NOSTALGIA AND BOMBAST
An exhibition of Mathias Pfund and Marine Kaiser
Opening Friday 09 April 2021, 3pm – 7pm
Exhibition 10 April to 08 May 2021
Tuesday to Friday 3pm – 7pm
Saturday 2pm – 6pm
Société des Arts – Classe des Beaux-Arts
Potpourri for the End of the World
When art historians in the future look back on the strange period in which we find ourselves unwillingly trapped, they will perhaps identify it with that particular quality of energy, that paradoxical mixture of desire, frenzy, impatience and anguish that characterises it. Or to use the title of this exhibition, of nostalgia and bombast.
One could not dream of a more extreme mix of tones, as perfect in its description of the present as it is in the tone of the exhibition. The taste for antithesis has long haunted the work of Mathias Pfund, who uses it most often as a comical feature. Here, the papier-mâché sculpture (The World is Yours*), the replica of a Cycladic idol (Still Standing), the gramophone, symbol of analogue culture, which in fact contains an mp3 player (Nero Burning Rom), or the drawing by Paul Lannes that serves as the cover for the 78 rpm record produced for the exhibition, mixing the ancient architecture of the Colosseum with the contemporary aesthetics of the disaster film, all play on this trope. It can also be found in Marine Kaiser’s work. The sculptures in the Gala series, each of which includes one of those business cards common in Brussels, but also in other large European cities, offering car export services, also articulate two opposing visions of trade: on the one hand, the legitimate circulation of goods, of which works of art are a part, and on the other, the informal economy, a situation in which “the state is no longer around”. Similarly, the accompanying video is built on an opposition between the promise of entertainment and the gloomy reality of tired bodies and the globalised economy. The entire exhibition, installed in the neo-renaissant Athénée palace, located with dignity in the heart of old Geneva, thus works on the tensions between the past and the ultra-present, the original and its reproductions, the spirit of seriousness and gratuitous humour, the search for Beauty and the unconditional love of what is “super ugly” (an aesthetic category in its own right in the work of Mathias Pfund**).
Beyond the recurrence of this stylistic figure, the link between these collections of work might seem a little loose. But this would (again) be a misleading impression. Of course, this exhibition is only the latest update in a series of proposals that the two artists, waiting for an opening that never came (hi there Godot), have successively formulated and abandoned in the months that have just passed. Along the way, a series of linocuts left the adventure (as they say on reality shows). And perhaps Nostalgia and Bombast would have been a radically different exhibition if it had opened this summer, or autumn, becoming, who knows, an assemblage of abstract sculptures and green plants, a numismatic show or a collection of textual works found online. Wrong, because a common thread does indeed link all the pieces, in ways that are nonetheless specific to both artists: the circulation of goods, people and information. In Marine Kaiser’s work, the question of what happens to things that lose their appeal is posed from the point of view of the economy (“What do we do with what we no longer want?” she asks). In Mathias Pfund’s work, this is reflected in the infinite games of circulation, from the analogue to the digital, from memory to its approximate and degraded materialisation, from historical facts to (badly) fabricated stories, which are intended to tell them a posteriori. And in both cases, entropy wins. In the manner of its soundtrack, made up of triumphalist and testosterone-fuelled pieces that have lost their superbness through repetition (and the revival of feminism), Nostalgia and Bombast cultivates the lost art of the medley, in an era where marching bands have almost disappeared.
* This short text was written while frantically listening to the soundtrack of the film Scarface, a magnificent mixture of melancholy and synthetic fury signed by Giorgio Moroder. During a sequence in the film, the character of Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, glances at an LED screen where the words “The world is yours” scroll by, which also gave their title to one of the tracks on the film’s soundtrack.
** Mathias Pfund used the term “super ugly” in one of our interviews to describe a monument in Gibraltar called The Columns of Hercules, which inspired his piece The World is Yours. Sitting on the border between North and South, this highly symbolic monument condenses in its grandiloquent form historical (ancient heritage), economic (North-South inequalities), political and colonial (Gibraltar as a place of passage for migrants) and aesthetic (the obsolescence of monumental aesthetics, with its virilistic connotations) issues. Upon reflection, it seemed to me that much of the artist’s work revolved around this question of the “ugly”, which is not akin to “hideous” but rather refers – with a certain affection – to outdated visual strategies, but which are nonetheless fascinating for what they tell of political or artistic history. To me, the exhibition Laughing Stock, which he curated at the Musée des Beaux-arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 2020, and in which he presented the work of painters from a putative art movement, l’École du gris (the School of grey), whose paintings are characterised, as the name suggests, by a depressing chromaticism, adopted a similar approach. Or his versions of modern works made of papier-mâché, which he made in the 2010s. Ugliness (not necessarily super, by the way) is not a formal characteristic of his work, but certainly an object of his research as an artist. Or as he himself explains, “I often enjoy discovering and questioning forms that are a little too sure of themselves.”
LIST OF THE WORKS
Hier à Sousse, Mathias Pfund, 2021, various digitized documents presenting a now destroyed Roman mosaic discovered in Sousse in 1860 and representing in particular the boat of Theseus.
Nero Burning Rom, Mathias Pfund, 2021, 9-minute medley engraved on 45 rpm vinyl and played via a gramophone. Cover drawn by Paul Lannes.
Still Standing, Mathias Pfund, 2021, reproduction of a Cycladic sculpture “Spedos” type, based vertically and put back horizontally thanks to a second base.
The World is yours, Mathias Pfund, 2021, papier-mâché reproduction of the central part of The Pillars of Hercules monument installed in the public space of Gibraltar, circa 1999 and financed by a trust company.
GALA +32479192157, Marine Kaiser, 2021
GALA +32485050733, Marine Kaiser, 2021
GALA +41788680425, Marine Kaiser, 2021
GALA +32474434454, Marine Kaiser, 2021, business cards used for European purchase of second-hand vehicles sold in Africa kept between two glasses engraved with logos replaying various merchandise circulation standards.
GALA, Marine Kaiser, 2021, 8’03“ 3D video where the fiction of a ro-ro sailing to an elsewhere builds up in the crossing of a still scene annotated with found images.
Mathias Pfund (* 1992) lives and works between Geneva and Brussels. Graduated (work.master) from HEAD – Geneva in 2016, his work has been shown in various artist run spaces in Switzerland and also in Paris, Brussels and London. In 2017, he was awarded the Berthoud grant within the framework of the grants of the city of Geneva. In 2020 he notably exhibited at Quark (Geneva) and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Chaux-de-Fonds.
Marine Kaiser (* 1992, Geneva) is a graduate of HEAD – Geneva and erg Brussels. Based in Brussels, her work has recently been shown at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal (Paris), at AGB (Berlin), at Manifesta 12 (Palermo), at Le 18 (Marrakech), at Cunst-Link or at Chee (Brussels).