Jon Vogt Engeland: Root Out

7 – 23 May 2021

BABEL visningsrom for kunst welcomes you to the solo exhibition “Root Out” Jon Vogt Engeland. The exhibition has its first opening day on Friday 7 of May 16–19, and is open until Sunday 23 of May 12–16.

23. may at 14.00 – Artist talk with Tommy Olsson

The exhibition Root out presents new works by Jon Vogt Engeland. His artistic practice is diverse and includes sculpture, installation, textile, drawing, and video. At BABEL he will show a line of works concerned with the love triangle of the subjective body, its intimate territory, and its external forces. The triangle is a poetic definition of the state of the contemporary subject as the artist sees it: a set of relationships of passion at the brink of collapse. This poetic polyamorous relationship is immediate to the fabric of contemporary embodiment. Drawing parallels to religious iconography, local folklore, traditional crafts, manual labour, and forces of nature, he delineates an area of focus relevant to the loving, working, living and present body.

Jon Vogt Engeland (b. 1987) holds an MFA from Oslo National Academy of the Arts (2015) and a BFA from Konstfack in Stockholm (2013). He has also studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts and Goldsmiths in London, and Art History at the University of Oslo. Recent activity include shows at Kösk (Oslo), Studio 17 (Stavanger), Skiens kunstforening (Skien) and Podium (Oslo). Engeland resides in Oslo. This is his second solo exhibition since graduation, and his first exhibition in Trondheim. Jon Vogt Engeland is based in Oslo.


Excavation, gravity, and antigravity
– some notes and notations on the work of Jon Vogt Engeland

Tommy Olsson, Trondheim 4 May 2021

Let’s pretend that, in 2021, it is still possible to place an artistry within a tradition or two, in order to more easily navigate in what’s going on (of course, this is impossible to achieve, given our circumstances, that could very well be labeled “post-world”, or even “post-artworld”, but let’s pretend it’s still possible). It could thus be easy to think of Jon Vogt Engeland’s projects as a contemporary cutting edge within the obsessive form of associative material inquiry that has followed the modernistic project since Duchamp turned the bottle rack upside down. Something that does not get any easier to steer away when some of the wit and wisdom remains intact, and present here, over a hundred years later, to remind people like me that in the meantime there was not always that much to chuckle about during the 20th century, or afterwards. To put it bluntly: my favorite work by Jon Vogt Engeland is Sneaker Weights (Adidas Gazelle) (2020) – a pair of, as the title suggests, Adidas Gazelle Sneakers, which, in tune with this now merely imagined tradition, have been robbed of their original function, and filled up with concrete, mixed with pebbles from the shoreline. Useless for a jog, but a given focal point between matter and memory within the art institution. And if, as I attempt to do now, one is to navigate in this sometimes contradictory visual universe, they stand out as distinctly work-specific and independent, within a dynamic progression where materials and shapes are often set against each other in scenarios that presuppose the presence of at least a slightly awake audience. Or, in the uttermost extreme consequence; the unpredictable movements of a passing foreign body. In that sense, it may be similar to the question of whether a falling tree in the forest actually makes any sound if no one is listening, or the far more witty twist; If a man says something in the woods and a woman is not there to hear what he’s saying – will he still be wrong? 

In a context where nothing is really hidden, or carries prehistory with it as a weight, the concrete-filled shoes at the same time become an entrance, and reminding one how impossible it is to fall off the planet, while giving everything and everyone around associative legs to go further. The overall body of work is above average open to dialogue, and these works must in a way actively be made us of internally – indeed, unless one stubbornly refuses to make any reflections, I would say it is impossible not to do so. Deconstructing meaning, purpose, and how to relate material to a given practice or situation is not even the main point either, but merely a hint how to think outside the box just by putting the box upside down, or dislocating it. A bit like tipping a urinal, basically – and we know what that can lead to, even long after the moment of surprise has passed, and everyone upstairs has received the message. So, if we imagined the unthinkable – that this is happening in the extension of a tradition – we would end up in something as contradictory as thinking of this as traditional. Or touch on the idea of ​​”traditional modernism” (and that hurts a little too much, no?). But we are in any case past the kind of manageable signs for understanding a reality where all information is misinformation, and you can’t trust anyone. Traditions are, well, traditions, and presuppose at least a minimum of stability and collective security within a functioning society in order to be maintained. If we then think of the artist and his work as post-traditional, it unexpectedly makes sense, and not only does it place the work solidly in this moment – where most things are in free flow, but at the same time emphasizes both the weight of the concrete and the need to understand the personal relation to the ground one is standing on. Because when one has seen enough to be able to imagine possessing some degree of overview and idea – then, whether it is textiles, recycled car tires, or drawing as an executive action rather than result, which – few things appear anything but, perhaps not necessarily weightless, but with a need for movement and as a tool for transport. Denim as sails, to a fleet of industrial rubber, on which both artist and audience can be thought to disappear without a trace on the open sea, alone and facing the basic facts the planet brings with it, beyond recession and forced vaccination. It’s a bit like that, when I’m confronted by this, and by all means most of the rest of the world lately. Like just another Bas Jan Ader, riding a slightly too high wave, in deep concentration, convinced to complete the impossible and fulfill a predestined wish. The need to master the sea. To make this life my own.

This text is supported by Fritt ord

Photo: Susann Jamtøy/BABEL visningsrom for kunst