my beloved is not I … How could I have forgotten?
Or Venus Callipygous – colloquially known as Venus with the beautiful buttocks – she as well looks back. Several versions exist: the buttocks undressed, modestly draped, some combination of both, head though, always turned against the order of movement. Expectantly? Confirmatory? Towards the phantom image of a pursuer (ah, the woes of transience)? That other’s gaze as production of reflected desire? A plan of action? Let us not jump to conclusions just yet – not, anyway, on the shoulders of nothing but a bit of marble carved out, ostensibly, according to some vaguely erotic scheme swaying to the mercurial regimes of tact and taste.
Angelus Novus (Paul Klee), the angel of the new. The angel watches history unfolding as a single continuous disaster heaping one wreck upon another. A wind blows from paradise, throwing the angel irrevocably into the future, their back turned towards the direction of travel. Transfixed, as if watching something about to crash into the floor and shatter into a thousand pieces. (W. Benjamin, ad lib).
Geography? Architecture? Mythology?
As for the situation at hand (yes, here and now):
Here is the figure of a body hiding the figure of an object behind its exposed back. Here a figure looking over its shoulder (how many of me there are!). Here is the assumed opposite surface of the body – the front as it were – plausibly containing such features as chest, abdomen, genitalia – facing the inward landscape of the image. Here a body somewhat deformed, rough, the neck twisted slightly too far, gaze turned away from the internal space of the image. Looking towards me. I! I start from this cabinet, this chair, this shapeless lump, these abstract compositions. My burdens, my friends – my qualities! My past! My future! In hoc signo vinces.
Certainly, it can’t be I who is the hero of this story, can it? The hero never looks back, nor does the hero doubt their own strength – surely? And in no case does the body of the hero explode into fragments. And even if that were somehow to be the case, the shattered fragments of that body would certainly not gravitate towards and reform around signs, like cosmic dust orbiting planets orbiting some distant sun? The hero is put together, and stays together until death, a unity – no?
Yes, I would indeed like to get to know you better, please show me your despot and I will show you mine. As I carry something, I am the carrier and something being carried. A something carrying something constructed by the something, the observer. Human as human… Look, for I am human! So, this is what human looks like! I am told! Have you heard the good news?
The relationship between object and spectator (“Spectator”, hah! Look at them. Look how they plod along, aimlessly integrating every foreign body into that ramshackle system of despotic symbols and vicarious personalities they deign to call their “consciousness”. They say they want to “experience”; yet I bring them such a gift as to shake them to the very core of their being, and what do they do? Immediately they scratch and tear at it, every shape disfigured before the first photon has passed their eyelids. They reach with fearfully trembling hands into the future and carve into it their graven images. No matter. I will make them think twice about their “spectations” – when I am done teaching my lesson, they will propose to “spectate” again only with the greatest apprehension and the most careful preparations):
I like it / I do not like it. It likes me / It does not like me. It likes me / I like it. I like it / It likes me. It likes me / It likes me. I like it / I like it.
Here we bow, scrape and courtesy for each other as we compete to dance the cleverest and most exquisite dance. The other guests are transfixed, totally engrossed in the grace of our performance. The room fades to the sound of our footsteps, a blanket woven from the rhythms of our carefully tuned interchange. But wait…something is off… something sounding from outside the dance – scratching, muffled voices, soft footsteps… the sounds of conspiracy! What … the wine?! Who drank all the wine while we were dancing? Who ate the canapés? The roasted pig? The figs? The whole feast, even the tablecloth, gone!? Only the silverware… only the silverware is left… Why did we decide to have dancing before the meal? Somewhere along the way it seems the order of pretext was upset, leaving the guests to shrink into the night hungry and exhausted.
Orpheus is shaken to his very core, lost for words, without a clue – the beloved Eurydice bitten by a deadly snake, rigor mortis already setting in. What cruel fate, what treacherous injustice! Unacceptable! Here there is but one recourse; is it not true after all, that my beautiful song can make even trees and stones dance? What of some deadly poison? What of it? I shall simply have to go down below and flip the cards back around with the help of my considerable gifts of persuasion.
Looking back, it seems obvious to me now, that the source of all my misfortune in life was that _______ did not love me sufficiently and did not give me enough attention.
Venus also looks over her shoulder. Let us imagine there some observer: An early flaneur perhaps, impeccably decked out with exquisite accoutrement, circa 1850. They both seem to be looking at each other, eye to eye, but in point of fact – by some near-miracle – the gaze of both subjects remains studiously fixed at a point located exactly in the middle of the distance separating the two. Seemingly unaffected, totally nonchalant, there some invisible attraction hovers, bathed in the glow of their continued attention.
