Poetical Assumption: Philipp Otto Runge fellow Karl Larsson exhibits at Kunstverein in Hamburg
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Poetical Assumption: Philipp Otto Runge fellow Karl Larsson exhibits at Kunstverein in Hamburg
Karl Larsson, "North Western Prose". Exhibition view Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2014. Photo: Fred Dott.

HAMBURG.- How does a work of art begin to signify anything to the beholder? How does its meaning circulate? What narratives support it? Karl Larsson, this year’s Philipp Otto Runge fellow, mixes an institutionally critical awareness concerning the material and ideological conditions of the work of art, with poetic reflections on the existential and emotional prerequisites of artistic creation. In Hamburg, periods, materials and gestures are transferred to a space that describes an actual contemporary language climate: North Western Prose. In this language climate, everything has a function.

The title of the exhibition, "North Western Prose," refers to Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, which depicts the capitalistic system of the 19th and the early 20th century. Larsson addresses this topic to contemporary questions: How do we establish a way of life in regard to traditions, economical interests, individual wishes and drastically changing social structures? Literary figures such as Arthur Rimbaud – whose formulation "I is another" marked the beginning of artificial literature –, appear in the exhibition: The silhouette of his head, originally cast from a monument in Charleville, is positioned on the floor and filled up with beach stones. Larsson's several characters – absent bodies but present minds – are in constant conversation.

With “North Western Prose,” Larsson continues his work in the intersecting margins of writing and language, poetry and installation. These diverse positions have coalesced in an artistic practice that can be described as both editorial and literary, but differs from writing in a conventional sense in its focus on spatial experience, embodiment and activism. Like anomalous points on a graph, the works hold together not because of their coherence or the connections among them, but as a result of their underlying order. Larsson's application of poetical methodology to sculptural practice establishes a space between the object and the spectator, who is an active part of the artistic scenario. In doing so, the artist challenges the act of perception and questions existing modes of artistic critique which are already incorporated by capitalism.

This transfer within the exhibition space triggers a certain way of thinking about consumption and value. To criticize is not to pass judgment but to add knowledge. “The exhibition as a cultural form was born when the logic of presentation separated the artworks from their prescribed social destination. The conditions for such breach are not longer present: the contemporary art exhibition is an anachronism” (Kim West). In this setting, thinking can start from a new position.

Karl Larsson, born 1977 in Kristianstad, Sweden, is an artist, poet and editor. He divides his time between Malmö and Berlin. As a poet, Larsson has published five books; Form/Force (OEI Editör 2007), Nightsong (OEI Editör 2009), Parrot (Paraguay Press 2010), Poetical Assumption (Torpedo / JvE 2012) and Consensus (the Room) (Paraguay Press 2012). He is part of the editorial board of Audiatur, biennale for contemporary poetry in Bergen, Norway. Larsson has had solo exhibitions at the Index Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm, Galerie Kamm, Berlin and the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein. He has also participated in group exhibitions at NGBK in Berlin and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Upcoming exhibitions include the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland (USA).

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