Text: Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen
Gunilla Klingberg works with materials drawn from the new age-scene. That has not stopped her from making a very political exhibition. Actually, already the name of the show, Parallelareal, might read like an utopian thought, indicating that there is a different structure of (social or vital) space, here and now, parallel to the one familiar to us. Or, should we rather say that the show is extra-political, or pre-political, since it basically deals with something like the spirit of community, or of communality? It poses questions regarding what it would be to have something in common, ie. something beyond private and public property. That would require an entirely new way of relating inter-subjectively to objects, one that is beyond the hierarchies based on knowledge (scientific or esoteric). Klingberg gives people the opportunity to experience this kind of relation to objects by taking them into a very different space. This space and this non-cognitive attitude in regard to objects are actually enough to transform our relations to both our immediate environment and to the Earth.
The first step in the reconstruction of space is effectuated by distortion. Also, this takes place regardless of the new age-references of the particular works on display. A red, painted grid covers the floor, the ceiling and the walls (Parallelareal Curry Lines, 2010). As an effect of it, the gallery looks less right-angled, as if the angles were smoothed and larger than 90°. This distorts the space, and since it looks like the four corners would add up to more than 360°, it feels like being in a space not covered by plane geometry, standing on the surface of a sphere. The gallery is placed, not on flat ground, but on the surface of the planet. In there, you're walking the earth.
The reconstruction of space continues in the next room with the star-shaped sculpture Supernova – Interior Collapse II. The sides of it are made of ordinary domestic surfaces, interior fittings, detached from the order and dimensions they have in a home. Cabinet doors, carpeting and ceiling murals now exist in immediate contiguity. They compose a celestial body, which in itself has no right and left, up and down, front and rear. Those dimensions need a fixed point of reference (like my body), they are not simply there in an infinite space. For a moment, the beholder is struck by the thought, or sensation, that our world is floating in the immense space... Indeed, I felt the void under my feet, didn't I, for a tiny fraction of a second.
Such a sensation comes with a very distant gaze on the world. And all these "microcosms" used in the exhibition actually have a similar effect: they distance you from your immediate environment, make everything seem small and distant. In a published conversation Fia Backström told Gunilla Klingberg that astronauts from all countries, who have actually seen planet Earth from a great distance, no longer could “understand why people carried on with their wars and positionings”. To them, power struggles just seemed futile. I don't think this exhibition has a message, but rather that it would like to convey this experience of estrangement that the space travelers speaks of, an entirely different articulation of time and space, and of what to do in it.
The moment the beholder, after having experienced the transformations of space, “lands” in the gallery, this experience is reproduced. It is of great importance for the exhibition, since it gives the displayed objects a particular status. For instance, the grid could not be interpret the way Rosalind Krauss did and Padraic E. Moore does in a text written for this exhibition, ie. as something invested in by both scientific rationality and (new age) mysticism. Because as an object of knowledge, it instigates a power struggle in terms of kinds of knowledge. Klingberg's grid certainly demarcates the so called Curry lines, ie. a global grid of geophysical energy lines that the new-age authority Manfred Curry “claimed to have identified in the middle of the last century” (Padraic E. Moore). (On the other hand, what force is not a bit mysterious). Newton himself was unhappy with his idea of a gravitational force, which seemed to him – and to Leibniz – too mysterious and irrational to serve as an explanation.) In this exhibition, the grid does not figure as the common object of science and new age, since they both relate to the grid with a cognitive attitude, as if it were an object of knowledge. Frankly, it would be senseless to confront the audience with a very different spatiality and provoke a sensation of distance to the Earth only in order to throw them back to the ordinary and ask them to join the one or the other hierarchic social structure of knowledge, rational or intuitive, science or new age. Both fields are organized around authorities, professors or spiritual leaders. So, from a point of view of social structures, they are not so different. Rather than trying to include two competing forms of knowledge in the same structure (the grid), I think Klingberg's grid should be considered an unknown object, or rather an object to relate to in an non-cognitive attitude. It's simply not an object of knowledge, but of communality.
Nietzsche claimed that traditional aesthetics made a fundamental mistake in finding virtues in the aesthetic attitude and judgement that are in fact virtues of knowledge but not of art. Just as it is a mistake to relate to fiction as if it was a matter of knowledge, it would be a mistake to relate Klingberg's Currylines to conditions of knowledge or of aesthetics. This non-cognitive attitude is really the entrance to the fiction of the show, the “parallelareal" itself. You may regard the lines as just simply a given, without knowing or believing anything definite about them. The challenge in this paralleareal is to approach them as well as other people in or through a relation to them. This epistemological indifference has the advantage of being egalitarian. What should I do with them, how will you experience them, how should we proceed together? If no one knows more than anyone else, you just have to try things out, experiment.
Another feature of several of Klingberg's ”motifs” (curry lines, moons, stars perhaps), is that we are all equal before them. They affect us similarly, regardless of our level of education, position in society, economic situation and so on. This goes for a lot of things, of course (oxygen, gravity, etc..), but the idea here is: it could go for anything. It could be true for art, for example. The only reason it isn't so is that we prefer to have a code deciding for us which experiences of art should count as relevant, and which should not; we prefer to establish authority figures, contemporary versions of the man of taste, who are neither better nor worse than the professors of science and the gurus of initiation. That's why both objects and audience need to be decontextualized, deterritorialized, wrenched out of their contexts and discourses, much in the same way as the interior fittings are in the star sculpture, Supernova – Interior Collapse II. This also applies to art; Klingberg's installation has to generate a disorder to prevent the works from being too easily integrated into a well-known art discourse.
Yet another effect of this approach, this fiction, consists in a changed status of the works on show. Just like the Currylines and the moon presented in one of the works, the works should appear to be neither private nor public property, but communal. The moon “is democratic - visible to everyone”, Klingberg said in the conversation with Backström. When Klingberg says so, it is a beautiful artist's statement. Because it implies the proper attitude to art: it is not for sale, and not owned. Art, as such, is communal. This explains why she has displayed them in such a way as to make many of them to appear either site-specific to such a degree that you wouldn't dream of putting them in a different context, or isolate them from each other; or as indistinguishable from another so you can't tell where one starts and the other stops. What is the best reaction to the sight of the moon, or of a work when it is regarded as communal? To howl? Too see a symbol in it? To see someone else in the moonshine? To find a new way of using it? You do what you can.
That is what the parallel reality I experienced in Klingberg's exhibition consists in. It holds a powerful idea of another world order, one which is radically different without being strange. And, really, it shouldn't be too impossible to establish. The parallel reality gives a premonition of a politics, or an anti-politics, of a community of equality, based on ignorance and communal objects. This idea feels very tangible, even if it is visible only from outer space.