Ceal Floyer

British artist Ceal Floyer’s first solo exhibition in Sweden, consisting of two works forming a single installation on two floors, was both minimal and well matched to the particularity of this space and its location. A sound piece in the upper gallery could be heard throughout. The video installation in the lower gallery was created specifically for Index. The visual and conceptual simplicity of the project provided a kind of counterpoint to the institution’s surroundings, with a cramped Pokémon store on one side of the gallery and a “world beat” record store on the other.

Goldberg Variation, 2002, first shown in London, is a compilation of recordings of thirty different renditions of Bach’s famous keyboard composition. Each recording starts at the same moment, but since every interpretation differs, in a short while the sound mutates into a ghostly cacophony in which you lose your grasp of the actual musical structure. Melodies and chords echo and repeat themselves; they mimic, overtake, and finally deconstruct each other. Conceptually, this piece may seem like a comment on the notion of subjectivity, but it also deals with a collective gray matter that lies out of reach for articulated consciousness. One of Floyer’s interests is the idea of transition from the subjective to the real world. Goldberg Variation is created from a collection of subjective interpretations, and the result may be compared to either absolute truth or absolute chaos.

Waterline, 2002, the piece shown downstairs, played on the architectural framework, its proportions, and the viewer’s relation to it. The video projection on one wall showed a waterline climbing up to the ceiling. In a way it is like being in a big aquarium, only instead of the enclosed world being underwater it is the other side of the glass wall that is being overtaken by water: You watch all this happening with the detached curiosity of the outside observer. And yet it also evokes something like the stillness of mind that comes over you at the moment when you become aware of approaching danger. At the same time, of course, the projection can be read as a piece of abstract imagery. The work also evokes the idea of Stockholm as a city on water: Index is situated close to the sluices that connect the lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.

As Floyer has said in conversation with the British curator Jonathan Watkins, she sees not only things but also “familiar ideas, figures of speech, language in general as readymades.” This can also be said about the institutional spaces she works with. They become an inclusive or simply inseparable part of the work. We may see them twisted or revealed as never before. Floyer’s conceptualism has a clearly recognizable approach that acquires new tones in specific circumstances that vary from piece to piece. Her means are minimal, but they yield astonishingly substantial results. This lightness speaks of self-confidence, but there are overtones of doubt as well: faith in the power of the minimal and a hesitance about altering the existing thing or situation too dramatically.

Liutauras Psibilskis