Gardar Eide Einarsson

25.01 — 16.03.08



GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON is an artist of contradictions. Growing up in Norway he was inevitably exposed to Scandinavia’s special brand of collective utopianism and yet, upon moving to the USA for further artistic training, he developed a fascination for that country’s remarkable individualism and resulting social conflict. His practice screams out the slogans of street rebellion culled from a wide panoply of visual and textual references, including the Situationist International Movement, US home-grown violence, global terrorism and urban marginality. Superficially, his work may appear haphazardly made and dribbling with tarmac appeal. However, this dissent-on-the-run aesthetic reveals, upon closer inspection, careful construction and erudite inter-textuality. Furthermore, if GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON’s practice seeks to find a place for an art which is engaged with the social realm, it also claims the possibility of maintaining an internal (structural) autonomy from it. Certainly the artist’s investigation regarding the representation of disaffection, through wall paintings, installations, flags, flyers, videos and paintings is everything but gratuitous. His oeuvre sparks off definite questions regarding the ability for a work of art today to function critically, especially in relation to the politics of contemporary conflict and its market consumption.

The theatrical vocation of GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON’s practice reveals correspondences, art historically speaking, to modernity’s crisis with the social as enunciated in art critic Michael Fried’s attack on Minimalism’s ‘literalism’. The recognition of the spectator in Minimal art was exploited by artists such as Dan Graham, Joan Jonas and Vito Acconci (GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON was an assistant to Acconci), who reintroduced narration, figuration and theatricality into artistic practice, elements hitherto repressed by the modernist doctrine. Furthermore, a new attitude by the viewers was demanded: they should be ready to directly participate in the realization of the art work and be questioned on the process of its reception. It is in the installation ‘Props’ (2005) and ‘Tokyo Underworld’ (2006), that the notion of live theatre is developed. In these works the spectator is specifically sought out, and invited to navigate and form part of a transgressive yet familiar world. GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON’s installations are performative in that they seek out their audience.

One of EINARSSON’s latest work «Ship of Fools», (2006) takes the notion of theatricality and the play one step further. The artist crystallizes his long-term interest in the figure of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber, who wrote a play during his imprisonment that the artist has re-enacted as a live theater play and documented as an art video.

In the wall painting «Total Revolution» the slogan’s demand for action has a political, if generic, ring evocative of everything from a May ’68 salute to an anti-G8 summit rallying call. Yet such exhortations have also become integral to the advertising and lifestyle industries that determine today’s hedonistic consumer of city life. Referencing the world of graffiti, the dashed off look of «Total Revolution» is styled using a computer designed stencil. It is ready for mass consumption, and has in fact already been identically reproduced on several occasions. How ironic therefore, that the piece should quote the USA conceptual artist Lee Lozano’s impassioned call to arms in her iconoclastic work ‘General Strike Piece’ (1969).

GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON’s oeuvre is quite often in black and white, thus exploiting the possibility of the monochrome as a background for the slogans of the banner and the advertising bill-board. Many of the works can be read as word paintings, purely formally, immanently negating (through linguistic meaning) while nonetheless reproducing the modernist ideal of the formal independence of painting itself. GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON’s practice reflects on the inability of art in general, and very often painting as a medium in particular, to do more than gesture towards the representation of the mode of historical experience. As such he deftly overcomes the taboo on presenting the social that has haunted art since the 1970s. His works frame the viewer’s presence in the gallery and point to the everyday experience of life as a form of theatre. In so doing the artist reconsiders the baroque notion of the ‘world as stage’ in the twenty-first century.

The exhibition and the catalogue are co-produced with the Kunstverein, Frankfurt.

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Exhibition: 25.01 — 16.03.08

Opening: 24.01.2008 à 18 heures

Curator: Katya García-Antón


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With the support of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway

Subventionné par la Ville de Genève