Slideshow Johnny, Art Statements, Art 43, Basel
14 Jun 2012 – 17 Jun 2013

For Art Statements, Art 43 Basel, 2012, Laura Bartlett Gallery is delighted to present the new video work “Slideshow Johnny” by Martin Skauen.

Alternating between beat poetry, comedy and with a surreal, dark and poetic sensibility, ‘Slideshow Johnny’ is a portrait of an experimental outsider artist, dedicated to the bone, highly influenced by personal issues. The video consists of six acts diverse in tone and subject matter. There is a hilarity, naïveté and insecurity depicted through the character of Johnny that explores the fragility of individual artistic expression alongside the scrutiny and hasty critique of the mainstream. Skauen pushes that fragility to its limits and invites visitors of Art Basel to engage with those aspects of artistic practice and opinion making. At the forefront of the work is fear of mediocrity and the notion of legitimacy and critique, the audience is a vital part of the act, their laughter, clapping, cheering, or bemusement as well as other ambient sounds is heard throughout the work.

“We laugh not only at the fantastical but also at the truth that is shown to us out of place, devoid of decorum, in disjuncture from our expectations of etiquette, of consistency.” 1

The ludicrous nature of aesthetic impulse and its appreciation is made most apparent in the first video “Why Is”, with a question such as “Why is upside down interesting?” Johnny reflects on passing trends and conventions. In the next vignette, he is indeed upside down as he performs, pushing himself to physical limits whilst balancing out instances of the pathetic with language and, as an aftereffect, creates an apparent mirror of his own unconscious. Another chapter “5 Up for a Panic” relates the interior workings of Johnny, and pushes his identity as tortured artist followed by “Waterproof” a short sketch where Johnny is burying his head in a water bucket whilst playing the guitar, muting “the words that tell the truth”. In the last chapter ‘Q&A, Johnny has transcended these endeavours to become a spiritual medium through which people can ask the
vital questions.

Skauens portrait of Johnny alternates between extreme self-confidence and doubt, represented in the plastering of posters to announce the show, random chairs and oversized screens, with a theatrical yet budget installation, Skauen proposes a fine line between the pathetic, and the super star, and the fickle nature of the
audience.

Martin Skauen (b.1975, Fredrikstad, Norway). Selected exhibitions include Lights on Contemporary Norwegian Art, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Against Exclusion, Moscow Biennial, Destroy Athens, Athens Biennial, Whenever it Starts it is the Right Time, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt. Skauen is a member of Tegneklubben, a drawing collective

1 Dean Young, The Art of Recklessness, Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction, Graywolf Press, 2010

 

Download PDF ↓