— “Well, you see, boss, you cutta da pay, we cuttada shob.”
Sometime during the Industrial Revolution in Europe workers used their clunky wooden clogs to break the machines, or at least to disrupt production. In French these shoes were called "sabots," and ever since, the etymology of the word sabotage is often attributed to those acts of damage and disruption. The workers, however, had resorted to sabotage in order to protest their working and living conditions. When their bodies were coerced into machine-like routines, they found ways to reduce their industrial efficiency, or to "cuttada shob," as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's 1916 pamphlet on sabotage reports.
With their presentation, Viktor Lundgaard and Birke Gorm emphatically rekindle that historical episode of opposition and defiance. At its center they place the sabot with all its heavy symbolism of this working class struggle. The cans assembled in the sculpture were crushed by cars speeding along suburban roads, gleaned by the artists from roadsides. The sourcing of their materials thus mimicks the tasks of the workers who, allegedly, threw their shoes into mowing and threshing machines. Yet, if the supersized shoe in the show speaks to us of these historical efforts, its rickety tin can materiality, signposting a vast spectrum of low- brow beverage consumption, may be taken as a stark reminder of the disenchanting effects of these efforts.
In a series of paintings on glass panels Lundgaard and Gorm introduce the second protagonist of their show: the car, icon of assembly line production. Like the shoe, it is not presented in the usual function and form. As if they were taking a break from the usual business of driving, cars are depicted in reclining positions. The relieve of tension is palpable in the softened forms of bodies lounging, smoking, propped up on one wheel, exposing their bellies. The iconic form of the automobile breaks down into a confusion of wheels and twisted frames.
What emerges throughout these explorations is the hotwiring of the withdrawal of efficiency in industrial production with the aesthetic paradigm of leisure. By the means of various alterations, the two artists withdraw from their subject matter the emblematic value of industrial production: Objects sit back from their usual tasks; the waste from soda breaks and after-work beers is repurposed for a shoe that no longer has to withstand the power of the apparatus. Relieved from their symbolic burden, however, they remain attached to the historical strategies of withdrawal. The show invites us, at least for now, to withdraw from the struggle, and raise our glasses to sabotage.
Text by David Misteli and Barbara Reisinger
Christian Ingemann Hansen
Astrid Kajsa Nylander
Lucia Elena Pruša
Aline Sophie Rainer
Photos of the Exhibition by JKG. Photos of the Glasses by Pina. All images courtesy of the artists and Pina.