Mattias Härenstam

Drawing Circles (...the distance is always the same)

4 -channel videoinstallation, 2010 - 2011. Full-HD. Color. Stereo.
Duration: 5 min 41 s / 11 min 08 s / 10 min 11 s / 9 min 21 s

Camera: Fabio Dentella
The Wayward Sisters: Jannicke Låker, Carl Granström and Per Teljer.
Rotating Man: Andreas Albert Müller
Piano: Sebastian Schoenian
Special thanks to Claudia Reinhardt, Per Teljer, Gry Moursund, Carl Granström, Jannicke Låker, Björn, Berndt and Nina at Lichtforum, Simone Braun-Tomczak at Pogotussy, Christian, Lotta.
Produced with the support of Konstnärsnämnden.

A four channel videoinstallation with one loop for each wall in a room. Presented for the first time at Tidens Krav, Oslo April - May 2011.

Watch video excerpts

Dark loop
by Line Ulekleiv

At the relatively new artist-run gallery Tidens Krav in Skippergata, in a small rundown house that time forgot, one is reminded of the eternal inadequacy of vision.
Here, Mattias Härenstam shows his latest work, a four-channel video projection titled Drawing Circles (... the distance is always the same). After a recent solo exhibition at Akershus Art Centre, activity is high and steady.
From the dusty street one enters a dark dense room with a different loop, in varying lengths, on each of the four walls. And soon one experiences the frustrating lack of visual overview a multi-channel work entails. Where should I look? What do I miss behind my own back? How long can I really stand to be here? Eyes glued to a drop that hits the floor, only to grow into a dark puddle, while strongly suspecting that the real action takes place somewhere else. This basic situation is in all respects a psychological constant that Härenstam cleverly plays on. And sure enough, turning towards the dark forest on the opposite wall, I catch a glimpse of a dark creature that promptly disappears into the diffuse margins. This optical uncertainty around blind spots, the lack of oversight and recognizable substance, defines the experience. The picture is just as spectral as concrete, it becomes a kind of "visual knot" that hangs over the viewer.
Härenstam does as the title implies, he draws circles with the camera lens - it circles around, moves in or displays a circular motion. In one of the four projections there is a muddled view of the ground, with some random garbage lying around, illuminated by a rotating spotlight. Eventually someone casually trudges through the light circle. On the wall next to it, is the cold forest scene, reminiscent of the installation The Diary of the Unknown Consumer, shown at UKS a few years back. A video showed hands feeling their way through a dark forest and, accompanied by the sound of footsteps, they groped for objects that subsequently dissolved immediately. The transience of all things, in time and space, were hammered in place. At Tidens Krav, the Nordic forest at night again is a scene of fear and desire. You can hear the sounds of fumbling steps over dry twigs, the camera sweeps around and around, but seems only at random to capture the mysterious troll people that move around in the dark with glowing eyes and the occasional umbrella.
One of the videos of Drawing Circles (... the distance is always the same) shows a naked, skinny man, who absurdly spins around himself in a subterranean closed room, with his head down a hole in the floor. The awkward posture distorts and alienates the body into a strange and frightening object devoid of all functionality. The head is totally out of the game, and with it possibly all reason and rationality. The dripping ink that expands into a pond is just as uneventful as expressionless repetitive, but what does this almost indifferent and directionless motion still insist on? Härenstam varies the retained with the explicit, and actually manages to actualize the following insight: All things inevitably crumble in the iron grip of time, while time itself continuously spins on.

Review by Line Ulekleiv, published in Norwegian art magazine Billedkunst no. 3, 2011.
Translation: B.R.
This review is available as pdf-download at the bottom of this page (in Norwegian only).