Acts of Refusal: Barthol Lo Mejor
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Barthol Lo Mejor
Barthol Lo Mejor, born Pärtel Vissak (*1988, Tartu), is a cultural multi-instrumentalist living in Tartu. In addition to visual art, he composes and plays electronic club music, writes, and designs clothes and jewelry. Barthol Lo Mejor strives for intertwining his different forms of creativity, making his work considerable within the theoretical context of the gesamtkunstwerk.
He graduated from the department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu in 2011. This spring, Barthol Lo Mejor participated in the Y Gallery exhibition Applied Semiotics, in which four artists with a background in semiotics produced new mental tools on the basis of theoretical know-how. He erected an altar dedicated to pop icons, made of digital paintings in the gallery, and invited the visitors to bring sacrificial offerings and ask for redemption from K8 Mosh, a part-cyborg, part-synthesizer and part-super model character.
Barthol Lo Mejor’s literary work (his first book was titled Popdada 2007–2008) tests the plasticity of the Estonian language and addresses primarily 21st century teenagers, whose reading logic unfolds in a increasingly dream-like style, compared with previous genera- tions. Different chapters of the book are not necessarily connected to neighboring chapters, and one may start reading the book from a random page, in the same way one would step on the dance floor without really caring what the last song was. His paintings and design objects are also made in the imagery of pop culture, making use of celebrities, models, fashion, pop music, pop art, teen-culture etc. Barthol Lo Mejor simply likes pop imagery and in this sense his work affirms pop culture.
Still, one has to point out that his take on pop is exaggerated and consciously kitschy, which places his work in the realm of “Pop will eat itself,” which is a rather pedagogic position in the moral sense of things. The artist uses and reinterprets the homogenizing visual language of pop culture, creating from the position of protest a personal, richly detailed and completely self-sufficient world that the cogs of the pop industry cannot embrace and place into mass production.
Barthol Lo Mejor’s new work, produced for Acts of Refusal, shows a formally more minimalist side of the artist. In the three digital prints Shades of Grey, the symbols of the British Pound Sterling, the Euro and the Dollar are repeated very closely, covering the whole surface without a gap. From farther away, the images seem to display different shades of grey and only upon closer inspection the structure of the symbols becomes discernable. The visual experience resembles looking at an Op-art piece as it is hard to focus on one single sign and the image seems to dance in front of the viewers’ eye. The mechanical precision of the pattern is interrupted only by a small error
Barthol Lo Mejor’s ASCII art1 piece alludes to the digital creation of images and to the virtual space they inhabit; a space that exists as a possibility, not an actuality. In this case, the piece deals with the symbolic space of money and points to the fact that money is by nature virtual, symbolic, a possibility. By inserting an error, Barthol Lo Mejor highlights the symbol as such – as a sign that gains meaning by repetition of the same and not because it means something of essential quality. As such, the piece raises questions about the stability of any given system, idea and order – resonating with the aftermath of the latest financial crisis and the current discussions about Eurobonds, the weakness of the Dollar and the singularity of the Pound as one of the few currencies in Europe that have remained outside of the monetary union.