Josefin Arnell & Max Göran: brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame

Josefin Arnell & Max Göran: brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame

Cell Project Space

Josefin Arnell, Max Göran, 2023. Courtesy of the artists.

December 5, 2023
Josefin Arnell & Max Göran
brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame
December 8, 2023–February 25, 2024
Cell Project Space
258 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA
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In their first UK two-person exhibition, brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame, Josefin Arnell and Max Göran present new moving image installations featuring truckers, horse girls, and the police, all caught up in yearning for their lost and unattainable objects. Whilst the exhibition brings the artists’ individual practices in dialogue for the first time, its title stems from the motto devised by Arnell and Göran in 2014 for their long-standing collective work under the alias of “HellFun”. 

Spanning two floors, the exhibition is set up as a showdown between the horse beyond reach, and the emancipating, CO2-emitting automobile. It begins with a daytime party murder scene and a policewoman’s search for her perfect horse (Josefin Arnell, Beast and Feast, 2023). Upstairs, an artist-cum-trucker journeys through unending days at a place where the sun never sets (Max Göran, Dieseline Dreams, 2023), and on a Mitsubishi Carisma’s last day on earth, it returns from dusk to dawn hopping on and off Berlin’s landmarks and unremarked side views (Max Göran, Mitsubishi Hop-on, Hop-off—Grand Finale, 2023). 

Both in their individual and collective work, the artists use humour, class references and absurdity, mining their own life facts, such as far from perfect parental structures, to fictionalise themselves into versions of the Self unhinged from the super-ego or guided by a childlike Id. Having met as art students, “brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame” became a principle through which to make work sidelining artworld pressures while pushing each other’s boundaries with “deep love for one another alongside some violence & destruction”. 

Unattainable objects in the form of the horse and the car, recurring symbols and motifs in Arnell and Göran’s respective practices, often become containers for newly-found agency, affection, obsession, melancholia and tainted power. In brave and pathetic is better than drowning in shame, these appear as indispensable prostheses to fantasies of a life lived in freedoms, or fitting in.

Curator Adomas Narkevičius.

Josefin Arnell (Ljusnedal, Sweden) lives and works in Amsterdam. In 2015 and 2016 she participated in the residency programme at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. In 2018 she won the Theodora Niemeijer Prijs for emerging female artists in the Netherlands. She is nominated for the 2023 edition of Prix de Rome, Netherlands. In addition to her solo work, she is involved in multiple collaborations and together with Max Göran, she forms the artist duo HellFun. Places where her work has been shown include: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; WIELS, Brussels; UKS, Oslo; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; Athens Biennale; Moscow International Biennale for Young Art; Auto Italia, London; Kunsthalle Münster, Rencontres Internationales, Paris/Berlin and IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Josefin Arnell’s Beast and Feast (2023) is commissioned by Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, and presented in a current group exhibition Fever Dream, November 17, 202–March 3, 2024.

Max Göran is an artist and filmmaker who lives and works between Berlin and Sweden. He holds an MFA from Goldsmiths (2020–22) and has studied with Professor Josephine Pryde at the Berlin University of the Arts (2015–19). His first solo exhibition was at Jenny’s Gallery in Los Angeles in 2019 and his work has also been shown at festivals and in group exhibitions at galleries and institutions such as Galerie Neu; CPH:DOX, Kasseler Dokfest; the 7th Edition of the Athens Biennale; New Contemporaries; Kunstverein München, European Media Art Festival. Together with artist Josefin Arnell, he forms the duo HellFun.

Generously supported by the IFA, Mondriaan Fund, Goethe Institut London, Region Örebro Iän, Film I Västerbotten, Cockayne Foundation and the Netherlands Embassy in the United Kingdom.

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Cell Project Space
December 5, 2023

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