Critics’ Picks

Laura Oldfield Ford, Savage Messiah, 2011, eighteen risograph prints, each 11 x 16 1/2".

Laura Oldfield Ford, Savage Messiah, 2011, eighteen risograph prints, each 11 x 16 1/2".


“Banish the Incoherence”

Göteborgs Konsthall
June 19–September 18, 2016

A plumb line suspended from the ceiling, brushing the surface of a black pool of ink, 90º, 2016, and a faint pencil line across the wall, like the projection of a blueprint, 1° (below this line is half of the universe. Above this line is half of the universe), 2016, have the appearance of coherence and stability. But the line trembles, the ink splashes, and the horizontal line inclines almost imperceptibly. These pieces, by the Swedish artist Jesper Norda, open “Banish the Incoherence,” an exhibition of six artists whose work relates to urban space and inhabitance.

Norda’s mock-scientific mappings soon give way to a different kind of value system: that of affect and poetics. In a series that collages photos, writing, and painting, titled “Cm by cm, meter-by-meter, km by km,” 2012–15, Lisa Torell transforms the outdoor furniture of New Belgrade’s social-housing estates into tender witnesses to modernist utopian ideas and the histories of the everyday that layer over the structures’ surfaces. “I was close enough to touch them. But I never did. Just looking was enough,” reads an inscription below two chipped concrete flowerpots with a cloud of beige paint hovering over them in Figure 0191.

In Savage Messiah, 2011, a fanzine-style psychogeographic journey of London’s rougher areas, by the British artist Laura Oldfield Ford, the antiflaneur figure developed throughout the show becomes the vehicle for an explicit critique of the violence, segregation, and layers of access in that city. Collages of photocopied typewritten pages take us through the East End soaked in rain and high on drugs, with one reading, “We’re totally wrecked,” and “ESTATE AGENTS UP AGAINST THE SOUTH FACING WALL.” The maps that emerge here are thicker, wilder, sensitive, and intense—not even worth calling incoherent, because coherence was a limp measure of the urban thicket anyway.