Andreas Arndt – Three Pins, One Pinhole
“Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett set this high standard which few have managed to meet. Yet Andreas Arndt has braved an attempt with a dry humour and a sly earnestness that merit consideration. When we meet in his studio, he has just returned from a boating trip which should have taken him all the way from Amsterdam to his hometown Karlstad in Sweden, but the trip was cut short, due to the unexpectedly high cost of the fuel. “Not just the fuel problems,” he adds, “but ice and snow, cold, too small a boat, too big waves…” And his cat ran away on the first night. To make matters worse – or better – Katze doubled as his cameraman and was supposed to film the entire adventure with a GoPro Action Camera attached to a feline Steadicam swim vest. She returned the next night, but without the vest, which still has not been located. True to Beckett’s maxim, Arndt intends to try again.
Instead of the boat, an elegant kayak dominates Arndt’s studio, somehow like a giraffe lying down in a zoo. Arndt seems to have fully succeeded in making the vessel from scratch. Using a complex network of wool blankets and rice cookers, he even invented his own method for gently bending the wood for the light frame. Then again, this kayak was never intended to hit the waves, big or small. In light of the challenges of failure, I can’t help but think of the late French psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu’s memoir Beckett (1999). The book ends with Anzieu’s remarkable observations about palindromes. Although made of mere letters, a palindrome is a powerful symbol that possesses an almost magical capacity to bring about an experience of reversal, whether fortunes or roles. Since these words can be spelled in both directions, the people and the objects they denote also have the capacity to switch around symmetrically – the kayak being a case in point. Arndt’s efforts seem to be marked such extreme reversals; they are failures and successes, woebegone and witty, clever and foolish.
As Arndt’s vessels may suggest, many of his works involve going back to nature – and not quite arriving. In his selection of videos, there’s a take of him pulling down trees chewed by beavers who failed to fell them with their teeth (he doesn’t get much further with his hands – but that’s probably a good outcome since he pulled the trunk towards his body instead of pushing it away). Another video finds the artist walking through a snowy forest and stopping with a stick to “play” a set of icicles hanging off a rock, as if these were a cross between organ pipes and a xylophone. Icicles are neither, but the sound they emit is spooky. Who else but Arndt could trek deep into the winter woods and emerge with a musical score? Get back to nature and return with culture?
Jennifer Allen, for Offspring 2013, De Ateliers, Amsterdam