Gustav Hellberg


Opening: Friday 10th December, 6 – 9 pm

Duration: 10th December 2010 – 22nd January 2011

Hamish Morrison is delighted to present an exhibition by the Swedish artist Gustav Hellberg. This is Hellberg’s first solo show with the gallery.

The foundations of Hellberg’s artistic practice lie in the public sphere, where he explores the interactions between people, artworks and public spaces. His sculptures also explore hierarchical structures within society, and how they affect each of us at an individual level. Many of his best-known works have transformed public institutions and structures: for example, turning Stockholm’s City Library into a lighthouse, or turning the façade of Helsingborg’s Dunkers Kulturhaus into an enormous statistical indicator that counts visitors coming and going from the building. As well as these public commissions, he has created highly charged installations within galleries. For example, in 2008, he presented Privileged situation – utopian vision in Stockholm, an interactive light installation in which gallery visitors moved through a pitch-black forest of invisible sensor beams. As visitors triggered these sensors, a thin ray of light hit them. The effect was to be constantly followed by light, and yet be permanently surrounded by darkness.

For his exhibition at Hamish Morrison Galerie, Hellberg will create a similarly dramatic, interactive installation. Obstruction is made up of 24 standard automatic road barriers with painted metal casings, mounted on a podium made of galvanized steel grills. Viewers are invited to enter Obstruction. Its barriers are equipped with a timer control, which randomly regulates the opening and closing of the barrier arms. The barriers are thus in constant change. Sometimes, adjacent barriers will open, allowing viewers to walk into the piece. But other times, there will be no entry point at all. Viewers can also become trapped inside the installation, until an escape route randomly appears.

There is a strong element of humour here, as we give over control of our journey to Obstruction’s capricious barriers. But it’s not all fun and games. The barriers are instantly recognisable as symbols of authoritarianism and power that restrict our freedom of movement; we are conditioned to obey them or face the consequences for our transgressions. The work is also a metaphor for the random and indiscriminate barriers that life can present us; the way two people with identical backgrounds and qualifications can nonetheless end up following very different paths. Obstruction then, has the ability to both control and delight us. But there is also a dark edge to it; it makes a powerful political statement about the way external forces determine the shape of our lives.

Gustav Hellberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1967. He has an MFA from the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm. His works have been exhibited in numerous public art projects around the world, including Umedalens Skulptur, Sweden, Urban Interface Berlin and Artnews Outdoor, Samara, Russia. He has had gallery shows in Los Angeles and Stockholm, and solo museum exhibitions at Malmö Konstmuseum and Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg. He is currently working on several public commissions. He lives and works in Berlin.