I as well look over my shoulder: My body is an adored object adoring objects. Representations of representations of non-representativity – not abstraction; abstract! Shock! Horror! You may have the soup, but you may only have this slotted spoon to eat with. No drinking from the bowl. Or am I being looked at over the shoulder by myself? I’m the other one! The other is me! What to do then, in that case?
This construct is not linear. Like this text, it is probably meant to be surveyed, its geography studied for patterns that may or may not be there. Is it simple rubble, haphazardly thrown together, collection of whims? No wind here to expel me into the future. A limbo? Shadow world? Where nothing happens? There does seem to be some trace of an architecture here, organized in obscure oncoming contact surfaces that rub up against each other, triggering various manifestations along the fault lines – here I am bathed in sunshine, there I am soaked to the bone; elsewhere pampered and cuddled by the gentle warmth of a summer breeze. A menagerie? Construction site? The aftermath of some disaster? A graveyard?
The visitors were trapped inside as the guard, hurrying to close up all the gates so as to get home in time for dinner and a glass of wine – the moment of respite separating one cycle from the next – broke the promised schedule but slightly. It was enough – our attention being so focused on sightseeing the various epithets of those that passed before. One by one the gates could be heard slamming shut a breath before we could get to them. Silence settles as we catch our breath and consider our predicament. Not even a gust of wind is heard. But that section of fence, yes, it does look… permeable, no? Ah, inevitably, the construction workers could not help themselves – the saw, the pair of cutters, the hammer – the tools were at hand and they are by nature indiscriminate. Chaos and order, proscription – the game has to start before we get to such distinctions. Didn’t it just seem so natural to cut through, to take the direct path rather than going the whole long way around, whistling past all those monuments on the way home?
Where is my work? Here is plenty of work, but where is mine? Should I look for it?
Better perhaps, to take a sidestep:
Was there somewhere, somehow, an I? What was there, in the child’s world of unprejudiced representation? Was it representation at all? Spontaneous manifestation of the (subconscious) factory? A subdivision of the family (factory created to compete in the market of the) future? My authentic self? Where did this owl come from? Is it a constant? Can it become a constant? Is it different from this other? What could be deduced from such a one? Can generality produce exception? What if it could be reinvented (as deviation?) Is there a way ahead of the axiom that wants to arise from the mean?
I hereby declare this image to be an autonomous zone. You are invited to take your holy book of rules with you and leave. Neither you nor that dubious spiritual project of yours is needed here (whatever your name was).
My body is an adored object. My body is an adoration, objects swoon over me. My body swoons over and caters to this object that swoons over and caters to my body. So this is me – this is what I should be! But I also want to be that, and that – and not least that, as well! And not only that – I am a triangulation, the inescapable conclusion of tripartite fact. I am a cabinet adapted to a corner, the meeting point between two vectors, an interruption, the logical point of accumulation. I am a symbolic microtransaction between — and +++. My various positions can be calculated to theoretical perfection, one has only to choose a triumvirate. So this was me! And there I am too! And there!
Our physical union is a divine expression of sound core values and economical good sense – here we waste not a drop! The first law of accumulation is to guard against loss – waste not, want not. Here everything is rationalized and carried out according to the will of the blessed name. Our economy is healthy, our union powerful and executed with impeccable taste.
I am home. Welcome to my home – join me for a tour of what is my home. Are you there behind me, following? I’ve been asked to carry certain things; what they are I know not. I was asked not to put them down, and then of course, as I cannot detach, looking becomes impossible. My burden only felt as some indeterminate weight. I must ask you to lead me, to choose my direction for me, for as I am busy looking back at you, I cannot see where I’m going. The order of sight and the order of touch are like two stars shining at each other distantly, are they not?
The ornament is an integral part of the user experience, the way you use the ornament is the content of the ornament. This is the user interface. The user interface has no content, but it is not therefore without content: the content is how you use it. How you use the interface. The interface and the user are the content. This is the ornament.
It’s Venus! Venus wants you to know that she knows – the lover is an extension of a sub-object, the exploded body romancing the name. History is an extension and staging of the present, a projection, ever shifting play of light and shadow on a firmament of imagery, but like the narrow beam of a flashlight searching for something familiar in the dark. The tale is all of that which I cannot have here and now: O, if only… if only… From there I am screamed at over the din to maintain heading from the point of origin, to follow through and deliver on every promise made.
