March 10 – April 2, 2023
Thursday – Sunday 12.00-16.00
We are excited to present Emil Finnerud’s first solo show at MELK. Attrition is a total installation of the gallery space consisting of site-specific works, sculptures and sound. At the opening Vomir (FR) will do a live performance.
Decomposing dead bodies smell sweet, he told me. The most humane way to kill someone is to boil them, he continued. Then he had a pause, drank some soda, ate some chocolate biscuit, then quoted a contemporary philosopher. The kind you find at the kiosk at the airport; anemic and helpless self-help platitudes. When they executed people at the guillotine, the head would keep living for a split second, able to watch the cheering crowds as your head detaches from your body, watch your torso in vertigo as your head is spinning into a straw bucket with that characteristic frown, he told me. I started to think of the grimaces of the faces attached to fences in The Levant. Fifty faces on fifty pillars. My eyes didn’t gaze, they peeped, at these half a century of faces frozen. A split of a second enough, to see the grimaces on these faces detached from their torso, so similar to the grotesques found in the capital of Liguria. He asked me if I had ever seen the videos of those guys burned to death trapped in car tires. It is called necklacing, he continued. Must be a bitter-sweet smell, he muttered. Living human flesh dipped in decomposed dinosaurs set on fire. Doesn’t get any sweeter, any bitterer, I thought. When will humanity move on from attrition and embrace admonition before facing annihilation, I thought as I cursed my arthritis. There is no air in here. Stuffy crypt in a sordid scenario called a life. Information has no value, I kept pondering, only how you process it. I am skinless.
I left him in that humid cellar. This temple of piteous temptations, pine panels plastered on the mortar, to isolate sound, to isolate dread. Stagnatae lusus naturae. Fungus growing in the corners of the concrete ceiling. Green fading into black on white. Him turning his faux leathered wheeled chair back to face the screen. The surround speakers just underneath the dimorphic growth of the fungus, the transmitters transmuted into the fermenter, making mildew. The different partitions of the soundscape emancipated into their right place in conjunction with the scenario unfolding on the liquid tableau of the monitor. Creating an illusion that the sound was always behind you. That the monsters in the game were following you. Stalking. But I imagine, when sound is muted, the lurid soundscape shall still be stalking. Still hunt him. He keeps on going and going in scene manufactured, through corridors and caves, facing virtual monster after a computerized beast, flamethrower in virtual hands, eupnea tingling his neck. Sonic waves mingled with a vacuous mind. When the sounds die, the monster, which is his life, a confrontation procrastinated, eternally seemingly, or as eternal as one life can be, will swim slowly into his mental hemisphere, his Cthulhu tangling with his trauma, tentacles of mental torture. I am short of breath.
I walked out into his neighborhood searching for the metro through artificial fog made out of particles of poison. Low winter sun beaming orange rays through the violet vista. All buildings are made to last a lifetime only. No thought of coming kin. A society of me, me, me. My abdomen hurts, my shoulder is numb, my head is about to burst, my fingers screaming, and my left eye is almost blind, fogged down, and damaged by sight, but I don’t complain, just like everything, I am grinding down. Worn in a decade. Torn in a century. Pearls. Of cold sweat. On your feverish forehead. As you stroll down the avenue. No wonder one is appealed to by metaverses when captured by these prospects. Your fate determined by syndicates, dynasties, dystopian delusions. Determinism is appalling when based on worried sleep, sordid work, vapid leisure, and wrecked community. Grinding down in a grid. The sun sets with a sob. The stars in the sky are not visible here, only one’s distorted silhouette in crystalline surfaces, as one moves from one intolerable architectural entanglement to the next, as a lab rat stuck in an oversized circuit board. Yearning for war. Worn to the core. We live in dark times, they say, like time is the issue, not how we manage material motion. What constitutes our so-called reality? If the world is insane are you thus insane if you are normal? And what do you mind? Don’t you see that all which I can explain with tongue and scribble down I could craft with strained hands, sacrifice sweat, but I don’t, I won’t bother? I keep my sweat and let it land as tears softly in the palms of my hands.
