Ekblad’s debut solo exhibition, “Silver Ruins” somehow anticipates all of this: the stairs and ladders, the fluttering and juvenile references to NWA and West Coast rap, t-shirts, bubble letter graffiti and the meticulously captured hang time of Michael Jordan. These are the many layers of autopoesis, material self-organization and alien transformations, that, at least to me, mark the art of Ida Ekblad.
Let’s make a detour. Ekblad’s video work Timeisonourside (2011) is an empathic and volatile archive of sorts. A camera slowly spans an interior sideways. Abruptly and precipitously it registers a host of objects, their internal and perspectival relations thereby set askew and adrift. Any attempts at relational mirroring is shattered by the sheer bombardment of mere things. Paintings, photographs, coffee tables, baubles, trinkets, silverware, lamps, a mirror, archive boxes filled with slides, African figures, old letters, pens. Apparently the video was shot at the artist’s grandmother’s house, but these are not images animated with sentimentality. Rather they are broken, stuttering snippets, accompanied by the artist’s coarse and raspy voice. A disembodied voice reading a poem that becomes more and more indecipherable as it ebbs away into a mélange of sounds, pieces and bits of language, accents and childlike vocal modulations. And then there is that ghostly sound, the uncanny background noise, derived from the simplistic and preset sounds on Garageband. The voice, the words and the sound all enter a energetic field of becoming-other. This is what things look like when no one is looking. Left all to themselves all our everyday things come into life and do stuff we are too scared even to imagine: holes in the ozone layer, global warming, radiation from nuclear meltdown and things we don’t see—but still someday, sooner than later—will somehow smolder us. These things persist through time, always the same, yet never the same. These things also emanate a certain power, a recalcitrant calling out to other things, to other networks and hoards of objects—human and non-human. One could possibly think of these entities that appear in Ekblad’s video in a more distinctly vitalist, Spinozan manner, as instances of what Jane Bennett terms “vibrant matter.” The unsteady, convulsant thing-gaze (gaze of things) is an irreductive gaze, it resists screening, selectivity, and dominion-driven hierarchization. Needless to say, this detour through the atypical, through the off-topic, has also provided an emblematic insight into what is at stake, and what forces are activated, in the everyday artistic practice of Ekblad, and especially in her paintings. Feverish waves that drag with them sorrow, loss, bereavement—looped disintegrations of near painless form—as well as a rhythmic curvature of vibrant matter.
Michel Henry writes somewhere that “sensible appearances can only be grasped in formal purity when their sound can be heard again, only when the world of objects is put out of play,” and one is tempted to say the same of Ekblad’s practice just that world of objects is fully put into play. Not that the elements depicted serve any means outside itself, as any kind of spatial reference of somewhere else, but rather that they sit at the door hinges, they sit at the thresholds, as they are porous particles that run through the real: material isometrics of sensation in a truly weird universe. For the 2011 Venice Biennale at the Arsenale, Ekblad made and presented A Caged Law of the Bird The Hand The Land (2011): the first one of those gates, gateways, or portals that absorb both the surroundings from which they are assembled and that infuse and twist the materiality of the gaze and sensation on which they hinge—without criteria as they ask for no ticket of entry but intensely race through the matrixes of sensation. Cast metal, the shiny gloss of the parade, the transubstantiation of metallic debris into non-sensical lettering. The letters on top of the gates only resemble “real” letters, they take on the form of letters, as the construct they are placed on top of resemble the next level of entry, but there is no “beyond” the gates in other words. They do not reduce reality. For that matter: they do not relate, or relay, reality either.