Matias Faldbakken is a Norwegian artist and writer recognised for his three-dimensional works that synthesise new forms through the negation and conflation of existing materials.Read More
Faldbakken studied at Academy of Fine Art, Bergen (1994–1998) and the State University of Fine Arts, Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main (1996–1997).
Matias Faldbakken applies the conventional tools of artmaking to ordinary objects—from ink, charcoal and pencil to cardboard boxes, garbage bags, car trunks and jackets, among others—that are altered, deconstructed, combined or subtracted to become abstract sculptures.
Despite his education in art, Faldbakken was disillusioned with working as an artist and initially gained recognition as a writer. His first novel The Cocka Hola Company (2001), published under the pseudonym Abo Rasul, began the trilogy 'Scandinavian Misanthropy' (2001—08). Written in what came to be the artist's characteristically caustic and satirical style, the trilogy revolves around a range of characters and settings tied together by an underlying contempt for human values.
Compared to his writing, Faldbakken's artworks have often been described as hermetic, abstract and minimal. Taking mass-produced and commonplace objects, Faldbakken recontextualises them into new situations. In Screen Chairs (Dog Trainer) (2016), a stack of nine chairs becomes a sculptural whole; on the topmost chair, a box with six newsprints attached to one side echoes the chairs' silhouette.
Faldbakken's artworks and writing, however, are both driven by the artist's interest in expressions of negation and negativity—'hate, misanthropy and so on', as he told Mousse Magazine in 2008. Black Screen (2005), a video work presented at the Nordic Pavilion during the 51st Venice Biennale, follows the camera through a cinema, only to show a black rectangle where there should be the screen. The expectation for entertainment, associated with the cinema, is replaced with blackness or nothingness.
Potent cultural symbols often undergo subversion and manipulation in Faldbakken's works. The car, for example, stands for movement, freedom, independence and power, but has also been associated with violence—road actions, abduction, illegal trade—in popular culture. In Faldbakken's Abstracted Car (2009), the vehicle is burnt, decommissioned and strapped to a metal transport frame, while a car trunk has been separated from the rest of the car in Untitled (Car Trunk #5) (2013).
Repeating such gestures of negation over and over, Faldbakken's work ultimately begins to question the very act of negation itself; whether such an act as antagonism is possible in the contemporary art world. With the history of previous anti-establishment, avant-garde art movements—among them Situationist International and Dada—subversion is already an expectation.
Matias Faldbakken has exhibited in major institutions and galleries in Europe and the United States.
Select solo exhibitions include Beaten Ink, Upset Brick, Downcast Charcoal, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris (2021–22); Matias Faldbakken, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2019); _Matias Faldbakken — Effects of Good Governm_ent in the Pit, Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2017–18); Thingumbob Screens Overlaps, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich (2016); Overlap, Galerie Neu, Berlin (2015); Sacks & Trunks, Simon Lee Gallery, London (2013); Intervention #21, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2012).
Select group exhibitions include My Cartography. The Erling Kagge Collection, Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid (2020); All In One, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich (2020); Kanal Brut, KANAL-Centre Pompidou, Brussels (2018–19); WE DREAM UNDER THE SAME SKY, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); Black Feast, Simon Lee Gallery, New York (2017); The Eighth Climate (What does art do?), 11th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju (2016); Poor Art — Rich Legacy. Arte Povera and parallel practices 1968–2015, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2015-16); The Crime Was Almost Perfect, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2014); Sea Salt and Cross Passes, The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2013).
Faldbakken also continues to write and is an accomplished author; his 2019 novel Vi er fem was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2020.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021