Matias Faldbakken sits among a select group of artists working at a certain crux of politically-critical work and a unique sense of material-based composition. Crossing signifiers from the domestic and lifestyle commodities with the rough elements of building construction (cement, tile, nylon rope), Faldbakken’s work investigates the application and representation of force, often with disturbing contextual undertones. This notion sits at the core of Europe is Balding, his new exhibition of work at Paul Cooper Gallery in Chelsea.
Long interested in conflations of sculptural tradition with everyday commodities and uncommon art materials, Faldbakken’s show here draws on the domestic as a container for conceptions of decay and degradation. At its core is a video work of the same title, playing at the center of an immense home entertainment center that has been completely covered over in ceramic flooring tiles. The video subject speaks through a voice transformer, akin to those presented in television documentaries, yet their voice has been warped to incomprehensibility. Combined with its surrounding structure, the work constantly withholds a concrete meaning, leaving only confounding amalgamations of physical structures and video elements that feel more like containers than expressive elements.
Elsewhere, Faldbakken is showing similarly-tiled pieces, covering over car dashboards, mufflers and wooden pallets. The presentation of these pieces, expressly utilitarian objects, crusted over with a domestic signifier in a manner akin to rust or barnacles, presents a sense of abstracted decay, as if these objects had crusted over with accumulated domestic material. These fossilized objects, resting within the gallery space, imply a certain sense of the obsolete, both in their aesthetic and utilitarian bounds, outdated styles of tile accumulating on the elements of a transportation technology whose use has become tightly linked with global climate crisis.
Perhaps this decay of both meaning and use is what makes Faldbakken’s work seem so immediately embedded in the present, representing the underlying power struggles and social flux embedded in modern politics and institutional structure as explicit amalgamations. As he mimics and parodies the physical and digital imagery of the modern landscape, Faldbakken’s deliberately heavy-handed abstraction of these forms leaves the viewer contending with both their original uses, and the future conditions for these objects. The implications are ominous, hinting at scenes of cultural decay and societal breakdown reflected in the objects of the everyday.
Europe is Balding closes on March 19th.
— D. Creahan
Matias Faldbakken: Europe is Balding [Paula Cooper Gallery]