I wait at the metro station in a site too desolate to earn the title place. A small group is gathered around me, a pregnant woman shooting smack on the bank, her baby blue veins popping out of her ghastly ivory arms through the skin, like her tiny tummy with her crash test dummy fetus, bulging out of her torn shorts, two old men rolling a joint filled with tobacco and white powder, talking in a dialect only they could ever comprehend, spitting their sentences like curses, their faces like gargoyles, this beautiful woman, this angel of a grown girl with cinnamon skin, sliding slowly down the wall, clutching an urchin wrapped in a pink blanket, her eyes going white in their sockets, her cornea sliding into the skull, disappearing simultaneously with her sensory cortex, she loses the grip on the crack pipe, but not the child, the infant in deep sleep on her neck as she collapses on the concrete pavement, stays on her shoulder. All their calamity. Except for the man with a fresh crew cut and all-weather jacket, standing with his headset, whistling a tune from the late 90s, chewing gum, with eyes as bland as eyes can be, fresh from the gym shower, ready for quinoa and chicken with half a handful of grated parmesan, served on his vintage Formica dining table, in his newly renovated flat, then a sip of gin before nodding off on the divan. I step up behind him and close my eyes. The palms of my hands a millimeter from his shoulder blades. Then I push with my mind as the train enters the station and his ghost is torn to shreds by the ghost train in the ghost world. He turns and glares at my palms, at my closed eyes wide open, and I smile.
Thousands of miles away a woman walks towards that park dedicated to the great poet, a shortcut to her office. She is not supposed to work today. Her husband pleaded with her to stay at home. She will give birth within a month. We are under attack, he reminds her. Nowhere is safe, he insists. Stay at home please, he pleads. She dreams of a blissful future among the ruins. Then the projectile strikes her and her unborn. She bleeds to death on the pavement. All in pieces around her. Another hole in the ground. Another hole in my heart. I wish I wasn’t affected. Are all these horrid daydreams a method to suppress, to replace, the hideous verisimilitude of the works, I ponder, I wonder. I step onto the train carriage. The fluorescent light bites with its flicker, forcing me to find another mind inside mine. As I sit down on the stenched benches and meditate on the silence of Sobibor, the site where no birds are singing, weary of the burned corpses laying around, underground, feeding the soil for vapid trees growing stems towards heaven. The train moves along. Choo-choo. As I sigh my sight swirls towards a teen with a telephone, watching a video vapidly, of a group of men castrating a young man, a lone soldier with a wolfsangel insignia on his jacket, the perpetrators with grinning human skulls on theirs, the camouflaged group of men laughing acidic laugh acapella, knife in hand, to send a message, video through the wires of the lands to the hand of this kid, watching with jaded eyes. All freezes within me. I cry that silent cry which has no voice, no outlet, no consequence, and no direction. This is reality condensed. A reality without sense. I am ashamed of being human.
Moving out of the carriage like blood leaving a freshly cut wound, with the untrue crowd, flowing through the terminal, the hallways, the passages, the entries, revolving doors, defunct escalators, collapsed elevators, hallways once beautifully tiled now eroding, desecrated down, stained by puke, feces, blood. graffiti. Fuck your fucking loneliness a tag says. It speaks to me. Humans move with me, move past me, move through me until I am all alone in this ghastly rotunda. Ghouls leaving me be. We are not the same species. A Homo Sacer among Homo Echoes. The scar of Cain is branded on my temple. Flies inside my mind, moving about, in circles. Whirlmind. My brain is a turd attracting bugs. I belong here, in the underground, with the pests, the scarred, the pained, the scared, the pathetic, the sacred, and the discarded. As I move to the exit, I notice a metal side door vaguely ajar. I grab the doorknob firmly, and my hands start trembling when the squeak appears as I enter, and the smell which hits me, is a seismic wave of fumes. I walk the charcoal corridor to its dead end in the dark. My steps echo hollowly as I pass through the luscious aisle. I lit a match. Then he appears. Sitting on the floor at the end of the foyer. His skin is like ash, his expression as dull as his pulse, dead to the core. In a line from his left eye, I see the trace of a tear, dried up, creating a variation in his dehydrated chin. His stare is so vacant, though sorrow remains. He is clutching a half-empty plastic bottle of pink rubber alcohol, labeled with a skull and crossbones, the hazard symbol. The last warning, the one he did not abide by. His last rebellion. Then I hear something behind me. The door. It closes behind me. I am alone. Only me, the ash man, and the darkness, the liquid dripping onto the uneven concrete in ponds soon to be a pool. As I light a new match I see. It is me. It is me sitting there, sedentary, dead at the dead end of the artery. I moonwalk slowly towards the door, the hand of the ashed out me moving barely, small twitches of the finger, though it might be an illusion from the flicker of the fire. As I leave I hear the ash man whisper; who are you? Why don’t you come with me?
