#114 Always Already

120x85 cm each, installation dimensions variable | Filler, oak frame

  • About the series

    A word is always also an image. Language connects to categories and clusters of information that projects an internal image when triggered. In that sense they function no different than normal perception. What we see is images constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as words.
    However, even more, as vision usually stems from physical reality, so does also words, written or spoken. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. The stuff surrounding us is also what connects us; without it, we would be completely sealed off. How, or in what way, words inserts into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into the language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through reflects on who we are, it can also help to reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.

    The first written words were inscribed 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 change the receiver forever. The receiver usually processes the reception, but he or she will never be the same as before. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers or laws — different ways of trying to influence reality.

  • About the work

    One of the problems with time is that we can never really grasp the present. The moment of now is always elusive. When we talk about "being in the moment", or "being present", it usually means leaving our self-awareness. When we sink into an activity or drift away in our minds, we are in a way the opposite of present. We are unaware of everything around us. To be present in the moment, we have to loose ourselves.
    On the other hand, when we are self-aware, present as in reflecting upon our surroundings, we often feel that something is missing. We are not really there, or 100% in it. The special moment has passed or not yet showed up. All that we are left with is expectations and memories.
    The western capitalistic society is obsessed with the present. To have value, everything has to be new, or connected to the now, like a short term sale, or a sudden and temporary interest when something comes "in style", or goes viral. Youth is a fetish because it is fleeting. Profits have ever to increase. All that is stable and durable is suppressed. The industries of "mindfulness" and "creativity" can perhaps paradoxically be perceived as a part of this. We are supposed to stay in the moment and be ever-present. Self-awareness and reflection are exchanged with the quick fixes of self-help guidebooks, body exercise and meditation.
    The demand is to be present and enjoy. This is ideology. When we enjoy ourselves, we are unaware. This is pleasant but not a good foundation for change. It is one of the reasons why capitalism perseveres despite that it benefits only a small minority. The questions "When will we have equality, when is the time for change?", always has two answers - "Not yet", or - "Too late". Not yet, because the economy is too bad, or it's not bad enough. Because people are busy, or they are pacified. Too late, because we lost our innocence. Before we were naive and believed, now we are too comfortable or cynical and afraid. Too late, because we tried it, and it didn't work. Because capitalism is natural and we have arrived at our destination. History is over. There is only an ever continuous now.

    ALWAYS and ALREADY are twin works. They should be read together. Always-already is a term used to describe the fact that an event in time forever changes everything coming after, even if the event passes unnoticed and the realisation of the consequences of it arises long after. It can be used in understanding free will, through the western concept of love as it is described by Slavoj Zizek in The Sublime Object of Ideology: "This is also the basic paradox of love: not only of one's country, but also of a woman or a man. If I am directly ordered to love a woman, it is clear that this does not work: in a way, love must be free. But on the other hand, if I proceed as if I really have a free choice, if I start to look around and say to myself 'Let's choose which of these women I will fall in love with,' it is clear that this also does not work, that it is not real love. The paradox of love is that it is a free choice, but a choice which never arrives in the present - it is always already made ...I can only state retroactively that I've already chosen ... "
    The term is also useful in understanding the concept of ideology. Ideology is at work in all institutions of society, so when we grow up as individuals, we are also always-already subjects to it. In the case of capitalism, it is especially relevant. Even if capitalism developed during the industrialisation of the nineteenth century, it's exponents present it as not only everlasting but also as always-already here. They proclaim its foundation is in the human nature - survival of the fittest, personal freedom etc. The invisible hand of the marked is treated like it's a law of nature. But even if these concepts are questionable, one should be careful not to think that ideology hides the true nature of the things and that you can fight it by "lifting the veil" and expose reality as it really is. Ideology is always-already inscribed in it through language itself. Without categorisation and symbolisation, we cannot perceive anything at all. We wouldn't even be self-aware. Precisely as there is no magic, only magic tricks, what ideology does is that it leads attention to one truth, while another one operates unnoticed. For example, capitalism talks about the right to pursue happiness, while it facilitates the right to exploitation. So we simply can't take away ideology, we have to replace one with another. This might seem like a hopeless task, but it is definitely not impossible. When you read what is actually written on the two works it spells - "Not Yet Too Late".

  • Template

    Word series is part of Template, an array of works made by using pieces of wooden plates as templates. They function a bit as a mould or matrix for the finished work. The plates are attached inside the frame and after the first layer of filler had dried they are removed. The remaining empty spaces are filled with filler of a different colour.

    Reminiscent of Richard Serra's Verb List I try to use simple and clearly defined actions to shape the filler in my works. This way there is always non-cognitive aspects of the production process.


If you have any questions about anything regarding my works, please don´t hesitate to contact me!

Johan Söderström | Grenseveien 9b, Oslo, Norway | t. +47 41 355 355 | jodsoderstrom@gmail.com

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©Johan Söderström 2015