Galleri Enkehuset

The critique of subjectivity, which constituted a major artistic problematic during the ’80s—continues to yield interesting results. A central concern within postfeminist discourse is the degree of latitude for resistance to a subject formation conditioned by a predominantly male order. Must a refusal to comply always lead to illness or “perversion” (schizophrenia, sadomasochism, anorexia, homosexuality)? Or are there more “constructive” ways in which the resistance to patriarchy could manifest itself? How is the secret violence of language to be avoided? What exists in the space between subject and object?

In this group show, entitled “Abject,” the curator/critic Gertrud Sandqvist has gathered four young women artists: Barbara Bloom (USA), Eva Löfdahl (Sweden), Nina Roos and Marianna Uutinen (Finland). Without offering definitive answers (of course), this work visually animates some of these problems. The term abject stands for an opposition to both the subjugation of the subject under the Law (the Father, the phallocentric order) and to the idea of the object as immediate presence. Abjection signals a refusal to become either a “subdued” subject or a reified object. It represents something in between: a territory of insecurity, division, and formlessness. Julia Kristeva, from whom the term is borrowed, characterized the abject as a condition (or posture) on the border between subject and object. “Abject” thus embodies the diffuse, doubled, and amorphous. Roos’ paintings on tin plate resemble blurry X-rays or photographs in the process of being developed or dissolved. The subjects—an armchair, a curtain, a woman’s hair—seem to float beneath the surface of the paintings, and their status as negatives makes the absence of the actual picture visible.

Bloom’s works are animated by a tension between the visible and the tactile. In one piece a golden square “icon” is accompanied by the first line of the Apostles Creed: “I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,” in braille, in an ironic commentary on the dominance of vision (eidos) in our logo and phallocentric Western culture, and a reminder of the necessary blindness of faith.

Duplication is not only a symbol of the divided self, it is also a way to destabilize the idea of the object, to detract from or reduce its objecthood. In Löfdahl’s piece two jarlike forms symmetrically reflect each other, destabilizing our belief in the object’s existence as an unmediated thing. What is reflection (image/language) and what is reflected? What is representation and what is represented?

Uutinen also doubles and destabilizes the object, but she does it with farcical humor. In one piece, two identical stools designed by Alvar Aalto are positioned on top of one another, and from this symbol of “good taste” (the Norm, the Father) she has spouted acrylic color in a crochetlike pattern, and pressed her rump into the wet gluey paint. In another work Uutinen presents two meringuelike figures on a black background. The result is a “murder” of everything that even faintly adheres to a constructivist decorum. It is the impertinent triumph of formlessness over form, law, and self-identity.

Lars O. Ericsson