Bjarki Bragason exhibits at KHM and NHM
Past Understandings at KHM and Desire Ruin at NHM
December 12, 2014 – January 11, 2015
Time is a central issue in the works by the Icelandic artist Bjarki Bragason (born 1983), examining it through the aspects of political history, architecture, language and archeology.
In the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Bjarki Bragason is presenting his new work Past Understandings. In a series of video works und sculptural interventions the artist questions the construction and reading of historical narrative while dealing with the history of the museum.
In the Mineral Collection at the Naturhistorisches Museum Bjarki Bragason is showing a new adaption of the video sculpture Desire Ruin realized in 2013. Desire Ruin draws on the dilemma of studying a phenomenon and the alteration, which a study has on the subject studied. The work deals with issues of time, history and the desire to internalize the subject of time.
The project was initiated by on site, a non-profit art organisation working internationally for the promotion of contemporary visual art. As part of the exhibition ice ice baby (27.11 – 11.12. 2014) six artistic positions were invited from Iceland among others Bjarki Bragason, to participate in the exhibition in Vienna. In cooperation with the Federal Chancellery of Austria/ Bilateral and Multilateral Cultural Cooperation the artist was invited to take part in the Artist-in-Residence programme of the the Federal Chancellery and KulturKontakt Austria from October-December 2014.
Guided Tour with the curators and the artist
Friday, 12.12. and Friday, 19.12., Beginning: 3pm
Start: Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Kunsthistorisches Museum
DESIRE RUIN, 2014
INSTALLED AT NATURHISTORISCHES MUSEUM MINERAL COLLECTION
BJARKI BRAGASON, December 2014
Desire Ruin is the result of a search for the oldest living tree on earth. The Bristle Cone Pine trees live to become the world’s oldest non-clonal organisms. The work, presented at the Naturhistorisches Museum’s Mineral Collection brings up questions of time, how the idea of it gets built and studied, metaphorically and literally.
In 1964, Donald R. Currey was a graduate student doing dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) research on the Bristle Cone Pines at Wheeler Peak in Nevada. Drilling into the core of trees to retrieve samples, Curry was granted permission to fell one of his subjects. Upon study of the tree it became clear that this sample was the oldest known tree in the world, at around 4862 years. The then next-to oldest tree of the species, known as Methuselah, currently believed to be around 4846 years old is located in the Inyo Forest in California.
In the fall of 2012, Bjarki went to Inyo, knowing that finding Methuselah was impossible, since its gps coordinates are kept unknown. Visiting the forest repeatedly, he scanned the landscape with a video camera, holding back on the urge to collect material found on the forest bed. Letting his hand brush against the tree trunks as he passed them, Bjarki got a splinter into his index finger. While cutting it out in a pseudo-surgical manner in his studio, it became the focus point of the work. As a means to internalize the subject, he pushed the splinter back into the finger.
Desire Ruin combines the narrative of the Bristle Cone Pines with the story of a reconstruction project of the inner core of a central European city following the devastation of war. An architect responsible for reconstructing buildings in the mid 20th century is described as a protagonist in a narrative in which an image of time is literally rebuilt. The role of fiction and memory in reconstruction projects gets intertwined in a conversation between the work and a museum cabinet of building stones and materials at the Mineral Collection.
Since 2011 Bjarki has been occupied with questions of how time manifests itself. His work has investigated human practises of studying time, such as archaeology, architectural history, botany and literature. Following a research trip to Honolulu Hawaii in 2011, he entered into conversation with a botanist at the Bishop Museum on the relationship between the islands’ political and colonial history and its relation to the decline in the local ecology. When on tour of the archives of extinct and endangered species, a fragment of a sample broke off. This instigated a project where botanists in the archives shook, with the museum’s collaboration; specimen over envelops and sent Bjarki the loose debris. The result was a body of work, Letters Between B and C, which drew together narratives of ecology and the strive to archive and construct narratives of memory.
PAST UNDERSTANDINGS, 2014
INSTALLED AT KHM ANTIKENSAMMLUNG – collection of Greek and Roman antiquties
BJARKI BRAGASON, December 2014
Past Understandings is a new body of work by Bjarki Bragason. A two channel video installation depicts human hands holding rubber replicas of the same hands, attempting to conduct technical drawings, and sort through rubble.
The work, developed in September 2014, the original version was shown at Hverfisgallerí in Reykjavík as part of Selfsame, is an interrogation of the making of historical narratives. Bjarki’s practice is concerned with time, history and architecture, which he often investigates through fragments or residue. In his work he has focused on narratives where individuals or buildings become placeholders for historical paradigms. As a starting point to Past Understands and part of the previous version of the work, Bjarki integrated the video with an attempt to auto translate an interview with the late British historian Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) on ways and methods which people have used to the past.
The act of drawing and sorting in the videos highlights a buffer which exists between the artist and the subject; the fragments which he is studying in his left hand, and the pencil active in his right hand. Bjarki is concerned with investigating the role of fiction and subjectivity in historical narratives. In this way the results of the act of drawing are testimony to the act, to the movement of the hands and the endless negotiation of juggling and placing the rubber hands and drawing tools in the right position.
At the Kunsthistorisches Museum Antikensammlung, the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Bjarki has developed the work in specific relation to the museum, the collection and its history. Installed among objects from the collection the work takes the form of footnotes, placing itself in relation to sculptural and architectural objects and fragments. The videos present a study of ruin fragments acquired by Bjarki in a garbage container at a Berlin building site, where the basement of a 19th century building was unearthed from beneath a mid 20th century office building following its demolition. Through dialogue with the museum and research at its depot on the outskirts of Vienna, Bjarki developed a narrative surrounding the history of some of the collection’s display items, plinths used to present ancient sculptural fragments. Some of those plinths derive from the archaeological site at the Ancient Greek city of Ephesus in present day Turkey, where they were excavated as columns, parts of architectural structures, and later brought to Vienna in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and cut down into museum displays. This practice was abandoned, in favour of using cheaper marble, mined as raw material as opposed to cultural artefact. Elements of Past Understandings reflect on this complex history and attempt to engage with the viewer on the subject of the layers of the narratives present in the space.
Bjarki Bragason (b.1983 in Reykjavik, Iceland) studied at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. His research-based practice revolves around questioning identity and the construction of narrative. In Oct – Dec 2014 he is artist-in-residence at Kultur Kontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery.
Kindly supported by: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Bilateral and Multilateral Cultural Cooperation, The Federal Chancellery of Austria , KulturKontakt Austria, Muggur Fund, Icelandic Art Center and Myndlistarsjodur – Iceland Art Fund.