It’s Orpheus! Orpheus turns longingly towards the beloved – the poet cannot resist the pull of the sublime, the romantic. Back to the underworld, to the quiet plains – you cannot be awakened to life again, and thus I as well am doomed. Later, an afterthought really, my body is torn to shreds and my head set adrift in time. But wait a minute… There we are (!!): Orpheus looks back: There she is, beloved Eurydice, and nothing was in vain – my heroic love has been witnessed, plain and certain! Oh, but my beloved is not me. It has slipped my mind, yet again… Wait, is that it? Delirium all along? How could I possibly have survived this this loss of myself at all? Impossible of course. A dream… I dreamed that I could go on living without a heart beating in my chest.
The body faces away from the image surface, into the image. The figure, somewhat malformed, rough, the neck twisted a little too far, the gaze turned away from the image towards… The image knows it is being spectated! The artist has created a picture. The artist knows that the image is doomed to spectation. An artist creates an image in spite of what an artist knows and in spite of what an artist does not know. An artist mixes colours and pictures a figure looking over its shoulder. Then reproduces the image mechanically. The portrayed figure looks over its shoulder. Another picture in the picture. And the image reproduced. And reproduced. And reproduced, the image transitions from image by itself to avatar. Key to a structure, spare, interlude – interface. Consider self and picture as one. You are welcome, please enter. You are identical. Identical with the theatre of actionable space available to this identity. You are over.
Alas, we are all criminals here, guilty of the greatest of all crimes: of not living life to the fullest. Like a prisoner dragging the past behind us like an iron chain: if only… if only… I still can… I can still… but this… but for this…
Looking back, it is clear to me now that the source of all my misfortune in this life was that ______
How does it feel to have to live through it all again?
I would have done things differently, of course. If I could have known, certainly I would have! But nobody told me – why didn’t they? – that I would have to relive it all, to see it rewritten there, in the pitifully pleading gaze of every stranger in the street. And what’s worse – in the naked eyes of my children! Alas, too late now to put an end to it, the damage is done.
Viewer: Look! Look! So that’s what it was – that’s the object, I knew it! It was me! It was a mirror for me! There I am, it’s me who’s there in the mirror! Not a stranger, not even a reverse me in miniature. (Viewer had forgotten how to forget – even before learning to say mama, papa) Me!
Artist: Look! Look! What’s it about? It’s me, there I am, you are me but not like me … There I am! Picture: And you, what do you represent, if I may be so bold?
No. No, this has already passed – go back, try again: What does the picture say, turning? Not a picture. The picture is not even an attempt to be a picture. The picture is materiality, but materiality is not materiality – as little as the body is materiality. It is condition. Here is my form. What I contain means nothing. Where I come from means nothing. I am activity – inescapably I am activity – there is an energy in me that’s not even released with my last breath. I am an observer, always well-informed, the very model of formation. The work must continue, unconditionally. Work can’t be put into work – work is work, and there is no non-work or work without work. Wherever I may go, there I am, identical. I am over – long live I!
But I, am I truly so deeply ingrained in structure? If I am that I am, whose hand is held over me, over us? What if my attraction to death was … to creation? Death is something that happens to others – why not to me as well? If tomorrow, why not today? Why not while I am still breathing? My exquisite tools, my many sympathies, strengths, shortcomings, opponents, allies – my beliefs, my moods; leaves on the wind, too light a burden! Here I come! Accept me, don’t reject me, don’t forget me! In my arms, perish and be reborn. Come here and let me embrace you. Come and get a hug someone like you. I am like you. I am one of you.
«The intersubject will not claim space, but leave space, space as sign sympathetic to its counter sign. This is basic relational activism, always on parole, for new lingual territories to un-claim »
-(Veary Tall, 20??).
There is a reverse to the structure. Needed is only something specific – an architecture, an activity. The architect orders a beautiful gazebo. The foreman guides the work from the first shovel to the last stone with steady hand and according to all the rules and arts of economical realization of the building scheme within the conditions of the actual framework. The foundations are laid down, immaculate image of smooth and unyielding stone presented to the world. Opposite, bricked in, buried, the reverse of the building blocks drag their dishevelled tails, unwarranted form poking every which way – a code in the code, cracks between the arguments where something seeps through. The masons leave hidden cachets of obscene phrase and epithet in every crawlspace, the surgeon leaves the patient a surprise foreign body in exchange for their malady, the whole village except the priest takes turns being the one peeing in the well while no one sees them because everyone was attending Sunday mass. The tableau is completed by folding it over towards the middle and giving one end half a turn before the two are joined, thus forming it into a feature-rich continuously looping potentiality.