As I step into my apartment I hit a wall of echoes so compressed they summarize what is and should not be an outside, transcribed into here inside and now, at this site which I call home, and I vomit. The saliva mixed with crushed cookies finds a home beneath the floorboards. Food for the vermin. I leave the lights off. Then I take a vinyl record from the shelf; Politische Ouvertüre by Wagner, and stab it several times with a switchblade; a shape reminiscent of a quirky smiling face with its nose torn off, put it on the turntable and set it in reverse. The needle jumps around on the vinyl like a drunk ballerina on some bombed-out opera stage. The light through the cracks in the roof, the crater that is the ceiling, hits her vinyl dress, sparkling in little twinkles as the ballerina goes into the first position, Vaganova style. She forms a heart with her arms above her head and lifts her face upon the chasm in the ceiling, twinkle, twinkle little star, with or without a sound. She closes her eyes as the second missile hits the theater, the crater she stands on, on her toes. is a pile of carbonated children lumped together in the basement of the theater, now a crater, the needle, the ballerina, only a vague memory from some chimerical future. The theater is a crater, like a crater is a theater, a spectacle of nothingness in an oversaturated world, secretly longing for obliteration. I light a candle and then lie down on the floor. Rambling resentment reverbs rapidly, repeats, roams, ravages, thoughts twinge torridly, totally, tired tenacious pondering pollutes painfully, pathetically, pointlessly. Possibly poignantly. Through these tactile thoughts rhythm rises reverence ravenously, numbs noon, negates night, and mourns mornings. And then the momentum fades. All is gray. All is dull dusk. All are dead dawn. Oh, in the sweet afternoon, mischievous memories, gargantuan gangrene, malicious migraine, world stay away, words leave me be. Forlorn in my whimper. No eyes in my sockets. Heads heads heads. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Down the ramps, ramps, ramps. Like ellipses after a sentence…
Then the mental collapse. Suddenly somber sorrow signifies solace. I pick up twelve matchsticks from the box, order them in an ornament of a jigsaw blade with small gaps, matchstick head touching matchstick head, WWW, then I tilt the third W counterclockwise, WW3, put it alight with the thirteenth match, the heads catch fire, the sulfur sheds a septic stench, a hint of blue in the cold pyre, a tinder relay burns into the teak table, I wait until the corpses of the sticks turn temperate, then brush the ashes and coal onto the linoleum floor, scarred onto the surface I see a future without fate, without faith, and I realize that war has no chronology, that there has been a perpetual war of the world since the advent of man. I place a worn vade mecum over the burn mark, then the window ablaze with wondrous illumine. I stand up to watch as a mammoth mushroom cloud forms outside, inside the frame of my window, encapsulates everything, swallows all shadows with enchanted light until I am enveloped within the square beam of particles, the blaze of inverted darkness from outside the window or inside my mind.
Text by Kristian Skylstad
Emil Finnerud (b. 1983, Oslo) lives and works in Oslo. He holds a BA in Fine Arts from the London Metropolitan University. Recent exhibitions include Kunstsamlerne, 250 års dialog mellom Peder Anker og Rolf Hoffs samlinger, Galleri Østfløyen, Bogstad Gård (2023), The Norwegian Pavilion at London Craft Week by PYTON gallery (2022), BianalSur at the National Museum of Decorative Art, Buenos Aires (2021). Recent solo exhibitions are Allure (KÖSK, 2022), Forbidden Paradise (K4 2021), Normal (Arendal Kunstforening, 2020), Death Drive (Noplace 2019). Finnerud also works as the editor for the publication Gateavisa.
The exhibition is generously supported by Kultturådet and