84x64 cm | Filler, oak frame
This work was done through a performative event where I lit 99 tealights placed to shape the word Open in the wet filler on a panel lying on the floor. During a short session, I sat still behind the panel with the burning candles.
The action was performed in my studio during Oslo Open, an annual event where the city's artists open their studios to the audience during a weekend. This edition was digital due to the covid-19 epidemic.
The word and its design are inspired by the modest yet flashy light signs you see at many local shops that sell inexpensive goods and services, often run by immigrants. Small businesses are typical in areas with weak finance and high unemployment. In neoliberal ideology, workers are increasingly being pushed over to temporary contracts where they act as self-employed without the security that employment usually entails. This forces the individual to be constantly available to the market. The boundary between life and work is dissolved. Labour as a commodity is shifted from limited amounts of time to occupying the body as a whole. The industry that goes the furthest in treating the body as a commodity is, as is well known, prostitution. It is perhaps no coincidence that the small open signs are often seen in the many shops that offer massage. In a society based on competition and disparity, vulnerable individuals are forced to transcend more and more barriers and incessantly be more "open" to persevere.
To the mind, a word is always also an image. In that sense, understanding words function no different than normal perception. When we see, images are constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is an interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as understanding words.
However, to use language, we have to speak or write it. We have to realize it. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. But how words are inserted into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through, and how we shape it, reflects on who we are, it can reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.
Humans inscribed the first written words in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future, to protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must initially submit his or her attention to the message. No matter how insignificant, its meaning will always in some way change the receiver forever.
There is a constant tension between language and reality as matter. The human subject is defined by an individual will, as opposed to the strict causality of nature. This will strive to be expressed through language. Maybe self-awareness is a result of language at use. Language as a way for the ego to invent itself, to inscribe itself into the world. It is no coincidence that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers, laws or inventories — different ways of trying to influence and master reality.
Res Ipsa is a compilation of works made by an act shaping the filler once it is prepared inside the frame. The works thus function as a recording device and give a statement of the event taking place while the filler was still wet.
Res Ipsa is Latin for "the thing itself" and is part of the juridical term "Res ipsa loquitur" (the thing speaks for itself), used when an injury or accident in itself clearly shows who is responsible, such as an instrument left inside a body after surgery.
Watch a video of me presenting this work in its premiere public appearance here.