The Abstract Frontline of Identity: TO TOLE
Hanna Gjelten Hattrem, 2018

Text related to exhibition under same name at Hamar Kunstforening and Gallery Radical

Posited as a continuation of previous exhibitions with interlinking themes, objects and titles, Lars Nordby returns to Radical Gallery in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria with his latest show, entitled The Abstract Frontline of Identity: TO TOLE.

Nordby’s installation piece indicates an on-going potential action through the use of objects specifically designed to attract: UV-lamps for flies and glue traps for rats. The presentation of the objects evoke a sense that the missing subjects (flies and rats) are ready to enter the stage at any moment, and enact their prescribed traits, as unwanted insects and rodents. In this sense the piece becomes an empty stage, continuously about to happen, to be performed on.

The work centres on the toling of subjects, through the implied act of attraction. The subjects are unable to represent themselves, and force the viewer to consider meaning beyond the subject. Fruit flies and rats are presented as the desired subjects to show/attract – but what identity can these creatures actually carry for the viewer, other than associations that supersedes their own identity?

Generally unwanted due to the associations we have to the conditions these creatures tend to appear in, the objects within Nordby’s piece demonstrate the somewhat contradictory undesirability of the subjects they are meant to attract.

There is also some melancholy to the dynamics between attraction and repulsion, reminiscent of British artist, David Shrigley’s “Dead Rat” (2008), which seems to ask the viewer to consider why the death of certain creatures evoke differing responses. We may try to engage in an exercise of defiance with this message: rats are intelligent creatures, for example. Can you consider the identity and subjectivity of a fruit fly? Nevertheless, rats and fruit flies cannot escape their identification as inherently symptomatic of a greater condition that exists beyond them, and that trumps any consideration of their existence as subjects. Historically and culturally ingrained in our imaginations, fruit flies and rats are mere signs and indicators of a more real condition of rot, food, waste, decay and overpopulation. This act of simplification and precluding of a possibility for the subjects to enact and present subjectivity also speaks to our current global condition in which national, racial, social and religious stereotypes dominate our understandings of identity. The existence of these hegemonic structures that limit our agency both in thought and action is not unknown. Nevertheless we continue to live by them, failing to act, or accepting passivity.

The use of materials that represent attraction is, according to Nordby, demonstrative of a desire to unmask ideological power structures that underpin notions of identity. Building on Slavoj Žižek’s critique of ideology, Nordby strives to exemplify the third moment of ideology “in and for itself”, in which ideology affects and directs social practices by masking or remaining invisible. Within the context of the art world, Nordby’s piece can be seen as a reflexive stance on institutional, curatorial, and artistic practices that promote and claim to be interactive. Drawing on theorists that critique the trend of enforced interactivity, such as Claire Bishop and Robert Pfaller, Nordby employs the notion of “interpassivity”, coined by Pfaller, and refuses this pretension. A sense of theatricality is evoked through a suspended expectation of the rats’ and flies’ potential performance, as we await their arrival through their objects of attraction. In this sense Nordby is reaffirming the viewer’s position as a member of the audience – the performativity of the piece is enacted in and of itself, and the audience may react to, consider, or ignore the performance as they see fit.

As such Nordby rejects the inherent claim that interactive art practices are constructed through free collaboration with the audience as participant, and prefers to encourage the viewer to address the fact the ideological structures do dictate social and creative practices.

Within this positioning of the viewer, you are furthermore asked to delve into the notion of the identity of the awaited rats and flies. Are we able to transcend the simplifying ideological force, which dictates that the hidden structures we operate within can automate our response to a subject as mere symptoms of a greater condition, over individuality and identity?

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