Hall of Mirrors
2 November 2012 - 6 January 2013
Works in the exhibtion:
Shadow Room, 2011
View Through a Park, 2009
Three Rooms, 2008
Weightless Space, 2004
One-way Street, 2002
Untitled (Vertical Sliding), 2001
Untitled Horizontal Sliding), 2000
An Imagined City, 2012 (sound installation)
We are looking into a room. Against the wall there is a bed and on each side of it, small bedside tables. Everything is exceedingly stripped-down, ascetic. It is not immediately apparent what kind of room this is, even though it displays some similarities with a hotel room. We also see a smaller, spartan bathroom to the right of the bed. The room looks simple, even if the bentwood chairs indicate some form of style awareness. In the window recesses, the plaster has cracked, which suggests dilapidation.
We are contemplating the room through what appears to be a surveillance camera. Our gaze moves slowly and quietly, from left to right. It is surveillance’s unrelentingly encompassing movement, which is always on the lookout for unlawful anomalies. When the camera has completed its course, it slowly embarks on another round. Round and round. It is difficult to date the room by only looking at the furniture, but the moving surveillance camera provides the scene with a contemporary feel.
Today, we are under constant surveillance. An anonymous power controls everything we do. “The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation; an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see induce effects of power, and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible.” Thus writes French philosopher Michel Foucault in his major investigation of the history of surveillance and punishment (Discipline and Punish, p.170, transl. Alan Sheridan, 1977. French original: Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison). The awareness of the camera forces us to conform our behaviour to that approved by the powers that be.
However, during the camera’s movement something happens in the room. A shadow play extends across the walls. A shadow play which quickly gains in power, becomes more intense and more chaotic for each round of the camera. It is as if nature is penetrating the room with implacable force. The presence of the shadow play suggests that what we are looking at is a room outside, or rather beyond, the real. It may be a room which resembles the inner state of a person. Looking at a room that is buried, slowly but surely, under Freud’s examination of the uncanny from 1919. As part of an uncanny experience Freud wrote about people’s fear of being buried alive.
The scene above is from artist Jonas Dahlberg’s film Shadow Room (2011). In several ways, the film may be characterised as typical of Jonas Dahlberg’s oeuvre. The point of departure is an architectural site, a room which is subjected to close scrutiny. Through Shadow Room one understands that the artist’s interest in the room operates on several levels simultaneously, in a charged field between the constantly searching interest of the controlling power (or whomever has assumed the role of controller) and the ego’s fragile psychology. A recurring feature in Dahlberg’s art is the investigation of the room’s psychological and power-related aspects. A human drama without dramatic overtones is enacted here, which includes a constant confrontation with issues concerning the ego’s position in relation to power and identity.
In Hall of Mirrors, Jonas Dahlberg creates a world of his own, in which the boundary between fiction and reality is blurred. The exhibition is a mirror world without a clear reference system to fall back on. If there ever was an exhibition that could be regarded as a coherent artwork, it is Jonas Dahlberg’s Hall of Mirrors. The individual work as well as the exhibition as a whole brings to the fore several of the sets of problems that occupy Jonas Dahlberg: power, the ego position, identity, memory (subjective and collective) and time.
The exhibition presents seven of his films and a sound work. The latter represents a new departure in Jonas Dahlberg’s artistic practice and has its point of departure in an archive compiled by the artist. For a long time, Dahlberg has collected people’s subjective memories of architecture and film. These stories can be heard in an installation in which the real room is being dissolved. How am I to understand my peregrination through a non-material world in which voices, from somewhere, speak to me about memories of places and films? In this process of transference, is the subjective transformed into a collective experience? Memory is often described as a strictly private matter, solidly connected to one’s own person, or as French philosopher Paul Ricoeur writes in his massive work Memory, History, Forgetting: “In remembering something, one remembers oneself.” (transl. Kathleen Blamey & David Pellauer, 2006, p.96. French original: La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli, Editions du Seuil, 2000). The relationship between the subjective and the shared experience has long been the subject of scientific as well as artistic exploration. In Jonas Dahlberg’s installation the transference is concrete when I listen to stories in a manner which is reminiscent of people’s oral history: memories in the form of memorised stories conveyed from one person to another, and further, from generation to generation.
Your peregrination through the exhibition is like a peregrination in a weightless state, where your conception of where you are is not clear.
Born in 1970, Jonas Dahlberg lives and works in Stockholm. He is one of Sweden’s most well-established artists, nationally as well as internationally. Despite his clear position in international contemporary art, he has held few solo exhibitions in Sweden, and with Hall of Mirrors he exhibits in Gothenburg for the first time.