Our forthcoming issue, Subjektiv part II, invites different artists, curators and thinkers to give us their recent critical perspectives on the issues at stake and on the status of the subjective as an artistic strategy in the current political climate. As a warm up, we'll share some statements here. Norwegian artist Marius Moldvær: The introduction of the character the Rock Biter in the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story is a dramatic one: at first we only see and hear the smashing of great trees, then the creaking sound of something big, threatening, and perhaps evil approaching us through the forest. As he appears on his gigantic bike made of rock, he speaks with a soft voice, telling us of the mission he is on: to save Fantasia from the Nothingness that is devouring his home. When he speaks, rocks fall with his every word and move, and this image lingers with me after the film has ended: The disturbing image of a creature both mineral and man-like that is intimately connected to our present time and the idea of the subject/subjective and object/objective relation.
The Rock Biter is a creature made of rock, who eats rocks, makes all his tools out of the same material, and speaks with the voice of a human being. Why is this creature so weird, unfamiliar, and scary? Besides the obvious–that he is a great rock that can speak–it is because there is no separation between the object and the subject within the character. We recognise the ‘I’ while simultaneously recognising the ‘it,’ ‘other,’ and ‘thing’ within the same bodily entity, and we are disturbed because the logic of how we understand and differentiate between them is missing.
For an ‘I’ there is always an ‘other’, for a ‘subject’ there is an ‘object’ and to be able to speak subjectively there has to be at least an idea of an objective truth. This is what we are taught to believe, how we understand the dealings of the world, and ourselves in relation to it; that the world only makes sense if every spread in the encyclopedia presents a dichotomy, a contras of man on one page versus rock on the other. This is a simplification of course, but it also lays the foundation for the separation between subject and object, the living and the un-living, truth and lie. This idea, which might seem simple and basic at first, not only creates borders and demarcation lines between ideas, but makes it possible to utilise this dichotomy for one’s own gain, to create borders and walls where one sees fit, and even create a situation where something or someone can be seen in contrast to ‘us’.
As subjective musings are turned into objective truths the «I» and «other» is created at personal will—and gain, people become the object, and a group of people become not a collection of subjects in need, but objects, the others, things, that place them far from us as breathing, living I's. And perhaps we do not understand the magnitude of the pen we are wielding. If it is too big, its value is exchanged with that of a weapon, and its intent becomes to harm and dislocate rather than inform and challenge individuals. Ours is a time of immediacy, where any single subject’s word – from heads of states to extremists on all fronts – can reach a global audience within seconds and be the bearer of an objective truth. But what if the object were you, always erasing the line between you and it, as within the Rock Biter; always reminding you that as easily as you can be ‘I’, you can be the ‘other’; that the distinction between the I and the other is frail, that it can be false, that you must think, that you must be careful, because the lines that seemed so clear yesterday have changed today.
In this world, the artist can fill the role of the Rock Biter, campaigning for the encyclopedia to be continually rewritten and reveal a world that is much more complex than the I vs. the other. The artist is a subject that creates objects, from the ephemeral to the everlasting; objects that are subjects, that speak of other ‘I’s, other places, and other thoughts. When you see a work of art you see an object, but also a subject’s hands and mind in perfect unison, and in this respect the artist is the Rock Biter. An artwork can be fantastical, disturbing, funny, uncanny because it breaks the dichotomy, breaks the separation between the I and the other, and disturbs you – like the Rock Biter – leaving you with a feeling of uneasiness that the world is not, and never was, what you thought it was.