PRINT September 2006


Matias Faldbakken

Photo: Marte Garmann Johnsen

Matias Faldbakken is an Oslo-based artist and author who often writes under the pseudonym Abu Rasul. This month, his play, Cold Product, will be published under his own name by Kagge Forlag, and he will participate in the Norwegian Sculpture Biennial at Oslo’s Vigeland Museum. His work will also be included in the forty-seventh installment of the October Salon, an annual exhibition of international art in Belgrade. (Photo: Marte Garmann Johnsen)

  1. BENJAMIN PÉRET INSULTING A PRIEST I don’t know much about the circumstances surrounding this image, which appeared in La Révolution surréaliste in 1926. But as a photo-document and a caption, it embodies most of what I find interesting in art production—or in anything else, for that matter. First, there’s the action that produces the image, not vice versa. There’s insult; there’s fun. There’s antagonism toward authority and resorting to violence or mockery. There’s self-defense and the suggestion of revenge—sweet, sweet revenge.

    Illustration from La Révolution surréaliste #8 (December 1926). Illustration from La Révolution surréaliste #8 (December 1926).
  2. MEL BOCHNER, MINIMAL ART—THE MOVIE, 1966 To negate the spectacular is a well-known artistic impulse, but to spectacularize negation is something else altogether. And this small text piece by Bochner does just that. Names from the most money-driven cultural industry (Hollywood) are listed on notebook paper alongside the stars of Bochner’s own ambitious scene (Minimalism), serving as the cast list for a hypothetical film. The work establishes a comedic bridge between these two extremes of the spectacular and defines the rules for much art production to come.

  3. TORCH ENLIGHTENMENT Before his death in 1993, Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous in the “black metal” band Mayhem) had planned to switch from electric to torchlights in Helvete (Hell), his record shop in Oslo. A good idea, but it was actually lifted from Stine Westad, aka Nød (Need). In the late ’80s, Westad held regular meetings in her basement, distributing her self-published ’zine, Sorg (Sorrow), and selling her DIY T-shirts. She served moonshine, covered everything in black trash bags, and lit the dank cellar with, you guessed it—torches. A great way to enlighten a dark scene.

  4. BENTLEY CONTINENTAL R Advertisements typically seek to elide that sense of when accumulating and spending money surpasses being just a goal, becoming squandering and unethical instead. But it’s always funny when a business throws its hands up to say, “What the hell,” and just tells it like it is. Since the idea of pure capital has that glow of the unethical, a company that unapologetically makes unrestrained spending its selling point becomes almost subversive. Take the 1992 slogan for the Bentley Continental R: “Two cars for the price of four.”

  5. EMORY DOUGLAS In the late ’60s, Emory Douglas—minister of culture in the Black Panther Party and graphic designer of the Black Panther newspaper—began to print drawings of pigs with the badge numbers of certain corrupt cops. He later dressed the swine in full uniforms and stood them up on their back hooves. Douglas claims that these images spawned the “pig” epithet, which eventually led to the police force’s attempt to reappropriate the name as a self-congratulatory acronym: PIG (Pride, Integrity, Guts).

    Drawing by Emory Douglas published on the back page of the Black Panther (February 2, 1969). Courtesy the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. Drawing by Emory Douglas published on the back page of the Black Panther (February 2, 1969). Courtesy the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.
  6. LARS HERTEVIG (1830–1902) While not well known outside Norway, Lars Hertervig’s contribution to painting is considerable. Having been stricken with mental illness while studying in Düsseldorf, Hertervig returned to his native Stavanger region in 1865 and lived in poverty for the remainder of his life. Although he could no longer afford oil and canvas, Hertervig painted with watercolors on wrapping paper, tobacco paper, and pieces of cloth, demonstrating his particular brand of “subjective” landscape painting with a weird religious/hallucinatory style that anticipated Surrealism.

    Lars Hertervig, Waldsee, 1865, oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 25 1/4". Lars Hertervig, Waldsee, 1865, oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 25 1/4".
  7. HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE This 1991 documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now is the perfect film to watch when feeling overwhelmed by one’s own cultural drudgery. In the middle of the Philippine jungle, Francis Ford Coppola navigated a set of disasters: an incomplete script; a spent budget; a typhoon; Martin Sheen’s heart condition; Marlon Brando’s near ignorance of the script (despite his million-dollar-a-week price tag); and Dennis Hopper wasted on, well, probably everything.

  8. MICHAELA MEISE, UNTITLED (STAR CHILD), 2004 I saw this work in Johann König’s booth at LISTE 04 in Basel and thought: If you want to interrogate pop-cultural icons and clichés and reinvestigate the twentieth-century infatuation with form, then this might be the way to do it. A purple minimalist sculpture with a photograph of KISS’s Paul Stanley painting his trademark star around his eye, it illustrates the arithmetic equation: old x old = new. And, by singling out “shock rock” and Minimalism (both forward thinking for their times), it also illustrates Ad Reinhardt’s notion that artists define themselves negatively against their predecessors.

  9. A SEASON IN HELL One of my favorite texts, Arthur Rimbaud’s Season in Hell is currently being made into a film by Finnish filmmaker Matti Räisänen. Judging from the script and the snippets of raw footage I’ve seen, Räisänen has taken extraordinary liberties in his interpretation. Picture Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God as a splatter movie set in Helsinki, with those little monkeys in the last scene replaced by bearded sixty-year-old alcoholics.

  10. COLIN POWELL’S “HOME RUN” On October 16, 2003, a grinning Colin Powell, then United States secretary of state, adopts a baseball stance following a unanimous approval of a policy on the rebuilding of Iraq. The photograph brings it all together: power, politics, violence, and entertainment. Hard facts. But even harder when the players pitch fiction.

    Colin Powell outside the State Department, Washington, DC, October 16, 2003. Photo: AP/Steven J. Boitano. Colin Powell outside the State Department, Washington, DC, October 16, 2003. Photo: AP/Steven J. Boitano.