Balder Olrik

Balder Olrik was 16 in 1982 when he became one of the youngest students ever to be admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Over the next 16 years he was able to make his breakthrough with great success as one of the striking Danish visual artists of the nineties at galleries and museums both in Denmark and abroad.
Photography David Stjernholm

For some years Germany, Italy, France and the USA became his workplaces. His subsequent sudden withdrawal as an artist in the traditional sense therefore came as a great surprise. His fascination with the Internet was greater, and at first led to the web artwork The Incident and later also to digital, commercial media models based on Balder Olrik’s theories of mass behaviour and collective consciousness. The new course encountered a good deal of scepticism from both the art and the commercial world, which however, 16 years later, with the sale of the company GoViral and a number of digital inventions, was put to shame. In 2014 Olrik experienced a renewed desire and energy to resume the work with art and therefore said goodbye to the digital media world.

Now a new 16-year cycle has started with a brand new mode of artistic expression. Whether this is a ‘comeback’ or a natural continuation of the artistic enterprise that started during his Academy years, must be up to the viewer to decide. Balder Olrik thinks it is the latter. His most recent artworks could not have been created without the behavioural-theory observations he has made outside the world of art.

The exhibition System 2 explores what we see, and what we unconsciously choose not to see. The title System 2 refers to the behavioural researcher and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s model for the two perception sys¬tems of the brain, “Systems 1 & 2”. The first, the automatic System 1, has the function of expending as little energy as possible on what we surround ourselves with – recognizing the already-familiar only to forget it again. Only when System 1 lacks information does System 2 come into play. System 2, the second system, has the ability to analyse and develop awareness. By influencing and preventing System 1’s routines, Balder Olrik gives us the opportunity to see what we otherwise overlook.

In Balder Olrik’s latest series of pictures some “pieces of the jigsaw” are missing. The pictures do not match the reality we otherwise know and recognize. If we look closer, the eyes discover that it has been led astray. The mute, monochrome areas of the surface tell us stories about recognizable gestalts in modern society – carpark notices, the roller coaster of the amusement park, the small shops in the suburbs and the architectural mam¬moths in the concrete city. But the coloured areas, the deliberately unsettling omitted elements, also let the thoughts and the imagination digress.

With the blockage of information – of text, signage or graphic identity – that the areas represent, Balder Olrik seems to be diverting our attention to the part of reality that we often do not notice.

Balder Olrik was born in 1966 in Virum. He went to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1982-1985 and in 1996 received the Danish Art Foundation’s three-year working grant. He is represented in several public collections including those of the Danish Arts Foundation, Denmark, Esbjerg Museum of Art, Denmark and the Ball State University Museum, Indiana, USA. In addition he was a co-founder of the Internet company GoViral and has developed a number of apps and other digital inventions.