TEXTS WITNESS REPORT 2010:
ANNE MARTHE DYVI
Hordaland Art Centre is a multi-faceted institution with major ambitions, both as far as its activities and its own importance are concerned. A year's worth of exhibitions reveals a lot about these ambitions.
One of my tasks tis year has been to produce some musings about this place and institution. They asked me to observe, reflect and write it all up at the end of the year, focusing on content. I have been less concerned with the quality of the report as observation than with whether its reflections might actually help HAC improve. This has been an ambition of mine, because HAC is dear to me and all other artists and art lovers in Bergen. Ownership of a community. As this is our place, I hope my involvement as a paid up witness has been unproblematic. My considerations of the programs and activities at HAC will be sprinkled with reflections on the use WE, or I, have made of HAC. Because we are all a part of this. As the institution is there for us, we participate in shaping Hordaland Art Centre. First of all, I want HAC to be a professional venue, as well as provide a good social atmosphere. I could easily have made more use of HAC this year.
The pressures of making art, of production, tend to limit the time available for reflection and digestion. I feel the need to be a good citizen, one who works and contributes to society, and one who produces enough art. Luckily, this town provides space, not just for production, but for life and experience.
This year, the program has comprised a number of exhibitions, lectures, happenings etc., always based on art. Of particular interest is the natural and daring way in which art has been linked to a number of other disciplines, such as theology, sociology and anthropology. There are discussions and lectures by representatives of other disciplines, but based on a current exhibition. One aspect of this is what we, as audience, can learn from other people's attitudes and knowledge about the world. This is a familiar process for artists. A different aspect is what happens when these representatives get back to their own fields of expertise, having encountered the art scene with its questions, wonderment and perspective.
Maybe we leave an impression, as well.
This method may educate us to hold opinions, express them and be more involved in public debates. Considering how observant we are, artists should be a visible part of this debate.
The exhibition program
The program of exhibitions has undergone a change of character since Hordaland Art Centre was established in 1976. Structural changes of various kinds have altered the way the program is arrived at, from a system where a jury made its decisions based on applications to a curated institution with its own artistic director. There are differences of opinion when it comes to this, possibly because different people have different ideas about what HAC ought to be? And not least: Who should be the intended audience? The scope of the Art Centre should be both wide and deep, appealing both to a seasoned art audience as well as to novice visitors. This is quite a challenge in a town with such a diverse cultural scene. HAC is not the only institution trying to attract an audience.
This year's program reveals variety, both when it comes to expression, formats, media and participants. Its profile is not particularly local, but is that a necessary requirement for local institutions? Some of this year's artists relate to Bergen as such, other's don't. Still, it should be pointed out that the local connection has been a recurring theme at HAC this year, helping to tie the program together. One example of this is the project by Lutz Rainer-Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik: You only tell me you love me when you're drunk, which exhibited compositions of bits from a house at Askøy, a house that was being demolished, turning the house itself upside down. They also sent a model of the house on a world tour before they started. Both people at Askøy and others from the art scene were engrossed by the project. A different example is Archipelago, a World Map by Hamdi Attia. A large archipelago, a sort of world map placed on a glass surface inside the gallery, with place names borrowed from Palestinian areas. What exactly is a place? And how is man's relationship to a place shaped by education, the media and his own experience?
We have a recidency programme which is always an enrichment for the Art Centre and Bergen itself. The visitors often shake up our view of art, expanding our horizon in the process. I do hope our guests find the Bergen art scene a welcoming one. This of course places demands on us as an art scene. The theme of B-open this year was "To produce an art scene". Production can be a lot of things, HAC produces exhibitions, lectures and events. As participants, we are co-producers. The aim of HAC's program is to provide content. Aided by my retrospective lenses, having been there, I can tell that they have succeeded. Were you there?
Sveinung Rudjord Unneland - Palinca Pastorale
A couple of obstacles had to be cleared before entering the exhibition. Rather than make things clear, the title of an exhibition sometimes takes you far afield, making it hard to find one's way back. That is how it was with the title Palinca Pastorale. It seems more like a work in its own right than a framework for the totality of works. It is a sufficiently large mouthful to warrant some chewing. It may be translated "fruit brandy fence-ripper", awakening snippets of memories of inebriation beyond one's control. We may not have broken down fences, but we have surely done something. And those uncomfortable memories associated with it. Of hangovers. The shakes. This exhibition is not out of control, however, but it suggests the fear of losing control.
