The Belgian artist Michaël Borremans (b. 1963, living in Ghent), who is best known for his paintings and drawings, is featured with a number of works in his characteristic neo-surrealist style. The subjects are people who appear to belong in a sepia-toned past, bent in concentration over some enigmatic task. The titles of the works add to the mood of uncertainty about what sort of scenes we are looking at, such as The Advantage, showing a young man in a straitjacket.
The enigmatic quality in Borremans’ paintings has a correspondence in Anri Sala’s (b. 1974, living in Berlin) video works, often shot in semi-darkness. In one of his works, Ghostgames, two people are involved in a game on what could be a beach in the dark, where they use flashlight beams to entice, or pressure, crabs to crawl between the legs of the opponent – thereby scoring a goal. The lack of information in the images suggests questions and sharpens the senses.
Nathalie Djurberg (b. 1978, living in Berlin) creates video works set in a grotesque universe of figures made out of modelling clay. The format of the films is like kids’ TV, but the characters – often distressingly obese women – are involved in brutal assaults. Djurberg is currently featured in a solo exhibition at Fondazione Prada in Milan.
Dana Schutz’ (b. 1976, living in New York) paintings also conjure up a strange, possibly post-apocalyptic, world inhabited by grotesque survivors, such as the ‘auto-canibals’ who perform surgery on each other, the ‘gravity fanatics’ or those who are simply ‘into Jesus’. Formally, she navigates lithely between the various styles in art history. Her paintings are often based on ideas that serve as challenges, apparently impossible subjects for painting.
Ellen Gallagher’s (b. 1965, living in Rotterdam and New York) works De Luxe mix historic and mythological characters made of old advertising pictures aimed at African-American readers. A few of her watercolours from the series Water Ecstatic are also featured. The series is based on a myth about submarine humans – a special species that developed from pregnant slaves who drowned on the Atlantic passage of the slave trade.
Tom McCarthy (b. 1969, living in London) is the secretary general of the INS – International Necronautical Society, a pastiche on early 20th century avant-garde artist groups. The INS is featured with a report – Calling All Agents – from one of the group’s meetings in Austria, perpetrating the idea that art contains subversive messages that are political dyamite. A new, site-specific audio work by McCarthy will be presented in Swedish in the audioguides that are normally used to guide visitors through the collection.
Lucas Ajemian’s (b. 1975, living in New York) works allude to art as a bearer of coded messages. With his brother, the jazz musician Jason Ajemian, he creates a performance in the church on Skeppsholmen which will be video filmed and shown in the exhibition; they play the Black Sabbath classic Into the Void from 1971, backwards, together with a ten-man orchestra, with reference to the myths claiming that this would reveal hidden, satanic messages.
Mike Nelson (b. 1967, living in London) also collaborates with a group – in his case, the fictive biker gang The Amnesiacs, which consists of Gulf War veterans with amnesia. The members “help” Nelson create works that reconstruct their memories, as in Amnesiac Shrine – a large spatial installation that was acquired for the Moderna Museet collection with funding from the Friends of Moderna Museet, as a 50th anniversary gift.
In his performance-based video works, Paul McCarthy (b. 1945, living in Los Angeles) portrays father figures that are both menacing and pathetic; a doll’s head resembling Alfred E. Neuman or a bloody, sneering pirate, in a sort of Disney World that has run amok. Magnus af Petersens’ collaboration with Paul McCarthy in connection with his retrospective at Moderna Museet in 2006 was one event that inspired the concept for Eclipse.