Envy: Matias Faldbakken at Galerie Neu

I am watching the film Haywire by Soderbergh and the quality of compressed expressions reminds me of the current exhibition Envy, by Matias Faldbakken up now at Galerie Neu in Berlin. On a first viewing of Faldbakken’s work I was put off by the intellectual deference of the nearly empty showroom–the cool distancing which is so often currency for cultural glamour.  Let’s hope I am mistaken about the value of reductive selectivity within the show, that it is more about care than mystique.  Like an effective meme, I am frequently reminded of the power of selection and reduction within exhibition spaces via the Gabriel Orozco exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery in 1994.  There is a presumed eloquence to the idea of having “choosen” those four, famed yogurt lids to occupy such vast art world real estate (testing the bounds of their ready-made-ness and their fiscal value per square foot), when in fact we know that it could have been any four lids prior to the hanging but that upon presentation, those four would be lionized and brought directly back into the realm of the select.

Regarding Haywire and the specificity of choosing, it is at first the crunching of bodies materially and the sexless yet erotic maneuvering of the main characters’ fighting that is striking and similar to Faldbakken. Haywire is weightless, translucent; the cinematography feels like looking through a dense shower curtain, there’s no nudity and hardly any dialog. I have the impression that Soderburg is reading past me, he knows that I can easily google his brazen protagonist if I really have to see her tits, so of course he needn’t ply me with diversions. I am imaging Faldbekken is thinking the same thing about his novels. He doesn’t have to deliver any of that creamy sauce in the gallery because he’s written it all out elsewhere.

At Neu there are a total of four hanging works, all postal sacks bearing the Norwegian emblem, laid flat and encased in glass frames with the ink of a black marker swiped partially over the front of each; the works were separated for the hanging, but the gesture was originally made in a single pass. There is also an unwound copy of the videocassette Envy strewn between the wall and floor.

Not having read Faldbakken, I am at a disadvantage. I get that Soderbergh feeling though, that within his hanging, he is enjoying a cool intellectual distance via selection. I recognize crisp socio-anthropological arguments and observations about film, culture, and violence in his work while at the same time he seems to be inside of these arguments and enjoying a little aggression as a creator. He can effect materials in a dramatic way, pouring animal tension on top of industrially designed objects while writing as loosely as a poet in his press release/artist statement.

We poets relate. We socio-anthropologists relate. We who would mock Hollywood and it’s psuedo-anxiety about death and consumption (we are all dying: consume, distract, etc.), can relate. Yes, all of that smooth, cool space is naturally attractive. Still, something goose-pimply is missing, some higher, wiser magic and at least for now, I am not taken in.