The title may provide a bridge between Unnelands humorous works of the past. I write the past, as I was unable to discover the humour mentioned in the press text.
Having searched for the humorous element in every nook and cranny, I left it alone. Only then the works were allowed their own being. And what they were, was enough. We know perfectly well that the world is not a fun place. Unneland knows that, too. An artist can get engrossed in a conflict or social problem without knowing everything about it the way a foreign correspondent does. Through these sad, fragile works Unneland dares saying things about the world. I don't always understand what he is aiming at, but I do believe it is worth listening to. Through the not so funny, but enormous champagne corks, made in China, he points to his and our position in the world. Not particularly articulate, it just is there, so we must either stumble over it or walk round it. See it. Know that this is how it is. The artist in Norway is in a position to get his art produced in China. As long as his art doesn't criticize the Chinese leadership, I suppose? Or?
The work Tapt signal (Lost signal) is another subdued message. Man's attempt at understanding man. Many of us spend hours each day decoding the people around us in an attempt to understand, so as to adjust and function in society, don't we? Here we find Hermann Rorschach squeezed in between outdated, yellowed papers. A fluorescent tube shines, an artificial attempt, either at keeping him alive or keeping in touch with him. Rorschach was the man behind the inkblots. The method which he developed in order to analyze the workings of the subconscious. The patient is shown ten cards containing different blobs before being asked to describe what he "sees". The Rorschach test is an example of one of the intersections between art, science and mysticism, and several artists have found inspiration in these blobs of ink. A tool for introspection. A bit like art in that respect.
MA-weekend: Sol Hallset - Belonging. Becoming. Being.
Our hunger for a sense of belonging. Our capacity and desire to take a leap. How high can you reach, and what are you willing to sacrifice to get there?
There is a man in Sol Hallset's drawing. He is bigger than most men. He fills the room comfortably, in spite of being two-dimensional. He is about to jump, but he has been fixed to paper before he can perform his leap, and so what we see is the possibility of a jump. The potential. Whether he succeeds in his jump, or worse, whether he chickens out and drops the attempt. Stays at home. Turns aside. We are not told. We have all been there, ready to jump. Stood outside the door of a party with many strangers present. Making a phone call to someone you haven't talked to for ages, or the way you feel in the morning when you are going to present something. Such as when you have an exhibition at HAC during the first year of your MA studies?
The object of the exercise is not to stop at the ledge, but to pass it. The ledge is small. You are only supposed to kick off from it.
There is a man in the drawing. How important is that, this man represents half of the people in the world, after all. But this is also a man who fills a whole wall in the gallery, so large that he would knock a hole in the ceiling, were the jump actually to go ahead.
Is a man's potential greater? The potential for clearing the ledge. Statistics suggest that it pays to be a man in the world of art, judging by the space given to men in art history, as well as their income. The artist standing behind him is a woman. She was given the master's weekend, and she has drawn her boyfriend. She has transformed her boyfriend into an object for artistic exploration. An experiment and a study of Man. We study man these days. Not only in art circles is he being studied. And we wonder what becoming a man is like nowadays.
This turned my thoughts to the tale about the animals who did not want to be counted by the kid goat, and Muhammad who must not be painted. The inherent power and magic of such representations. Sol Hallset has captured her boyfriend on paper. If they split up, she will be left with him, in mid-air.
The model has been a brave man, I think, for who knows what can happen when you lie down on paper for the sake of art?
Hamdi Attia - Archipelago, a World Map
Faced with Hamdi Attia's map work Archipelago, a World Map, a kind of world map sized archipelago with place names borrowed from Palestinian areas, my initial sensation is embarrassment. Ashamed that I don't know more about the world, its conflicts and history. My understanding of the world around me is like this map, fragmented. This work shows how history changes geography, and our knowledge is altered by the focus of the media. Reading all these names does not stir up emotions within me. I merely observe words, not knowing whether they signify valley, bay or whatever, unlike more familiar place names. But we do know the word Palestine, almost too well. And the apparently never-ending conflict.
