Nice to meet you

2016 15.04 – 22.04 Red center, Moscow

Audiovisual installation
3-channel video, 2-channel audio
(asynchronous)
Duration: 44’50” / 11’47” / 05’48”
Sound track duration: 270’00”

Production/camera: Alexander Minchenko
Sound design: G5-54 Stronghouse

Curated by Olga Deryugina

Today, a person’s image is composed not of social status, class belonging or professional position, but it is rather based on individual’s social contacts. In fact, it does not matter whether Nils Kjeldsen is a robot, a real person or a group of people; neither does his occupation or the place of living. His online activity is concentrated, mostly, around Russian art-community, which causes reciprocal interest and amusement. 

The content of Kjeldsen’s posts is always about something unreachable, distanced. It is the act of weeping upon the sleeping-away life, mixed up with reposts of Moscow’s cultural life chronicles — illuminating the lesser-known events and names. As for the pathetic writing — these are the lyrics from the 70’s — 80’s pop and rock songs. The Facebook profile section “About” says: “a dentist and a poet” — is not it the direct indication of the fetishisation of pain?

Nils Kjeldsen’s profile could serve as an illustration to the thesis by Vilém Flusser about a “subject” as a relative concept, which can only be described through its relations with something else (“Vom Projezieren”); as well as post-structuralist understanding of a “subject” as apparent failure of identity (it is possible to list some of subject’s attributes and fluid states, but it can not be captured as something integral and stable). Nils represents the idea of constructed identity which is void, derived of any substance. But it has the freedom of composing — creating any personal code. Such a construct invites a stranger to hide underneath its cover, use the already-created network of relations and become an observer of second level, to look from the position of a blind spot of omnipresent system.

Nils Kjeldsen is, in the first place, a network (or “actor network” in Bruno Latour’s terminology). Other way round is also true: we all are Nils to each other — he demonstrates the mechanism of communication in a social network in its core. Phrases as “thnx”, “nice to meet you” and “likes” are the signifiers which mark the act of communication per se. Nils formally shapes the borders of certain community. We are not able to trace the starting point — the first friend of Nils on Facebook. But we can reconstruct the logic of network’s growth: it expands due to participants’ reactions towards Kjeldsen’s online activity — if they attract Nils’ attention and approve his friend request. Thus, we witness the chain reaction, the communicative self-reproduction.

Today we all exist in the situation of alienation from one’s idenity: the personal info, location data, and photo portraits — all is available in (more or less) open access. We are under constant observation of CC TV, we can not escape from providing personal data to various state and public institutions, not speaking of commercial structures, e. g. cell phone operators — and we can not control this situation.

Nils’ case makes visible the paranoid structures of one’s mind. Normally, the procedure of “shadowing” is hidden; here, it is presented in public space. Frequent reposts of photos of some person (usually, a girl; whose personality we do not put under question) — for instance, young artist Lisa Zhilkina — looks so insistent and unwarranted that it bears rather frantic character. Especially, in combination with whining writing about loneliness and lost moment. Still, the choice of the object of interest seems to be accidental. She becomes more of a collective image of that girl who is so unattainable, so far away.

Quite an interesting moment: we live in the time when our imagination is occupied not with fictional characters; and even celebrity need to do their best to achieve viewer’s attention; now, any virtual avatar — it means anyone in the internet — can become an object of one’s fantasy. A virtual identity is constructed by the author, as well as by all of his social connections.

The figure of Nils Kjeldsen is of interest as the figure of a non-involved player (who shapes the network, but does not participate in it) or an observer of the second level; tele-presence is his key feature. Nils possesses a luxury of having a representation, and yet being invisible, not attached to a certain place or social group; in other words, he demonstrates how to elude from identification. We can say that he plays the role of the agent who calls (names) the community.

Text by Olga Deryugina