Niklas Taleb, Solo Yolo, photography detail, 2023
Niklas Taleb: Solo Yolo
Jun 24 – Aug 13, 2023
Cell Project Space
London, UK

Solo Yolo, Essen-based artist Niklas Taleb’s first UK solo exhibition, explores material relations and emotional transitions of the everyday – being (or having a) solo, coming-of-age, settling down, individuating, communing and assimilating, considered through and as photographic forms & formulas.

The half-melancholic, half-facetious twist on the exuberant millennial You Only Live Once mindset of the early social media era (#yolo), a lived mantra of trust fund babies, and a coping strategy for those priced out of the previous generation’s stability, Solo Yolo suggests reality hitting home as the dust of the pandemic years settles.

Niklas Taleb’s photographs extend from the inside out. The exact site of this interior is rigorously non-specific, an opening that encloses, conceals. Picking up spots and smudges of everyday life, the camera works from within it; from within the quite literal messiness of a child-rearing home, the almost inevitable circumstance of early parenthood, and from within the messy, prescriptive nature of middle-class relations – familial, convivial, professional and incidental.

Making use of the much-theorised family photography and snapshot genres, Taleb’s photographs abstain from reflecting on their obligatory core concerns – narrative construction, class dynamics, identity performance and ideological reproduction. As Solo Yolo works through the codes (of lived experience, and of photography), assimilation into existing cultural and social life is the state of affairs. Its flow is for the photographs to fragment and unpick.

Refusing to tell stories or counter-stories, reproduce lives or set memories, Solo Yolo gradually extends to nearer and farther proximities between people. The photographs attune to moments of idle time. The poker player has not slept for hours, the dad on parental leave watching TV waits with him. The child’s asleep, and so we wait too. In supposed unproductive time of very real alertness (the poker player can’t quit the bluff, the child is about to wake up), Niklas Taleb stages general forms for particular affects. As these forms become formations, a strange clarity saunters in aimlessly.