Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI - Installation view - Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise New York - Rome. Photo Roberto Apa

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI – Installation view – Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York – Rome. Photo: Roberto Apa

English text below

Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste this chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

(Estratto da Careless Whisper di George Michael)

Di questa sdolcinata canzone di George Michael, successo ‘tormentone’ del 1984, l’artista svedese Karl Holmqvist estrapola una frase – “Guilty feet have got no rhythm” – e la scrive a lettere cubitali con dei neon. L’enorme scritta è installata tra due colonne, rendendo la frase, il suo contenuto e la fonte della sua estrapolazione surreale. La ‘colpevolezza’, stretta tra due colonne di marmo, illumina la chiesa sconsacrata di Sant’Andrea de Scaphis a Trastevere – sede della galleria newyorkese Gavin Brown’s enterprise – di una luce fredda, scrutatoria.
Alla fermezza e perentorietà del neon, l’incalzante martellamento di immagini del video – installato a mezzo metro dal pavimento, circa – dove scorrono, con ritmati ed eterogenee griglie grafiche una lunga serie di scritte:

dpdpdpddpdpddpdpdpdpddpdpdpdpdpd
dpdpdpdpddpdpdpdpddpdpdpdpddpdpd

#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like
#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like
#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like#like

#DANG       #DANG       #DANG
             #DANG        #DANG       #DANG
#DANG       #DANG       #DANG
             #DANG       #DANG       #DANG

BADMADSADBADMADSADBADMADSAD
BADMADSADBADMADSADBADMADSAD
BADMADSADBADMADSADBADMADSAD
BADMADSADBADMADSADBADMADSAD

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI - Installation view - Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise New York - Rome. Photo Roberto Apa

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI – Installation view – Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York – Rome. Photo Roberto Apa

Il video, #FLU$$CH, gioca con i diversi significati della parola “flush” – può suggerire imbarazzo (flush in the face/arrossire), ricchezza (flush with money/pieno di soldi), o l’eliminazione di qualcosa o qualcuno dal proprio sistema (to flush out of your body, or down the drain/eliminare dal corpo o tirare lo sciacquone). Per la durata di 29 minuti del video, parole e frasi si rincorrono senza tregua oscillando tra immagini, suono e significati. Ipnotizzati dalle immagini-parola e dal suono cadenzato della voce dell’artista che ripete frasi fatte estratte dalla cultura mediatica e pop, inevitabile interpretare l’intera installazione come una beffarda metafora dell’imperituro show mediatico che non ci abbandona mai, tanto uno schermo e l’altro.

Scorrendo la ricerca di Holmqvist, si può ben attribuire la sua ricercata maniacalità con cui utilizza parole, testi e contenuti, alla stregua di immagini, con lo stesso peso e valore.
Per la mostra KHAPALBHATI – visibile fino al 20 gennaio 2018 da GBE (via de Vascellari 69, Roma), l’artista mischia alto e basso, cultura e sottocultura, gesti quotidiani come quelli di digitare in modo compulsivo #Ilike sui vari social con una tecnica che lo yoga mette a disposizione per generare energia nel corpo. Questa tecnica è anche il titolo dell’intero progetto Kapalabhati. L’artista ha scovato questa tecnica antica che i testi storici dell’Hatha Yoga traducono come: respiro che purifica la parte frontale del cervello.

Compiendo un surreale corto circuito che, da George Michael passa per i social network, da antiche tecniche di respirazione per emanare o assorbire energia, Holmqvist ci introduce nei labirinti – concettuali e formali – del linguaggio, dei suoi significati e dei luoghi comuni che si annidano nel suo utilizzo.

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI - Installation view - Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise New York - Rome. Photo Roberto Apa

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI – Installation view – Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York – Rome. Photo Roberto Apa

KHAPALBHATI is an exhibition in several parts by Karl Holmqvist at Sant’Andrea de Scaphis. The exhibition consists of three works: a wallpaper covering the façade of the historic building, a video, projected onto a stage (also to be viewed from the former church’s mezzanine), and a large-scale neon text piece.

Working across a variety of media, Holmqvist revels in language’s fundamental instability, uncovering its layers of meaning. Building on the traditions of found and concrete poetry, the artist mines pre-existing, commonplace phrases – overheard speech, song lyrics, familiar idioms and axioms – to reconsider their communicative potential. KHAPALBHATI, the show’s title, is a yogic breathing technique and cleansing practice that echoes to the spirituality of Holmqvist’s artistry; his work strips away superficial signification and delves into language’s more nebulous, mysterious essence.

The new video, #FLU$$CH, plays with the multiple meanings of the word “flush,” which could indicate a display of embarrassment (flush in the face), wealth (flush with money), or the removal of something – or someone – from your system (to flush out of your body, or down the drain). Words and phrases recur throughout the 29-minute film, both as image and sound. This onslaught of language serves as a kind of reverse-brainwashing: the artist’s rhythmic repetition of found language, sampled from current media and pop culture, collapses and upends the phrases’ original intended meanings.

The wallpaper, which covers the historic building’s exterior, consists of poster-style printouts of the video’s texts, both the voiceover and the printed language. In pushing the exhibition to the street level, Holmqvist confounds the relationships between spoken and written word, and the boundaries separating public and private language. The gesture, while visually assertive and formally provocative, is familial and tender: Holmqvist performs intimacy on a grand scale.

Finally, the neon, Untitled (CARELESS WHISPER), quotes the eponymous 1984 mega-hit that launched George Michael’s solo career, reading “GUILTY FEET HAVE GOT NO RHYTHM.” The entendre of this famous song lyric is manifest in the song’s original music video, in which the late gay pop star is “guilty” of performing a heterosexual public persona. In huge, glowing letters and installed at the former church’s altarpiece, the word “guilty” carries a particularly potent resonance– although Holmqvist’s guilt is a far cry from the traditional Catholic variety.

Karl Holmqvist (b. 1964, Västerås, Sweden) lives and works in Berlin. He studied Literature and Linguistics at Stockholm University, Stockholm. Recent exhibitions include: #FLU$$CH, Stockholm Konst, Stockholm (2017); LAVORO (with Klara Liden), Indipendenza, Rome (2017); From Concrete to Liquid to Spoken Worlds to the Word, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2017); TUFF LOVE, The Power Station, Dallas (2016); READ DEAR, Camden Arts Centre, London (2016); HURRY UP, CHASE IT DOWN, Sismografo, Porto (2015); Give Posters A Try, Charlottenburg, Copenhagen (2013); Give Poetry A Try, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2013). Holmqvist participated in the 2003 and 2011 Venice Biennial. His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, 2012), the Performa Performance Art Biennial, New York (2005, 2007 and 2013) and at The Serpentine Gallery, London (2008, 2009 and 2016).

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI - Installation view - Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise New York - Rome. Photo Roberto Apa (esterno)

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI – Installation view – Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York – Rome. Photo Roberto Apa (esterno)

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI - Installation view - Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise New York - Rome. Photo Roberto Apa (esterno)

Karl Holmqvist, KHAPALBHATI – Installation view – Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise New York – Rome. Photo Roberto Apa (esterno)