The Decline of Western Civilisation

Baldvin Ringsted, Otto Piene

Presented as part of Glasgow International 8th – 25th April 2016

If we take zero as a point of axis on a graph, from which we can plot upward to the sky and forward to the future, we can also plot in any direction we choose. In interview, Otto Piene refers to a specific moment in his past, aged 17, immediately following World War II and 2 years as an anti aircraft child soldier. He is so impressed by the light and stillness of the river Elbe in northern Germany, that he feels he is crossing a threshold to peace. This moment – a moment in which he could conceive of a future wholly different to his former experience – is now anchored as a locus in his life story, and in the forging of a future manifesto.

46 years later, Akureyri, north east Iceland: Baldvin Ringsted, 17, is on stage with his guitar and Megadeth t-shirt. According to his record collection there is a trash metal scene in Los Angeles, thousands of miles south west – across a massive body of water.

‘Spiritual’, Ringsted’s new video work, produced especially for Glasgow International 2016, features the artist centre stage, apparently riffing on his guitar in synchronicity with the voices of 3 actors who hurl abuse at him from all sides. The film draws attention to both musical and vocal structure, making it hard to read how much is revealed of our predictability or how much he is kidding us on.

Throughout his practice, Ringsted tackles form in music, in both a mathematical and contextual sense. Recent painting works on show approach visual depictions of rhythm and shift, introducing elements of disorder to carefully arrange compositions.

Piene’s Feuerbilder (fire paintings) can be seen as attempts to capture the chaos of fire, a practice he developed in the late 1950s and maintained until his recent death in 2014. Equating fire with light and energy recalls his early thoughts on peace. In 1961 he wrote: “Why do we not pool all human intelligence with the same security that accompanies its efforts in time of war and explode all the atom bombs in the world for the pleasure of the thing, a great display of human inventiveness in praise of human freedom?”*

* “Ways to Paradise”, Otto Piene, trans Rory Spry, ZERO 3 (July 1961). as reproduced in ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s, Guggenheim Museum Publications 2014

Further Information:

Baldvin Ringsted (b.1974, Iceland) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Glasgow. Recent solo and group exhibitions include: Improvisation, Part Two: The Metal Years, Akureyri Art Museum 2016; Oscilloscope, Old Hairdressers, Glasgow 2015; New Work, MYU Gallery, Glasgow 2012; In Praise of the Morning Star, Arch One, Glasgow 2012; Global-Lokal, Akureyri Art Museum 2011; B.P.M., Martos Gallery, New York 2010, Low Growl, SWG3, Glasgow 2010; Oops Apocalypse, Occupy Space, Limerick Ireland 2010; Meet Me at the Bottom of the Pool, Martos Gallery, New York 2010

Otto Piene (1928–2014, Germany) was a painter, printmaker, environmental artist, and co-founder of the ZERO group. Born in Laasphe in Westphalia, Piene attended the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Munich and the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf as an art student, and then studied philosophy at Cologne University. After graduating in 1957, he and Heinz Mack founded the ZERO group, which, in contrast to Abstract Expressionism, emphasised art void of colour, emotion, and individual expression.

Today, his works can be found in numerous museum collections around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.