Vman 35: Yngve The Alienator

Vman 35: Yngve The Alienator

MEET YNGVE HOLEN, BERLIN’S FASTEST-RISING ART STAR, WHOSE WORK MAKES AN UNCOMFORTABLY VIVID COMMENT ON THE DIGITIZATION OF HUMANITY. FOR HIS NEXT TRICK, WATCH AS HE ATTEMPTS TO SAW SOME OF LIFE’S MOST COMPLEX MECHANICAL OBJECTS—AND OUR PERCEPTION OF OUR OWN BODIES—IN HALF! CHECK OUT HIS WORK ABOVE, AND ORDER YOUR COPY OF VMAN35 NOW

MEET YNGVE HOLEN, BERLIN’S FASTEST-RISING ART STAR, WHOSE WORK MAKES AN UNCOMFORTABLY VIVID COMMENT ON THE DIGITIZATION OF HUMANITY. FOR HIS NEXT TRICK, WATCH AS HE ATTEMPTS TO SAW SOME OF LIFE’S MOST COMPLEX MECHANICAL OBJECTS—AND OUR PERCEPTION OF OUR OWN BODIES—IN HALF! CHECK OUT HIS WORK ABOVE, AND ORDER YOUR COPY OF VMAN35 NOW

Photography: Alexandre De Brabant

Text: Kevin McGarry

Raised in Norway by a Norwegian mother and German father and now based in Berlin, Yngve Holen was tardy to contemporary art. It wasn't until after four years in architecture school in Vienna that he dropped out and enrolled at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, arguably the best and certainly the most influential of European art schools today. A background in architecture fits. A recent text in frieze magazine with the subhead "Reformulating the human body in the age of mass digitization" began with the observation that "the human body is conspicuously absent in Yngve Holen's work”- conspicuous in the sense that, while not there, his forms and finishes stand in as reminders for what's become of the body when much of the world is reduced to immateriality. As with designing a house, even if absent, the body is always in mind.

Holen has a lot in store for this year, from a church organ he's building in Kassel to the Berlin Biennale in June, and most significantly, a solo show titled "VERTICALSEAT," his largest institutional exhibition to date, at the Kunsthalle Basel, opening May 13. Holen told us that he was inspired by a London anti-pickpocketing campaign Give them an inch and they'll take all they can. "The holder you get for your Oyster card has this printed on it-- so on one hand the world is your oyster, but on the other, anyone at any time can take it away, take your pearl." He likens it to New York's "If you see something, say something" adage- "You know, campaigns that create fear of the hypothetical," a new kind of energy economy in an age of terror.

At press, Holen was deep in the process of editing down new works for the show, but a script had been set. One element is the title, the other is the layout: five rooms aligned on a string. "It forces you to go through the exhibition twice. Once you're through, you'll have to go back. I'm trying to react to that and use it for the narrative of the show." Two certain inclusions are the third edition of his ETOPS magazine, which he edits with writer Matthew Evans, and the remnants of everyday objects sliced down the middle.

"Forcing something in two is such a weird gesture. I started by cutting watercoolers and water appliances." His first solo show out of art school, at Johan Berggren gallery in Malmö, was called Parasagittal Brain, featuring bisected morning accoutrements as metaphors for the right and left lobes of grey matter to which contrasting qualities of thought are assigned. "So if the kettle is the brain, and it boils up the idea, then you're trying to find the idea. But when you cut, it's already gone. You're too late: the fluid has already leaked out. So you're cutting it in order to find that the idea is gone. It's a forced gesture, and it's always too late."

As for what might be a good thing to slice, or otherwise make into art, some of the questions Holen asks are, "Have you seen it before? Does it work materially as an art object? Can you explain a concept or show through it?" As an example, he cites CT scanners, reflexively cut into cross sections as the de facto "face" of the body of work he produced last year for Berlin's Galerie Neu. Onward to excitement: "I recently found a saw, a tool that can cut cars, and I'm dying to cut a Porsche Panamera into four cake slices."

While Holen's work feels as if it endorses the supremacy of industrial design over the antiquated, organic vessels we walk around in, he's neither a doomsayer nor an acceleration fetishist, at least not by self-declaration. Contoured, space-age appliances are the building blocks today, no longer a projection into what could be. "I'm trying to deal with the now and remain positive about the future."

"VERTICALSEAT" will show at Kunsthalle Basel from May 13 through August 7. The 9th Berlin Biennale will take place from June 4 through September 18.

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