But this exhibition is no tear jerker, merely dry names and cool, blue colours. Maybe because world politics and conflict resolution takes place in air-conditioned open-plan offices crammed with paper shredders. Just imagine the number of legal-size sheets of paper that have covered the Palestinian conflict. Or the chain of paper clips covering the time span from 1948 onwards. When does a conflict originate? The battle between David and Goliath, nice little David against that big brute Goliath, is a conflict where choosing sides present absolutely no problem. David and Goliath represent the simplest way of interpreting conflicts, being symbols of the battle between good and evil, a battle familiar within Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike. According to Christian teaching, David was an Israelite, Goliath a Philistine. The Philistines came from Philistia, an area covering roughly the area now known as the Gaza Strip. The name Palestine also originated here. David and Goliath fought a long time ago, but it would appear that today's conflicts are a chain stretching throughout history. Way back in time.
Cartography is an interesting phenomenon, not least an interesting instrument. The history of map-making is a bloody one, considering the use of maps in warfare. Alfred Korzybski, the philosopher, said, "The map is not the territory". Hamdi Attia goes further than that, as his map is not a map, but rather a construction mirroring our ignorance about the world and the impotence of our open-plan offices.
Vanna Bowles - Wild Tree
Is it possible to be enchanted by quality when technique and design get all the attention at an exhibition?
In many ways, this is the most contradictory criticism that can be raised: it is too good? Too well executed, too poetic. That was what struck me the first time I visited this exhibition. I was so delighted and impressed with the work that had gone into it, I was not able to listen to the art itself. Luckily, I returned for another look. By then I had contemplated the time it must take to cross-hatch a thorn bush, or colour a parrot grey. In her drawings, Vanna Bowles has created a world, switching between fiction and reality with ease. In her drawn world, she has also constructed the history of that drawn world, interweaving it with the history of the real world. An archive of poetics. The artist has drawn poetry, even given us illustrations of the phenomenon.
The drawing seems deafeaning because the work is so demanding. A different fulcrum of this exhibition, but less loud, is the role of photography. Vanna Bowles uses photography to thematize its position in our day and age, our history, and the exhibition itself. In fact, she uses pictures taken by others as if they were her very own. Through private pictures she forces us to come face to face with strangers, by placing them so close to us. Because we are all very similar, and my history is similar to yours.
Lutz Rainer-Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik - You only tell me you love me when you're drunk
This is the tale of the work versus the work. The documentation of the work, versus the work. Where does a work of art begin and end? You only tell me you love me when you're drunk is many things, all at once. The impact of a sculpture via travels by mail, as well as a sort of reconstruction of the sculpture as a copy of a house at Askøy, near Bergen. The house was stripped, taken apart and put together again according to the model and the artists' instructions. Lutz Rainer-Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik have also filled HAC with different sculptures made from debris of the real house, which is due to be demolished anyway. Merely trying to work out what came first can be quite a challenge, but it may not be all that important. What is for sure, is that myth creation and the telling of stories are demanding tasks; tasks that are not made any easier by inviting an audience to the place where the myth was created – the house at Askøy. The fact that the media are so heavily involved, might also interfere with the project. That's a lot of balls to juggle. Those of us who wanted to, could see the real house at the opening, accompanied by hot dogs from the garage and a presentation of the project by Randi Grov Berger and Eva Rem Hansen; Stedsspesifikt foredrag (Site specific lecture). What is site specific, challenges the place, but the place itself can certainly challenge the work when the place turns into a social assembly point for art. And what is the role of art in all this? According to the artists, it is precisely here and there and everywhere.
The artists also discuss the interesting relationship, or partnership, between art and architecture. Close ties can make for clammy results, and both of these clamoured for the final word in this work; is the house architecture or sculpture, and what is a house, anyway? The title of the work may be the fragment of a mumbled conversation between art and architecture at the bedside, after a passionate contact; You only tell me you love me when you're drunk. From studio, then abroad, then Askøy and finally the town. Quite a route!
