Après moi le déluge

March 2 – April 20, 2024
Saturday, March 9, 2024 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Oli Sorenson : After me the flood

Text by Kara Eckler

Oli Sorenson’s solo exhibition, «Après moi, le déluge » discloses a series of impactful works on the deadly perils of capitalism through a group of paintings, prints, watercolours, and installations. The title draws a parallel between our times and Louis the XV’s sentiment, the French king’s citation indicating his disconnect with what chaos he left in the wake of his excesses. The same phrase was later revisited by Marx to stigmatize the bourgeoisie of his era, as the leitmotif of the flood strongly features throughout history and human consciousness from past myths to our very factual and impending future. Biblical creatures were punished for their sins by torrents, and today with climate change, we are also faced with rising seas and historic inundations worldwide. Hence the mood of Sorenson’s show reflects our anxieties in the face of natural disasters and the weight of the Anthropocene—the impact of human activities on the Earth’s ecosystem—bearing down on our collective psyche.

Sorenson’s oeuvre depicts a myriad of humanitarian crises occurring as we stand on the edge of an ecological precipice. We find evidence of this pending collapse in African mining industries with Blood Diamond, industrial pollution in Oil Spill and Factory, the housing crisis via Homeless, the impact of supply chains through Cargo, natural disasters within The Flood and Iceberg, war and immigration in Refugees, the harms of industrial farming through Porcherie and Insecticide, all of which combine to forecast turmoils of epic proportions.

Rooted in remix culture, Sorenson’s aesthetic pulls from Minimalism, Brutalism, Pop Art, early video games of the 70s and 80s, and Neo-Geometric Conceptualism. Always interested in experimentation and materiality, here the artist eschews outright abstractions in favour of harder edged, highly stylized figurations. Notably, he includes the human shape for the first time in these works, in tandem with a manual gesture that appears strikingly in his watercolours, creating a contrast between handmade objects vs. mass produced machine-made items.

The lens-based, single channel video Climate Death shows the artist looking sideways as if refusing to face us, his profile like a monarch on the back of a coin, delivering a lecture performance about the causes of climate change and the resulting effects on the human psyche. Edited in a kaleidoscope of bright colours and dramatically pixelated subtitles flashing over the screen, his speech resembles a grim reaper’s warning as he compares Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief to what lies ahead in the progress of climate change. However, the piece also speaks of hopeful potentialities after one comes to terms with the end of climate as we know it. In Sorenson’s own words, “End capitalism now or nature will stop it later, much more violently”.