If You Don’t Stand for Something, You Will Fall for Anything


Where are you from? Honestly, hand on your heart, and the other on your neighbour’s pocket, where do you come from?

If you have no difficulties answering this question, if you don't hesitate for a moment before giving the answer that seems so obvious to you, there is a great chance that you suffer from either a hallucination, illusion or just plain terminal stupidity.

The question where do you come from is by its own inner necessity divided into two inseparable sections. One part tries to track down the geographical coordinates of where and when. This is the part that is called the roots. On the other hand, we have the second part which no longer deals with physical places or entities. This part is about trying to figure out to which intellectual and professional discourse and context do you both belong and want to participate in. This part is called the routes.

Peter Ojstersek is one of us. Another one of us whose being and doing focuses and evolves in the grand scheme on what happens in between these roots and routes. Peter has realized since a long long time that there is no escape. He is stuck in the middle of this particular groove, which at the same time is very telling and symbolic for our times, for our lives.

Lets focus first on the roots. By no means is he an exception. Almost all of us - if we care to admit - do not come from clear cut clean backgrounds. We are from a national, ethnical and religious mess, which does not mean that we need to sustain or renew that mess. To sort it out, what we need is the routes to which I will shortly return. But in terms of roots, Ojstersek comes from a small nation state up in the north called Sweden. His biographical background combines a mother who is from Finland and a father who is from Slovania. And because this is hardly enough, he has chosen to study and to work in a place called Berlin. Thus, he is a cosmopolitan character with specific roots and very interesting routes.

So where does Peter Ojstersek come from? as an artist? There is no way to deny it. He started off as a painter, going deeper into its frame and functions. He took a route that was steep and winding, with a huge amount of holes and bumps embodied in it. Again, a very typical road lined up with a search that is filled with the circular act of trying out and failing, trying again and failing again.

The point with Ojsterseks voyage in the land of quite ok, not so bad, semi-bad and very baaad painting is the stamina that he has gained. He is here to stay, and he is not giving up. If and when one route seems to face a dead-end, or one experiment falling into embarrassing pieces, so what. He gets up again and again, and looks for another way to move, another strategy for survival. This search has taken him years and years. But it has also taken him into domains and fields that have been hidden or forbidden by the tradional painters. It would be silly to claim Ojstersek is breaking totally new ground. Of course he is not, but what he is doing is a coherent, both intellectually and visually compelling and convincing body of work that deals with contemporary painting.

Quite remarkably, one of the ways, one of the routes Ojstersek has chosen to get the needed perspective to the act and task of painting is to experiment with other mediums. The starting point is an image that can’t leave him alone. These are images that combine and link together these two aspects of where do you come from. What interests him - very often unconsciously - is sites and situations, persons and buildings that have a connection to his roots and to his routes. It is the demanding but necessary dialectical movement and moment of push and pull, give and take.

We see the push, the need to use the methods of photography and installation. And what we also see is the constant pull of an image that has the abc painterly qualities. They are not qualities that other media lack in themselves fully lack, but are qualities that paintings most fulfillingly master and magnify. With Ojstersek, it’s called concentration on a simple intuitive feeling. It is very easy to be attached to the emotions going on about, colliding and crashing - but also caressing in his works. It is not that difficult to imagine what must have happened in terms of a personal and political storm before he has managed to focus that intention to a beautiful and peaceful church cemetery.

This particular work is presented as a rather large light box. It has the exaggerated quality of clearness. The bluer that blue skies, and the sharpness of that air that takes, steals your breath away. You are forced to stop, and to think. And then to think again. It is simultanuously something familiar, something that connects your cortex with you own personal experiences. Yet, it is also something of a kind of unknown. You know the direction of the story through the visual hints that are given. You collect anecdotes, but not the whole story. It is incomplete, and it is incomplete on a purpose. It activates the viewer, claiming the level of the stakes and demanding a response.

It is the connection of where and when, there and now. It is the interplay between roots and routes. A dialectical exercise that throws you off balance and leaves you hanging on your own means and devices. You are no longer that sure how to answer the question of where do you come from. Neither are you so worried anymore that this answer might be constantly shifting and changing. You seem to realize that all we are given (or have) is the process of being-with. A process in which Peter Ojsterseks’ works give us the little hope that is definitely needed in order to have the courage to turn on the lights while our personal daily emotional elevator is going up & down, up & down.

Mika Hannula