Astroturfing ad Hockery exhibition by Lars Nordby

Astroturfing ad Hockery exhibition by Lars Nordby

Astroturfing ad Hockery exhibition by Lars Nordby

November 10 – December 5, 2021
Official opening: Nov 10, Wednesday, 18.00 – 20.00 h.
Credo Bonum Gallery, 2 Slavyanska Street, entrance from Benkovski Str.

The so-called performance turn in the visual arts adopts various (anti-)theatrical and dramaturgical strategies such as durational loops, flat structures, audience participation or endless lists of references and translations of one medium to the other – to allow the visitors to enter/exit the work whenever they wish and to avoid classical structures and settings. Lars Nordby somehow simultaneously continues and subverts these traditions with his latest exhibition at Credo Bonum.

In 1980, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts replaced the word “theatre” with the word “performance,” marking a shift, followed then by numerous universities expanding the field infinitely where performance is articulated not only as an aesthetic and artistic practice but as everyday social reality – gender roles and identity building, political speeches and protest rallies, religious rituals and public proclamations, etc. What better way to illustrate this shift than by appropriating and reproducing a Bulgarian theatre schoolbook from 1983 – Basics of Stage Fighting – juxtaposed next to an expert in self-defense invited as a live performer in a gallery space for the whole duration of an exhibition inspired by the phenomenon of astroturfing? (Do you actually – as a visitor – ever check how the exhibition is funded?).

Bulgaria is really the land of astroturfing – even if we might not all know the meaning of the word (I didn’t), we have its lived experience and have mastered it as an everyday practice. A divided society with deep traumas and broken political and moral compasses, a place where every protest has its counter-protest, where parties organize supporters with buses and bring them to public squares, where a series of self-immolations become so normalized they can’t even topple a provincial mayor, and where levels of public distrust are so high people believe the wildest conspiracy theories.

The human body in motion is at the center of Nordby’s exhibition in that context – the living body and the photographed body, the historical body and the contemporary body, the body in defense and the body teaching and sharing, where the lines between reality and fiction, truth and lies, art and life are blurred. The appropriated book, Basics of Stage Fighting, consists of instructions on making the artificial look real for the stage. At the same time, the self-defense instructor becomes an ambiguous figure made fictional and artificial in the context of the exhibition, transposing his practice seen as an aesthetic performance (is he just an actor or is he real?). His expertise is both neutralized within the gallery’s white cube but at the same time also passed on to the viewers, who can then potentially use it for real in public space and daily life.

In his new documentary film Why We Fight, with photographer Myriam Devriendt, the Belgian choreographer Alain Platel explores the destructive forces that seem to drive us into war through stage representations of fighting. The film claims humanity has never actually lived in peace because conflict is part of its nature. While this is probably true, how wars, states, and weapon manufacturers are intertwined or the way economic crises drive nationalistic tendencies remain hidden. Thinking of Nordby’s exhibition, I wonder what we can learn from aesthetic practices in the gallery space and how they functions as a political strategy in our everyday social reality? Who should we fight against? What do we stand for, and why?

Lars Nordby (b.1988, Norway) lives and works in Hamar, Norway, and Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. Nordby holds an MFA at the Oslo National Academy of Arts in Norway (2016). His artistic practice evolves around photography, performance, and art installations. Referring often to theater aesthetics and the theatricalities of everyday life, Nordby deals with human obsessiveness to identity and ideological belonging. Solo exhibitions include White Card Wardrobe Plot at Gallery Reneenee in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2021); Zinc White Lard at Galleri Sol in Bornholm, Denmark (2021); Dubious Chalk Circle at the Archeological Museum in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria (2019); Old Laughter and Synonyms for Actors at Rafael Mihaylov in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria (2018); Tango, or Echoes of Conditional Self-Assertion at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, Norway (2016); Dear Hilesh at Chicago Art Department, in Chicago, USA (2015); and To Tole at Poznan Biennale in Poznan, Poland (2015).
Lars Nordby also runs the contemporary art gallery Heerz Tooya in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria.

The exhibition project is supported by OCA – Office of Contemporary Art in Norway.
Cover design: Paul Voggenreiter