What remains will the archaeologists of the future unearth from our reality?
What will working life be like when artificial intelligence and autonomous machines gradually take over?
What is left of our humanity in a reality characterized by aggressive neoliberalism, where everyone is the smith of their own success?
These are questions asked by the American artist Josh Kline in the exhibition «Antibodies», which is now on display at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo. The entire museum has been transformed into a frightening, cold post-apocalyptic landscape.
Already at the entrance we feel rejected. A wall of stapled cardboard boxes apparently prevents us from entering the museum as we usually do. It is as if entire institutions are packed down, sealed. When we enter through a narrow passage, it is like entering a time capsule; we are placed far into the future, and see a frozen picture of what will then be a distant past.
The first room we enter has dimmed lighting and a thick carpet on the floor that muffles the sound of footsteps. The installation “Contagious Unemployment” is frighteningly current, it is almost unbelievable that it was made in 2016.
Luminous low-hanging lamp domes with glass tentacles illuminate various forms of viruses.
They hold all kinds of objects packed in small cardboard boxes of the type used in American movies when cleaning the office desk after being fired. The shoes, the stapler, or other private effects. Like a touch of something warm and personal in the midst of a threatening and cold reality marked by crisis and insecurity.
People wrapped in plastic
In the series “Unemployment” we see hyperrealistic wax dolls of various office-clad people in the fetal position, wrapped in plastic. Here, the artist has scanned real people and printed the dolls with a 3D printer.
The result is eerie. The interconnected bags make us think of people as waste. The fact that they are crouched with the muscles in tension shows that they do not illuminate dead people, but the living.
The image of a living human being in a garbage bag is eerie, and refers to the experience of being left over – as a commodity or a product that is no longer needed.
We see this connection between man and product in several of Kline’s projects.
Remains of a reality
He has made shopping carts with consumables and waste cast in soft skin-colored plastic that gives an experience of a humanized waste, as a picture of the instrumentalisation of the workforce and the deep alienation that characterizes working life.
One of the strongest series in the exhibition, “Middle Class ruins”, shows petrified scrap heaps of dusty objects that stem from a comfortable and safe middle-class reality.
Gloomy, but interesting
There are undoubtedly gloomy topics Josh Kline addresses.
About the exhibition «Antibodies» may not be suitable for putting one in a good mood, it raises a number of interesting and frighteningly relevant questions that touch on the reality of today.