Funny isn’t exactly the right word, maybe absurd. The language of Johan Bergström Hyldahl’s exhibition opening at Cecilia Hillstöm Gallery is humor, but the content is grave; like laughter at a funeral. Humor in the face of the extreme. The title, Dear Jesus, Do Something! could be understood as a formal letter to a divine being or an outcry of futility addressed to no one in particular. Either way it signifies catastrophe.
The exhibition revolves around a 24-minute video work of the same title, in which unfolds a condensed narrative of a bleak and despotic future. The film centers around two main characters and their respective failures. Terry, a scientist who has developed a machine that can read a few seconds into the future, strives unsuccessfully to raise funds for his technology, while the space hero Jasper is sent to the moon on a mysterious mission. Embedded in the absurdity are direct references to human exploitation, pointless scientific endeavors and orchestrated chaos. The setting of this drama, the hollowed-out remnants of a modern city, portrays a deterioration that is repeatedly and blindly ignored, and an imploding society in the throes of denial. But again, it’s humorous, and this interplay between gravity and levity keeps you off balance. However fictional the details and storyline may be, it all combines to create a psychological snapshot of a specific place and time… one that suspiciously and terrifyingly resembles our own.
A set of large-scale, 2D holograms and a sculptural projection accompany the video in the gallery space. One image depicts an evolutionary landscape while another reveals a spaceship traveling through the galaxy. Both are near-direct references to scenes from the film. Nearby, a slowly rotating moon is projected onto a spherical form, combining with the holograms to create an uncanny illusion of movement. While silly and carnevalesque, Dear Jesus, Do Something! presents a scarily accurate portrait of a modern world and, as Bergström Hyldahl put it, “a society happily steering into a hole of nothingness.” View trailer
Heather Jones, freelance curator
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger