Fear is one of the main protagonists in our fragile society, she twists herself and her greasy hair into nimble yogic poses so she can rest; poised under a table, a bar stool or between the keys of our trackpad. When the time is right she begins to dampen our human palms with her course tongue. The sweat saliva turning so easily into a self-initiated tsunami before we have even begun to take those well-intended deep cleansing breaths or pop a tiny blue downer. Fear is one of the oldest natural disasters for any human body, it shakes even the heaviest foundations and nothing has ever been able to cure her. Yet Fear is the mother we all share. Fear is older than time itself, Fear is why we survive and why we die.
Josefin Arnell has been exploring these haunting plagues of both the psyche and the body for years now. At times we find a very subjective sentiment to her work, as she deals with paranoia, coming of age and states of the body like Lyme disease, which she can attest to knowing. But who can’t corroborate to these feelings at some point in their life, a different shade but the same plague? The whole world runs on these maladjusted phobias and alongside it is an insatiable promise of an elixir of life that can be bought or self-created in a quick fix “add to cart” or “DIY or die” action. This liquid has been promised by various manufacturers from religious status to neoliberal constructs and hedonistic parodies. If we look back in history we can always find the other, the evil eye, the malevolent glare tearing down mankind in need of a splash of the nostrum. This Other comes in the form of a plague of rats or locusts or mad cows or ticks. At other points, it comes as floods, winds or wars. It’s an infinite looping aesthetic of destruction and survival, a rather binary concept just as the evil eye and that of its cohort the eye of providence is. Arnell explores these inexhaustible visions through her holographic montages, flickering in the room alongside her video work “Gag reflex / I wanna puke in heaven” a cute homage to the chronic collective fatigue of our times. All Arnell’s works sit inside a room punctured with escape routes be it the winding staircase into the black hole or the letters slipping over the window pane. Even the walls bricked up or in a state of alabaster white echo to possible other states, the room could take. Arnell as an artist also conducts the role of the archaeologist, sifting through the matter of our times not to give it universal meaning but instead to find the links and landscapes it was created in. The search always finds itself back to Fear, she is both the protagonist and the author of this world. Fear is the creator and the destroyer. Fear could be likened to a goddess today, she is more powerful than all the zombie phallus of the world. She is the monster that becomes us. She mutates herself into our cells and minds like a virus, first starting in the stomach, knotting and meshing its organs, then roaming through our bloodstreams, suffocating our cells until eventually, she attacks our mind, she is the meta-bacteria of our ecosystem. Untraceable but visible. She reminds us again the greater the parties invisibility the longer it stays alive.