File Note 103: Karl Holmqvist - Camden Art Centre

Essay by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff with Karl Holmqvist



Images References Quote Biography Credits

ONE IS NO ONE (2016, marker on wall)

This wall drawing I guess is about collaboration improvisation and how nobody knows you when you are alone.
And it can’t be read alone. There is always someone there watching you in the space, and maybe that’s how we want it anyway. Collaboration often happens that way, when you’re alone with the day’s voices of other people echoing in your head.
Repetition, thinking, sounds should be in your head. You’re either repeating something because you want to remember, or you’re trying to forget but can’t get rid of it. With the recordings, like what was played at the Serpentine, there is one thing repeating in your head and another in it, so it’s always different and keeps you in the moment. Like Alhambra tiles, painted tiles, patterns repeating forever: liberating you instead of boring you, less clutter because you know what’s coming.


THIS SHIT HITS THIS (2016, UV print on canvas)

The UV print on canvas is immersive. An exercise in swapping letters figuring out how many words can be made up, with the second THIS different than the first.
Do you want people to get lost? In the letters or rhythm or both?


EACH NEW WORK IS THE LAST TIME (2016, marker on wall)

The wall drawing is about hesitance… being of two minds… again a kind of collaboration.
Collaborating with the wall.  A loud collaborator who always thinks they are right. But maybe you’re building the bedroom for the moment you agree to disagree with yourself. Make your bed and lay in it, with one or two other people.
Horizontality and verticality: which do you prefer? Which do you deserve? You’ve been standing up until you lie down, and vice versa. The blanket in the show deals with this. The canvas crumpling to the ground, turning soft and inviting you to sit down or roll up.


LIONINOIL (2016, UV print on canvas)

Finally a palindrome (this one stolen from a 1986 work by Ed Ruscha) three out of the four letters in LIONINOIL look the same upside down as right side up…
A palindrome is safe, room to bounce back and forth. Like tossing a ball to yourself. Is that juggling? It also looks the same upside down. How do you think Ed feels about all of this? To entertain oneself, again, back to the safety of being alone but with another’s words.

IFÜSEENÜTTINSAYNÜTTIN (2016, UV print on canvas)

It is sort of ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’, ‘there’s nothing to see’ and ‘I don’t get contemporary art’ all rolled into one. John Cage covering Justin Bieber, like a plant talking too loud.
If you see nothing say nothing. But when we see most things, we say nothing. But it’s like New York, loud, and then what, we’re supposed to be loud right back in a feedback loop of being. But in the exhibition we are quiet, it is quiet, with only these phrases pinging about in our own heads. This is also why it’s nice to take it to the grass outside in June, for the reading, event, talk, spoken whatever you’re planning — to let some of the loud in to roll around with your texts.
This June, there will be blankets with texts on the grass outside of the exhibition. There will be some food, people can picnic on them. 8 blankets, made in Iceland from sheepswool. 8 blankets, 8 people on each. 8 is also about forever, infinity. Do you believe in forever?
I think I’ve been there quite a few times anyway.
Blanket statements: blankets deal with being alone and together. Also together as in being in control. Do you like sitting on the ground? Lying on the ground? Rolling on the ground?
It’s on Finchley Road so there’s a lot of traffic. It’s always interesting to be in a garden in traffic. It’s always interesting to be in a garden in the middle of the city. A loud garden. A garden with its own grammar. Who’s going to be talking in June? Or reading, or poetrying? Still finalising. People don’t know how to talk. Have to be able to speak over traffic noise.
Supposed to talk to plants, right? That’s what they say. Plants are trees. They’re what you make paper out of, so you can write. So a circular thing will be going on. On again off again plants: perennials. Microphones? I like mics in gardens. And gardens in cities. Microphones in the city, not so much. Microphones on the subway. London has a lot of people, so a lot of them are very good performers anyway. And the performers in the subway who see nothing but say something, with microphones, sound reverberating off tile.


DOYOUREADME?? (2016, UV print on canvas)

This is actually the name of a bookstore in Berlin. It’s about throwing shade, the library at Rupaul’s Drag Race… It’s a horrible name for a bookstore. But good for a painting. You can answer it by reading it and walk away. What else am I supposed to do to you? The painting wants to get thrown some shade.
Reading and writing as a private thing, unless you’re sitting on the text, or rolling around on the text.
Language is so hierarchical in itself. Blankets, walls, canvas: canvas costs more. They are all sort of expanded cinema ideas of how to write. There is also hotness and coldness: language is cold because it’s rational but then it’s not, because you are talking crazy. Blankets are warm.


Belonging to HEXAGONAL Systems (2016, marker on wall)

Wall drawing taken from a Stefan Themerson concrete poem. Because poetry is for everyone. It’s deskilled. It’s democratic.
Maybe that’s how the tiles are, like you said. There is a rhythm in the labour of placing them, and cleaning them, and comfort in getting to rely on them to hold you. It is deskilled in that it is predictable and relatable and easy to do.
Tiles are cheap. Poetry’s cheaper, but culturally more heavy than bathroom tiles. Depending on what type of tile. I mean poetry, I guess.
Does everyone have poetry in their bathroom? In which part of the bathroom? I got poetry in my bed.


HEX MY TEXT, ENGLISH MAGICK and LONDON TRAFFICK (all 2016, marker on wall)

These are loose phrases scattered in the room. Part invocation and part wish for something to happen as one enters the room. For something to happen in the room. For something to happen in the viewer. To make a difference. For something to happen in life. Like traffic. On Finchley Road.
HEX MY TEXT ­­seems like the cat call to ‘see nothing say nothing,’ like the sad desperate part of making, saying things, and wanting to move and be moved. But also the release; you can’t control what energy gets spun around these things once you let them go, and that is their drama.
The nature of a wall text is to turn white and disappear. The nature of a wall text is to make things more clear.


I will not make no more boeing art (2016, marker on wall)

As John Baldessari once said and he hasn’t stopped since. Collecting air points. While Gustav Metzger stayed in one place.


The kid is not my son (2016, knitted blanket made togetherwith Mundi Vondi)

If that place is on the grass you might need a blanket. Everything that rises must converge.


Facehug #1 (2007, leporello print in vitrine)

Cityscapes in words. A city is like a walk-in text. An English walk-in text. And then you sit yourself down.


Our House (2007, video on monitor with music by Jay Chung)

Endless loop.


SKYLINE IS THE BY-LINEZZ (2015, leporello print in vitrine)

Start from the beginning. Walk through the walk-in again. Or else just
do it from memory.


Kenneth Anger [dir.], Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969)

Justin Bieber, PURPOSE: The Movement (2015)

Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies (1943)

Alessandro Bava and Harry Burke, City of God (2014)

Paul Chan, New New Testament (2014)

Tony Conrad [dir.], The Flicker (1966)

Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings (2005)

Bernadette Corporation, The Complete Poem (2010)

Grupo Noigandres, Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry (1958)

Guy Debord [dir.], Hurlements en faveur de Sade (1952)

Andrew Durbin, Mature Themes (2014)

Bob Fosse [dir.], Cabaret (1972)

Stephen Frears [dir.], My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Dan Graham [dir.], Rock My Religion (1982–84)

Brion Gysin, Alarme (2010)

Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin (1939)

Michael Jackson, Black Or White (1991)

Yayoi Kusama, Hustlers Grotto (1998)

Emma Larkin, Finding George Orwell in Burma (2005)

Sophia Le Fraga, literallydead (2015)

Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (1973)

Ken Okiishi [dir.], Telly and Casper (2000)

Yoko Ono [dir.], Film No. 4 (Bottoms) (1966)

Peaches, Rub (2015)

Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century (2010)

Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, Symphony for One Man Alone (1950)

Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1925)

 “Rhythm: relational power. Through the use of the phonetic system and analogue syntax, concrete poetry creates a special linguistic area: the verbivocovisual.

And it utilises advantages from non-verbal communication without reducing the specific words.” Grupo Noigandres, Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry (1958)


Karl Holmqvist (b.1964, Sweden) lives and works in Berlin. He has had solo exhibitions at: Power Station, Dallas (2016), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2013), Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2013). Selected group exhibitions include: New Ways Of Doing Nothing, Kunsthalle Vienna (2014), The Reluctant Narrator, Museo Berardo, Lisbon (2014) Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, Museum Of Modern Art, New York (2012) and pOEtry pArk, Frieze Projects, London (2010). He has participated in the 50th and 54th Venice Biennial in 2003 and 2011 respectively. Recently he organized the PPPPJJHAAARRRRVEY Magazine Session
at the Serpentine Gallery in London. 


Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff are an artist-duo based in Berlin, and friends of the artist.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Karl Holmqvist: READ DEAR at Camden Arts Centre, 24 March – 5 June 2016.

Supported by the Embassy of Sweden in London.