In Its Content Manadshment System, Caspar Forsberg’s first solo presentation in a commercial setting, hundreds of handwritten notes crowd the gallery floor-to-ceiling. Quirky slogans abound, as do busted aphorisms, quotidian observations, lists and shout-outs to the hit television series Transparent. A number of so-called ’tile-kites’ – cardboard cutouts vaguely resembling interlocking foam mats – feature, some of which are suspended alongside materials such as plaster of paris, CD / DVD cases, insulated copper wire and deflated balloons. Several free-standing cardboard assemblages also figure prominently, a network of oversize pages cluttering the bijou storefront of Johan Berggren’s new gallery space in Malmö.
Inscribed mainly in pencil and pen on a variety of surfaces – A4 sheets, scraps, sticky notes and roughly-hewn sections of particle-board – much of the show’s textual ‘content’ appears in block letters and comprises the stuff of everyday speech, surplus linguistic material too fragmented or banal to appreciate, or perhaps even say aloud.
Faux-naïve phrases such as «PLAYING AROUND / WITH APPEARANCE / IS NOT JUST FUN_/ I THINK / IT MAE BE GOOD / FOR THE BRANE TOO» are nested within angular speech bubbles or cloud clusters rendered in a manner recalling 8-bit graphics. Elsewhere, statements such as «I JUST / DO THIS / COZ CANT / AFFORD SHRINKE / AS SOON / I MAKE / SOM BUCKS / WIL STOPPE» hover somewhere between candid disclosure and bathroom graffiti. Other text-based works such as ‘GOD WANT GAY’ (2017), as well as smaller bricolage sculptures including ‘THIS IS ME NOW’ (2016) – a dildo supported by, among other things, plumbing tape and a candle – palliate somewhat the show’s more transgressive speech-acts, which tend to appropriate the language of an adolescent white male. Just so, one of the works admonishes viewers for thinking like adults.
For all its juvenile inwardness and preoccupation with taboo, the works on view appear to be less aligned with diaristic or confessional modes than they are with practices such as blogging, tweeting or perhaps even trolling: closed communication loops in which messages are directed to one’s followers and ‘friends’ (and in the case of trolling, with the intention to provoke). Indeed, Forsberg – whose artistic output also includes the website realruns through which visitors can view and download 3D scans of sculptures and installations – seems to have cobbled together a voice subtended by digital environments, echoing everything from web forums to lolcats and video games.
And yet, its content is hardly organized in any conventional sense. The installation is trashy and incoherent, held together by voice but also by its precarity. Signaling unease, Forsberg’s presentation frames the reciprocal relationship between subjectification and desubjectification as one of content and form: crushed, folded and subordinated to management.
In this sense it’s tempting to locate the biopolitical at the heart of this show, at least insofar as form-of-life is what’s at stake. The work reads symptomatically as the anxious residue of life under semiocapitalism. One piece announces the artist’s willingness to trade his works for goods and services such as a wood-chipper, mint leggings and coding skills; another, somewhat more embarrassingly, advertises his services as hand masseur. Art and life are linked with a perverse mix of optimism and exhaustion. As the numerous envelopes, balloons and ziploc baggies attest, there are also somatic balances to such subsumption, ecstasies that find a counterpart in another system: addiction. As Forsberg himself asks, «IS THIS / TYPICALLY / HUMAN / OR / TYPICALLY/ ADDICT?»
Arguably, when posed within a commercial gallery such a line of questioning might be less indicative of a coping strategy than it is of branding. Particularly in one so intimately tied to the brand of one high-profile school: sixty percent of Berggren’s roster comprises artists that recently attended the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. In contrast to pecuniary considerations, however, is the work itself – which is strikingly non-commercial, as though Forsberg is in fact ‘trolling’ the gallery. Too dumb for gesture, too poor for lifestyle, ‘its content manadshment system’ convinces, not despite its peculiarities and contradictions, but because of them.