r e v i e w s

Josefin Arnell et Max Göran at Cell Project Space, London

by Mya Finbow

« brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame »  
Josefin Arnell and Max Göran
Commissariat :  Adomas Narkevičius

Cell Project Space, Londres (UK)
08.12.2023 — 25.02.2024

Invited by Cell Project Space in London, Swedish artists Josefin Arnell and Max Göran have been working as a duo under the pseudonym HellFun since 2014. However, their exhibition ‘brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame’ brings their respective artistic practices into dialogue for the first time.

On the one hand, Josefin Arnell’s film BEAST AND FEAST plunges into the depths of the absurd, exploring the duality of human nature through the psychosis of Annina, caught between her life as a single mother and her obsessive quest to have a horse in order to be recognised by her Mountie peers. As the story unfolds, her unattainable desire causes her perceptive relationship with the real world to collapse, leading her to reify herself in the fantasised stallion. By mixing camp aesthetics, gory fiction and archive footage of recent riots, the film allows us to conduct a thought experiment around relationships of authority. From then on, the horse symbolically becomes the weapon of power. Against a backdrop of hardcore techno, Josefin Arnell explores the reversal of roles of domination, alternating violent and grotesque cycles to exhume deeply buried traumas. In this way, the artist forms an amalgam of convoluted narratives that bring out our most intimate emotions.

Max Göran, Exhibition view, brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame, 2023, Josefin Arnell, Max Göran, Cell Project Space, 2023

On the other hand, Max Göran’s films offer an aesthetic and immersive cinematic journey into a sensitive universe that resonates with our desire for emancipation. In the form of autofictions, the artist subtly tackles reflections on identity and the status of the artist by choosing the car as a liberating organ of movement. In the cab of a lorry driver on Swedish roads (Dieseline Dreams) or aboard a Mitsubishi Carisma living out its last moments on the streets of Berlin (Mitsubishi Hop-on, Hop-off), Max Göran’s road-movies immerse viewers in the intimacy of the protagonists. Both the soundtracks and the geographical displacements are an integral part of this poetic constellation and serve the artist’s discourse on identity. Changing places to find one’s place. The narratives gradually intertwine fantasy and reality, and the road serves as a metaphor for crossing normative boundaries to become a hymn to freedom.

Skillfully set in space by curator Adomas Narkevičius, the two filmmakers’ recent video installations come to life off-screen. Josefin Arnell transforms the gallery into a stable, while upstairs Max Göran’s films respond to each other, one beginning where the other ends. In this way, the two artists compose a narrative with their own stories and myths, highlighting the complex dynamics of existence while deconstructing the paradoxes that are still too binary in our contemporary societies. 

Josefin Arnell, Beast and Feast, Installation View, 2023, HD video, 25:10, single-channel video installation

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Head image : Josefin Arnell, Beast and Feast, Installation View, 2023, brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame, Cell Project Space, 2023


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