Europe is Balding

Europe is Balding, Matias Faldbakken

At Paula Cooper Gallery

By Peter Gregorio

Artists know a lot of very little about a lot of very little things. This is what makes us so good at what we do. We take risks and play. In his best moments, Matias Faldbakken embodies this spirit in his new work at Paula Cooper in Chelsea. 

When I first walked on the second floor extension of Paula Cooper Gallery I was standing in a large white room with the smoothed poured concrete floors that I covet.  In the center of the room was a free standing large baby blue ceramic tiled wall slab and some odd shaped undefined objects on the floor leaning against the wall to my right.  The wall reminds me of the façade of an old school gym locker room; kind of dirty and slapped together, cold and hard, slightly irregular.  Walking past the objects they appear garbage-like; a tiled shipping palette, a small sink, some car parts—pale painted dashboards that were tiled as well.  Colors were barfy red and green, pale blue, and stained bathtub white with the original material of wood metal and plastic peeking through.  They reminded me of Gedi Sibony’s subtle slabs and interventions of the gallery space.  Yet these seem sexier and more clever, less zen and more disturbing which appeals to me more.  Man everything looks good on these fetish cement floors, even when the artist makes something ugly-and here I mean ugly in the best sense of the way. Like how we love the fucked up collages of dirt, graffiti and ripped photos on NY subway walls or when we walk past a pile of tires that was just dumped on the edge of the street in Red Hook Brooklyn, the beauty of urban blight.  Now I’m tired so I walk on the other side of the big blue slab all the way to the far side of the room and sit on the floor with my back against the wall.


Sitting on the floor looking out at the baby blue tiled wall in front of me I notice this side resembles a large piece of TV viewing furniture that someone would have in their home with a central panel that houses a large flat screen and speaker. The video playing on the flat screen is a fictionalized documentary in a format similar to what you’d see on the history channel or some random cable crime channel.  There is an array of random shots of political and historical found footage intermixed with scenes from Bollywood, and grabbed media sliced and remixed throughout. There’s something so comical about the footage, so randomly mixed it’s familiar yet still impossible to understand. We fill in the content of what might be said.

The mockumentary feels clever and edgy, not just ironic in the way that so many contemporary artists use all the time, but rather more in the “we all get the joke” kind of way, like listening to the dialogue between Beavis and Butthead.  It has the vibe of Johan Grimonprez’s Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y; a cacophony of remixed news footage to create a commentary on the original. Non- fiction is the lie, fiction reveals the truth.

By presenting this installation of materials and digital media, Matias Faldbakken shows us the narrative of the lie and reveals the absurdity of the state of the media driven world we consume.  I find this work successful as fuck and clever as hell. I’m reminded of the line by Tyler Durden in Fight Club,

Durden: How’s that working out for you?

Narrator: What?

Durden: Being clever.

Narrator: Great.

Durden: Keep it up then, right up.

OK so…

I just read the press release statement on the gallery website…


I got it completely wrong.