“The past was the present, the present never the now…”, a sentiment iterated by George Swinton echoes the enduring fascination we humans have with the cycle of existence, the past often overtaking the present as we wind and unravel in accordance with life. In SPOOL, artist and architect Michael Bjornson explores the illusive themes of fate, life, death and the human condition by way of a commentary both subtle and confronting, that seeks to encounter ambiguity in the face of voyeuristic embodiment. Inspired by the Samuel Beckett play Krapp’s Last Tape, Bjornson draws us into a world populated with nuanced works that evoke fascination based on the likeness of peripheral similarity and asks that we engage without judgement for the spools of our lives held in both shrine and shadow.
First performed in 1958 Beckett’s one-act play, an avant-garde one-man work, addressed the ever-challenging struggle and enduringly relevant commentary on human existence. Enshrouded in regret and obsessiveness, Krapp finds himself unable to reconcile the strangle-hold of the past and focusing solely on a life of failures, Krapp’s life fractures into three parts which continue through a gloomy cycle of self-separation and keep Krapp locked in a prison of his own making.
Uttered throughout, the word “Spool”, reoccurs in a representative manner, taking on the fluctuating mood of an ageing, despondent, bitter and agitated Krapp. Alternating between the younger and more hopeful human archived on the tapes, or spools, and the former who is caught in failure and remorse, Krapp oscillates between acceptance and shame as he obsessively listens to the tapes hoping to unearth an elusive explanation from which he can derive some purpose from his life. Heavy with doom, the continuous fixation that Krapp holds so dearly to wanes ever so slightly as the play ends, revealing a poignant understanding of the human condition offering respite to an ailing Krapp and insight to the audience with regard to the need for both awareness and acceptance to survive being human.
In SPOOL, Bjornson’s works attempt to capture the longing of humanity and highlight the critical desire to be witnessed in a way that provides affirmation and acquiescence without falling peril to the ego driven states of confusion, frustration, and suffering. From Bjornson’s infatuation with depicting figurative subjects, and rendering them intentionally incomplete, to the blatant injection of our own boundaryless state of the unknown, we find ourselves as viewers falling headlong into the mystery that is life. Eliciting adoration, bewilderment, and empathy, Bjornson’s works encourage us to ask ourselves what we see not only in others, but perhaps more importantly what the works invite us to see in ourselves. Depicting a visual narrative of a life lived simply “as is”, where the mundane and ordinary exhibit an ethereal quality of acceptance, Bjornson dares us to revel in this acceptance, and takes us to a place where we move ever so briefly from feeling “othered” to land in recognition of a shared sense of imperfect beauty for the many phases, or spools, of our own human lives.
Engaging with Bjornson’s works invite a sense of embodied presence, to pause and take it all in, offering us a space within which we cannot decide whether to look deeply or look away. It is as though we await a change in state, for the expression of a certain emotion to pass, and when it does not, we remain locked together in a timeless embrace to search ourselves for what it feels like to truly “feel”. Intending to ignite a multitude of responses, Bjornson offers evocative images of awkward human faces and figures as an embodiment of global trauma, loss, and grief, seeking to address larger issues of isolation, violence, insecurity, hunger, corruption, and poverty. The provocative stands at attention, the subtle lingers long after viewing, arresting and poignant, much like human existence itself. Within the parameters of a theatre, a studio, a gallery, and the world at large, Bjornson’s work shows us that life remains and the spools of existence continue to play.
October 22, 2022