All fun and games (until someone loses an eye)

Oystein Aasan

18.03 - 21.04.2011

All Fun and Games (Until Someone Loses an Eye) is an exhibition by Oystein Aasan (born in 1977, he lives and works in Berlin) where the intentions are placed in the spaces left open between the reading and the writing.

Double Bind (2011) is a structure that transfers a script to sculptural and architectural dimensions. The piece is based on a John Ford film, Stagecoach (1939), and follows a group of passengers travelling through Apache territory by stagecoach. The film, a classic Hollywood Western, is punctuated with narratives where the characters, through confusing exchanges with the indigenous people speaking an unknown language, experience a “double bind”. The situation of a “double bind” has been theorised by the American anthropologist Gregory Bateson as when one is presented with several conflicting messages. It is a communication dilemma that provokes the mental clash of contradictory messages leading the subject to formulate an answer that validates certain messages, and inevitably ends up negating others. Thus, the “double bind” is a medium that produces partial truths and mistakes. It is a false mechanism where replying signifies a failed response. The theme of confrontation with the Others (here, the Native Americans) that runs throughout the film is coupled with this state of impaired understanding. It is these distorted mechanics that the piece Double Bind detects in the production of what, to cinema, is supposed to translate the author’s true intentions in the film: the script. After numerous viewings of Stagecoach, Oystein Aasan produced what could serve as the screenplay’s framework. By trying to understand the film’s contexts, landscapes, settings, editing or narrative, and by bringing together the “reading” and “writing” of the film, this version of the script presents itself as a reverse journey through the production of the Hollywood film industry. It demonstrates what, of the original script, has been lost, but also all the errors, projections or involuntary developments that the reader has allowed to be introduced. This version of the script, rediscovered in hindsight, confronts in the exhibition the original version. Both versions have been recorded by typographical transfer, transposed letter by letter into a commanding grid, making, above all, the process of reading a matter of retinal perception.

Double Bind is overhung by the piece from which the exhibition takes its name: All Fun and Games (Until Someone Loses an Eye) (2011). This acoustic platform marks out an area that is able to evoke the post-production cinema studio, creating a physical and auditory separation between the script’s space and that of the place that accommodates it: an architecture without walls.

Reading Hemingway Without Guilt (2006) adapts the formality and technicality of Double Bind to a collection of texts defining the work of Ernest Hemingway. At the periphery of the author’s works, this body of texts constitutes his “second speech”. It is composed of critical reviews focusing their analyses on the monumental tasks that the American writer’s heroes must accomplish. This transfer into the grid, constraining the reading, makes of the body's subtext - the ordeal to overcome - precisely the trial imposed on the gaze when it deciphers the text. It also makes of its own subject - the author in question - the blind spot around which is organized this obstructed visibility.

The Rubber Room (n° 1 & n° 2) (2011) is jointly a means of storage and filing for the exhibition, the catalogue’s primitive version and an indication of the book’s rough form, which bring together different documents revealing themselves as the project’s original fragments, its roots. But, far from achieving a paratext’s informative function of revealing intentions, issues or terms, The Rubber Room creates additional and deeper gaps in any initial immediate understanding, causing confusion, indicating that the writing of the exhibition is simply a means of binding it.

The exhibition is a result of a piece of writing which, to have first been a reading, does not inevitably mean they must be similar, but keeps the original distance from how it is received. The translation of the textual material into visual impacts seems like a reduction of the text - and of its capacity to speak its purpose - to muteness: it is no longer about reading but about deciphering. The little music of the text gives way to a great white noise. The exhibition thereby expresses this subtraction: the research behind a film/author/exhibition’s original intentions is displayed negatively. Its purpose is cancelled out by minimum transfer or binding techniques, processes through which the reading is intended to be obstructed. What expressed itself as a transparent undertaking (to find what, for example, of John Ford or Hemingway would be mentioned in the text) becomes quite opaque when the language is forced on the workbench of the modernist grid.

One must emphasise that Double Bind and Reading Hemingway Without Guilt have not been produced with the aid of any industrial reproduction tool, but through the transfer of lettrasets. The transfer’s manual quality - and not the print - practised here by Aasan, introduces a nuance that displaces the imitative act’s immediacy of the industrial reproduction process, towards a more tedious and archaic copyist activity. The accurate nature has been lost, inserting a time-delay right into the inscription of the texts. One could say of the text that it “works” like a wooden architecture. In this respect, the exhibition presents the opaque connection between the works’ production and the works themselves, and thus the discursive construction furthers the works from how they are received: to the the literal process of transfer which encrypts the text and renders it mute, responds the partial blindness of the partial blindness, who is here “short-sighted”. The contradictory purpose of the reading behind the exhibition then finds itself put into words for the gaze that will enjoy the harsh glare of mute scripts just as easily as the unverifiable nature of reproduced information. Extending the reading time to that of the exhibition, the works form the setting of a “delayed” vision. They resist the didactic ideology’s clear present by perpetually updating their speech and identity, like a challenge set for the gaze to unfreeze the text.

Consequently, the pieces created here by Aasan are less immediate interpretive projections but rather the process of concealing, invisibility and removal. The exhibition’s intentions lie out with the text, establishing the invisible as its aim, and thus consisting in the apparition of its own limits.