Pushwagner: Soft City
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A Day in the Life of Family Man
A Day in the Life of Family Man (1980) is a series of thirty-four screen prints with a palette of pink, black and grey. The series emerged from a lengthy and intense collaboration between Pushwagner and the Norwegian science-fiction author Axel Jensen. The theme is similar to that of Soft City, depicting family life in an oppressive world. The prints evoke a sense of endless repetition and routine. Pushwagner also depicts the abuses of power in such a world. The obsessive repetition and iterations of almost identical images demonstrate Pushwagners interest in mass production and his wish to make his work available to a broad public.
The Apocalypse Frieze comprises seven complex and highly detailed paintings, which Pushwagner worked on for twenty years. In accordance with the artist’s wishes, they are grouped in the manner of ‘The Lamb of God’ (1432) by the Van Eyck brothers. Most of the titles are invented and represent the artist’s self-made universe: Heptashinok (1988), Dadadata (1987), Gigaton (1988), Jobkill (1990), Oblidor II (1991), Klaxton (1990) and Self-Portrait (1973-1993). In this work Pushwagner compares the destructive force of war with the excesses of industry. Factories are used as death camps and the devastation of war is carried out under the watchful eye of robot-like men in suits. Self-Portrait is even more detailed than the other paintings in the series. It depicts the timeline of Pushwagner’s life.
Soft City (1969-75) is a 154-page visual novel that Pushwagner made between 1969 and 1975 in Oslo and London. The work is a critical satire of capitalism and life in the modern city. It describes a day in the life of a couple and their child in a miserable, automated world. The drudgery of their existence is evoked by the book’s structure, with its repetitive representation of buildings, people and cars. The monotonous lives of Pushwagner’s characters refer to the Russian spiritist George Gurdjieff (1866 - 1949) who wrote that most people exist in a state of ‘walking sleep’. The ‘administrator’ who controls people’s lives in Soft City and the pills the family take each day are reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). The novel’s design calls to mind the film Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang and the buildings of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier.
Since the 1960s, the Norwegian artist Hariton Pushwagner (Oslo 1940) has produced a body of work with a gloomy vision of the future. Following a productive period, Pushwagner’s life and career suffered a downward spiral in the 1980s and 1990s due to the artist’s dependence on drink and drugs. He has enjoyed a revival since 2008, followed by a solo exhibition in MK Gallery and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. MK Gallery director Anthony Spira gives a short introduction on the work of this mysterious artist.
Camera and editing: Wouter Schreuder