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Lars Mathisen

< Sara Mackillop | Lars Mathisen >

On/Off The Beaten Track

36 pages +CD / colour + b/w / 21x20 cm / 700 ex / 2004 / Pork Salad Press / ISBN 87-91409-06-3 / € 16.00

Text by Anders Michelsen, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Visual Culture Studies, Department of Cultural Studies and the Arts, University of Copenhagen

Published in connection with the exhibition On/Off The Beaten Track, at I-N-K, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 21 – December 20, 2003

In Lars Mathisen’s installations, the spectator is given a privileged and yet exposed position. Thus put on the spot, we find ourselves involved in the ambiguous experience of being at the same time part of a recognisable scenery and alienated from it. Through theatrical organisation of stage and dialogue, this disorientation in Mathisen's installations is often accentuated through displacements of space, sound and picture. This sliding of elements is a critical device in his works that cancels the distance between opposites, bringing utopia in touch with dystopia and 'normality' in touch with perversion. Here, a central concern in Mathisen’s work is to challenge the way the 20th century state promised its citizens freedom.

The video installation "On/Off The Beaten Track" presents strange scenery consisting of the different planes, forms, shadows and horizons of an artificially created landscape. A world in scale 1:18 containing a wooden house without doors and windows, a rocky island with the foundations of a spectacular house, a white bathing jetty, a small boat, a fence, and two smashed and dismantled cars. It could be stage-set en miniature for a TV recording, or an environment waiting to be activated by something or someone.

The wrecks are not any kind of car, but models of the Humvee, in 1999 launched by General Motors as a passenger car under the name of "Hummer". A copy of the famous World War 2 American "Willy’s Jeep", the Humvee became known when seen on the world's TV screens crossing the desert during the first American campaign in the Persian Gulf. Since then it has become a symbol of individuality, strength and freedom that has become enormously popular amongst stars of American finance, sports and screen. On the other hand, the Hummer is a signifier of the militarization of American civil society that has taken place since September 11, 2001. In this way, the almost 4 tonnes heavy Hummer - a gas-guzzler that will annihilate weaker vehicles in collision - has become a double-edged icon.

However, "On/Off The Beaten Track" is not to be seen solely as a comment on the car and the perpetuation and/or breakdown of American ideals of freedom. The work is also a critique of contemporary parameters for the organisation of visuality. In a space where we at safe distance are given a comprehensive view to something recognisably banal, we are also confronted with a tableau of chaos and dysfunction; an endgame whose power relations would be quite different if there were the slightest change in scale.

"On/Off The Beaten Track" is generously supported by the Committee for Visual Art, Denmark
Lars Mathisen was Denmark’s official representative at the Sao Paolo Biennale 2004

Page last modified on September 23, 2012, at 09:44 PM