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Everything But And About Them

A note on ‘The Work of Mourning’ Bonniers Konsthall September 2 – November 1 2020

Installation view, 'The Work of Mourning', Bonniers Konsthall, Sep 2 - Nov 1, 2020. Artists: Nadine Byrne, Alejandro Cesarco, Lena Cronqvist, Jonas Dahlberg, Félix González-Torres, Berit Lindfeldt, Jennifer Loeber

Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.

Gathering some thoughts about more personal experiences of mourning, before entering the exhibition, the notion strikes of the breadth of the collective and participatory capacity of the act. And that, beyond just empathetic condolence or engagement in presence between those closer akin or joined directly by the loss. It’s inevitably hard now not to think of a veil of mourning that has rested across the globe in the mere recent couple of months following the case of George Floyd. A neglected plea for life. A slogan for racial injustice; “I can’t breathe”. Political and physical action carried out on the streets, joining people far and beyond privileges, as the tie-in fruit of grief and mourning. Mourning in this light as something less than just an intrinsic, subdued and largely individual state of healing from sadness and pain but as a catalyst for productivity and cathartic experiences. A note to self consequently would be that there surely are many shades and shapes of mourning, the reminder of which last came head-on last year at a design school in town where one of the graduates addressed how dark colours and black for centuries have been donned for mourning in the West, while other “colour schemes” apply elsewhere.

Lena Cronqvist, 'Framkallning', 2001, 142x137 cm, oil and tempera oil on canvas.

Interestingly, the exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall proves a fairly straightforward and more immediate exhibition than we might have been used to from past thematic group exhibitions in the konsthall’s trajectory, which at times stretched the intellectual chords of biennial-habituated audiences to a brim, such as ‘The Art of Memory’ or ‘The Spiral and the Square’ revolving around translatability. Already the inclusion of painter Lena Cronqvist appears something that would likely previously not so easily have been associated with the direction of the konsthall and would bring thought rather to less conceptual venues such as Liljevalchs and Waldemarsudde, and is a hint at a more inclusive programming charge (a nod here as well back to painter Lars Lerin featured in the recent landscape exhibition). The artworks of the six other exhibited artists like Lena’s are all joined together here on the premise of being created through or in the process of grief. Focusing, hence, largely on individual rather than, say, communal mourning, the exhibition appears to consider the already inherent universal relatability of its subject matter. Providing due room for emotional poignancy and empathetic stimuli, it’s nevertheless a most pleasant experience.

Nadine Byrne, still from film in 'The Work of Mourning', Bonniers Konsthall, 2020.

About Nadine Byrne’s participation which presents nearly as a solo exhibition within the exhibition, was heard through the grapevine that it will have served as a curatorial point of departure for the rest. It makes sense, and you can tell as it sets the tone right off the bat for the remaining more pivotal parts of the exhibition, with subdued lighting and a quietly elegant grandeur. Seated as a navigating compass throughout Nadine Byrne’s entire body of work is the untimely passing of her mother at a point in time when the artist was coming-of-age into adulthood, when having recently just embarked on a path as artist. Few working Swedish artists today, likely as diligently will have occupied themselves around mourning through memories and bearers of memory, asking questions about who the lost person was, who one is at their absence and who the lost person will be once gone. Presented on site is a new work consisting of multi-channel video and sculptural installations which out of the exhibition is the one work most emphasizing how mourning can bring individuals together through their singular, yet similar experiences of loss. In this case other women alongside the artist herself share accounts before the lense of life losing their mothers. Moreover, mourning as a notion that can inform outward performative layers is stressed both in the video as well through wearable “mourning suits” as sculptural elements on display in the room. Most compelling is a metaphorical sculpture of conjoined suits, “worn” together by several and bound together by strings between each unit. From the scaffolding of the video monitors to else, it’s all sleek and crisp. The ”visual image” of Byrne’s section somehow appears like a stretch forward from how we might be used to seeing her work. Frankly, it’s exquisitely done, and considering how long she has been working with projects underpinned by mourning her mother in exhibitions to date, this comes across as a great feat of curatorial choices.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 'Untitled' (Orpheus, Twice), 1991. Mirror, dimensions vary with installation 195 x 150 centimeters (76 3/4 x 59 inches) Two Parts: 195 x 70 centimeters (76 3/4 x 27 1/2 inches) each.

A long time-favourite, possibly among few favourites; it’s with great anticipation that we reach the work of the late Félix González-Torres. Positioned in the biggest most aerial room,’Untitled (Orpheus Twice)’ sees an installation of two tall body mirrors placed side by side. Having seen documentation of other installs in lit rooms in past exhibitions, the work arguably sees its best potential here in the choice of a more darkened room, where its alleviated from some of its abstraction when shadows casted from the light on the mirrors more instantly bring thought to various allegorical images at once; mirrors reflecting a “revisit” of time spent between two lovers, an end in so far the image of two tombs and a window into a “continuation”, nodding to a possible afterlife where a reunion might occur. González-Torres’s signature works were notably born out of the urge to channel the loss of his partner, artist Ross Laycock, lost to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Looking at the work of Gonzalez-Torres or another iconic queer artist like David Wojnarowicz, becomes particularly pertinent today as we’re suffering through a pandemic engaging the globe on almost every level, where just some few decades ago the queer communities to which both artists belonged were largely left fending for themselves during another pandemic. A reminder of the neglect and failure to act of official authorities which must never be forgotten.

Jennifer Loeber, 'Left Behind', 2014 Photographic series. 21 framed prints, 21 x 27,5 cm each.

After the sudden death of her mother, Jennifer Loeber, as would be standard protocol for any child, went through the belongings left behind. And just like most of us, she could not bring herself to get rid of them and saved even the simplest objects. Instead of giving her a sense of comfort, they appeared however to only cause her more anxiety. Left Behind is a series of work in which Loeber, systematically, like an archivist categorizing and cataloguing historical documents, has linked and attributed photographs of her late mother to various of her mother’s belongings. And has done so in order to discharge the objects from the inherent sadness and distress they were initially tied with at face value. It’s been said that we all die several deaths and inspired by the neuroscientist and author David Eagleman, former editor-in-chief of Life Magazine Bill Shapiro recently said the last death is that moment the last remaining picture of someone is seen for the final time. If what we all will be one day is a mere photo, then Loeber’s approach of preservation is one of added tangibility; making the memory of a loved one a tad more layered. The result is beautiful, and we last enjoyed a serial presentation based on a deceptively effortless idea that much, with Fabienne Audéoud’s installation work 'Parfums de pauvres' at Palais de Tokyo in Paris last year.

Jonas Dahlberg Music Box 2015 video installation, single channel installation, HD video, black and white.

Probing the belongings of a parent recurs in the same room through Jonas Dahlberg’s monumental and intensely beating wall projection ‘Music Box’. A close-up study inside a music box, it visually and sonically brings thought to a disorderly twilight-zone-situation. That hazey forever-walk or forever-marathon through a tunnel towards solace, which for all the while not there yet, nevertheless bears some cradling quality of not having to be consumed or engaged by anything else, for the duration of whatever time it might be. If mourning first confines space in order to create space, there’s no passing go directly, and to that, we all relate.

Review collectively written by Team C-print.

With: Alejandro Cesarco, Berit Lindfeldt, Félix González-Torres, Jennifer Loeber, Jonas Dahlberg, Lena Cronqvist, Nadine Byrne


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