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Moderna Museet Malmo presents Moment – Karl Holmqvist

Moderna Museet Malmo presents Moment – Karl Holmqvist Give Poetry A Try on view 16 March 2013 – 8 September 2013.

Karl Holmqvist
Karl Holmqvist Ljusstakar (Give Poetry a Try), 1996/2011 © Karl Holmqvist

“The incomparable Karl Holmqvist,” Rirkrit Tiravanija calls his colleague and friend in a coming portrait film, and Karl Holmqvist (b 1964) certainly is like no one else. But that does not mean that his works were created in, or portray, their own, isolated universe. On the contrary, quotes, echoes, repetitions and revisions – input and output – are specifically what his art consists of.

The main part of Holmqvist’s output from the early 1990s until today consists of text, published in various forms, and thereafter processed in the form of posters, readings, videos, wall drawings and installations. Popular music, poetry, politics, literary quotations, references to art history and letters of the alphabet all interbreed. Words and sentences are moved around and combined in manners that are full of ambiguity.

One way of interpreting Holmqvist’s works is that they are about freedom. Communication depends on imitation and convention, we learn to speak by repeating, and we use language to achieve understanding. Nevertheless, the combination of words and sentences is constructed and limiting. Language is normally used with astounding compliance; we do not make up new meanings lightly, and we quickly point out linguistic “mistakes” made by others. This is analogous to how we behave as members of society. In general, we obediently follow the rules, codes, paths and spaces that are presented to us with the tacit instruction to think in a way that presumes non-thinking. GOWAITSTOP, to speak in terms of one of Holmqvist’s earlier exhibition titles.

In this perspective, Karl Holmqvist manifests a belief in the functionality of art. Misunderstandings and nonsense get to be taken seriously and gain equal levels of importance as they are re-interpreted. Unexpected links, resonances and contextualisations create new relationships. It’s about producing reality.

Hence, it is possible to relate Holmqvist to a tradition of concrete poetry and cut-up: Dada, Fluxus, Öyvind Fahlström, William Burroughs. His way of adopting, reworking, plagiarising, however, is also rooted in the conceptual questioning of original and ownership that surged in the 1960s with pop and conceptualism – exemplified, not least, by the artist Sturtevant, whose repetitions of other artists’ works anticipated the development of postmodernism from the 1980s to today.

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