Øyvind Renberg and Miho Shimizu – Upstream
Right, art is a commodity, as well. Just like sex and love can be a commodity. Also style, and coolness. But there is something about that honesty which I often encounter at galleries and academies of art, talking to artists. This is a serious matter, and sales is just a minor comma in the novel about life and art. In Upstream most things are for sale; if you would like to, you could probably buy the lot, including the record player and the black cheese. This would probably merely relieve the artists of the weight that has broken down a king size rat at the exhibition. Everything we haul along with us, owning it. These artists want to continue their journey and their explorations, so they are selling off stuff as they go, in order to continue their travels. Casting off. Every time. However, what they are happy to take with them, are the experiences the journeys provide; they don't weigh anything.
Shimizu and Renberg are writing their own story, leaving a number of mass-produced objects, like china and vinyls, behind. These objects are not randomly chosen, they represent exports whose visual form have long spoken of distant places and cultures. Bearers of a visual culture. Imported china from China, record sleeves with illustrations of steel drums on sandy beaches, or flared trousers in Abbey Road. This exhibition fuses place, colour and references to visual culture, turning it all over gently in an atmosphere of easy listening they have created at the gallery. They paint a lovely, evocative world, using fragments of that same world. Layer upon layer. Cut and paste. Mouse and cat.
MA-weekend: Therese Hoen – The frame consists of nothing but this
Form and content. Content and form. Quite simply, Therese Hoen's exhibition, Rammen består ikke av noe annet enn dette (The frame consists of nothing but this) deals with the great challenge of art production as such; how do we manage to fill form with content. Life demands content as life itself is constructed on top of the absurd; to live, and then die. Society is full of form; advertising campaigns, rituals, colourful designs that can tell all and sundry how clever we are, all sorts of small talk. The contents we pour into these forms sometimes taste rather watered-down. Like heavily diluted drinks we consume in large quantities every year. As Therese Hoen constructs a house from her framework, she makes us consider it as house, home, family and property. What is of importance to us? It is practically impossible to say what contents is and draw the line between content and form. In the context of the present exhibition, the artist encourages us to provide the content ourselves. Home and lived life, what is that to you? What have you spent your allotted time doing? In this context, hinges of china are artistic effects. Coarse 2x2 inch timber joined together using components of white china which she has produced herself. A dramatic meeting of materials, reminding us how fragile constructions can be. There is no room for broken parts.
aiPotu (Anders Kjellesvik and Andreas Siqueland) - Leila
Imagine you want to take a trip to an island, but end up not getting there. The island is a military site, no one is allowed to go ashore. Or that you want to visit an institution of culture, such as HAC, and you find it wrapped up in plastic and a huge tent. An institution that is no longer accessible. But this time by the work of two artists, rather than a military power. We all experience different degrees of accessibility in society, as far as social mobility and opportunities are concerned. We hold very different hands in that respect.
Anything from the politics of political asylum to cultural belonging can inhabit aiPotu's transformed art room. Will you step inside? Who is taken aside in customs, being made to empty the contents of suitcases and take off their socks? Not me. And I slip easily through the entrance at HAC, as well.
Through their transformation, these artists criticize the prevailing arrogance of the galleries, as well as their inaccessibility.
Inside the gallery we come across a number of sadly fragile works embodying the experience of not getting through. The book, which is wrapped in plastic and cannot be opened, The flying carpet, lying completely still on the wooden floor. Not belonging. Not being able to escape one's own condition.
Including the audience is important for aiPotu, and for fear that a possible audience might drift by, they occupy the outside of the institution. The public space offers many possibilities, as this is where the public may be encountered. December is a sad month. The gap separating expectations when Christmas morning climaxes is out of step with the lack of closeness inherent in gifts bought at J B Sports. Though aiPotu makes the institution inaccessible, it is also an embracing gesture. A desperate hug directed at those who walk past, as well as to the frigid walls of Klosteret in December. Artists need a place where they can be seen, and they need someone to see them. What are the circumstances of art these days? What are the circumstances of people these days? We could all do with a hug.