Klara Lidén was born in 1979 in Stockholm. The Swedish contemporary artist, currently living and working in Berlin, is best known for their installations and videos that respond to specific architectural environments. Lidén attended the School of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm; the Berlin University of the Arts; and the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Konstfack, Stockholm. They have had numerous museum and gallery exhibitions, including at Serpentine Gallery, London, and WIELS, Brussels. Their short films capture the improvised performances that they undertake in public urban spaces, using the architecture as their own personal ground for exploration.
The commuters are lost to the scenery outside the window, lost in the time of any day. Like a social punctum, they ride until their eyes take in a hooded figure emerging out of the dullness, frenetic, moving in isolation, yet disturbing everything. Making it awkward and felt, bringing the onlookers into their bodies again. The figure spins around a pole, Singin’ in the Rain, without the singing, or the rain, but still recorded. The camera’s presence is another reason for the riders to be cautious. Perhaps able to ignore this blip in their day, not noticeably reacting is reacting nonetheless. Removing hood, jacket, then after a somersault, trousers, the now athletically attired figure glides through the empty spaces on the train. Finding other uses for seats, floors, and luggage racks. With their potential for discomfort in those recorded moments, the commuters’ accidental participation becomes a form of release for the viewer of Klara Lidén’s work Paralyzed (2003). Given the distance pixels and a screen provide, the viewer can chuckle through the awkwardness instigated by Lidén’s movements without feeling it per se. They can be in on the joke, laugh or smile more than being in situ would necessarily allow. There’s a testing of the tautness of otherwise blended time and experience going on here.
With a slow determined moonwalk through the streets of nighttime New York, Lidén glides backwards across the frame, feet barely leaving the pavement. The plodding score conjures Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi, and the work’s title, Der Mythos des Fortschritts (Moonwalk) (The Myth of Progress (Moonwalk)) (2008), feels like an appropriate nod to the premise of Reggio’s film. Ever facing forward, but moving backward, cars, trucks, and bicycles from both directions pass Lidén by. On a section of road, kept in line by concrete meridian, Lidén passes by a sign with diagonal arrow reading ‘exit’. A momentary Sisyphean punchline.
In what would appear to be an austere studio, gallery or office Lidén sits at a desk facing a blank white wall. Speakers belt out Patti Smith’s sad refrain Helpless three times. A rubbish bin in the film Untitled (Trashcan) (2011) flanks the desk. Unceremoniously, Lidén rises to their feet and approaches the bin, plunging headfirst into it, legs up in the air, before they fold in after them but don’t fully disappear. Lidén emerges to try again – this time feet first, this time disappearing – ‘If at first you don’t succeed…’
The enduring joke here is time. As Simon Critchley states, ‘In being told a joke, we undergo a particular experience of duration through repetition and digression, of time literally being stretched out like an elastic band. We know that the elastic will snap, we just don’t know when, and we find that anticipation rather pleasurable.’(1) Laugh often: each of these works by Lidén repeat, stretching out their instants into moments folded back on themselves. With each loop, it keeps going, elastic snapping like the string of an instrument.
(1) Simon Critchley, On Humour (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 7.