TEXTS RETROSPECTIVE CATALOGUE 2010
Art is also reality
Foreword to Retrospective Catalogue 2010 by Anne Szefer Karlsen (director, Hordaland Art Centre).
There is a language which operates outside both theory and the private sphere, even next to politics. This is the language of society, a language that should be encouraged and developed. This language is spoken by all societies, and it possesses the power to change society itself. One of its dialects is art. Art can speak with a political accent, an intimate accent, a poetic accent, a philosophical accent, as well as many other accents, but it must never surrender its own dialect.
This year's program has provided space for artists who through their works have discussed issues arising from other societal dialects, such as history, geography, literature, architecture and design, but without surrendering their own voice. Through six exhibitions and many other events we have observed the world of today, and this year's Retrospective catalogue, the second of its kind, once more turns the year inside out so we can observe them as a whole. This totality is the voice of Hordaland Art Centre in society – a voice that can only be discovered through cooperation with artists and other thinkers.
The year began with Sveinung Rudjord Unneland's solo exhibition, Palinca Pastorale, consisting of several works put together in the form of a discussion. All these works were aesthetically pleasing and balanced, though sketches of torture chambers and questionable production methods were lurking just beneath the surface. Artist Thomas Hestvold was commissioned to write a reflection on Unneland's works for the exhibition. Hestvold does more than that, through art he envisages the potential for general reflections. Such as: Let it be clear: Doubt and scepticism are the prime prerequisites for cultural and intellectual development. Where distrust, criticism and wry looks are suppressed, you get stagnation, surveillance and terror. As a conclusion to this exhibition period, Paul Otto Brunstad, priest, academic and author, was asked to talk about how borders divide and unite, simultaneously functioning as stop points and meeting points, and how limitations are the birth place, both of hope and creativity.
In January, Hordaland Art Centre also was invited to Umeå, Sweden, to recreate the 2009 exhibition DIG IT, thus becoming the first Outside project of the year. Aided by our hosts, the artist-run gallery Verkligheten, curator Linus Elmes and I, assembled works that the artists themselves consider important to their work. Once again, we had a collection of works reflecting a variety of political, social or ideological attitudes, and considering the importance they still have for their owners, they provided a close reading of how artists relate to a more informal visual practice. DIG IT is a flexible exhibition situation, and through the constant moving about, endless iconographical geographies are constructed. The artistic practices of Anna Eliasson, Per Enoksson, Rebecka Adelhult Feklistoff, Kent Gustafsson, Ida Hansson, Johanna Larsson, Allan Mattsson and Ulla Thøgersen take shape against the backdrop of these works, at least in part.
The exhibition of a single work by Hamdi Attia, curated by Abdellah Karroum, became the second solo exhibitions this spring. Entitled Archipelago, a World Map, it presented a fictional world encompassing arguments about what representations hide or reveal, the relationship between history and geography, as well as the role of artists in society. Cartographic fragments of Palestinian terretories created an image of a potential world. Through his interview with the artist, Karroum reveals how this work can be viewed in connection with a long-term commitment. One of the claims made is, What separates art from activism, is the degree of poetic expression. Matthew Flintham, the British researcher and artist, lectured on his long-term research project Parallel Landscapes, where he discusses physical and invisible aspects of military power projections, the mapping of territories, and how the state positions itself, with particular reference to the United Kingdom.
The third solo exhibition was Vanna Bowles' Wild Tree, where we encounter a universe of drawing. The exhibition was directly tied in with fiction, and as the creation of the works for the exhibition progressed, author and artist Linn Cecilie Ulvin produced texts that were partly a part of the exhibition, but that could partly be read independently of it, such as the longish text, Det utilgivelige, angeren og historier om den tause skogen (The unforgivable, remorse and histories about the silent forest), which can be found in this catalogue. Through a number of observations, we witness someone walking away: She looks around. She has never been in this area before. What if she doesn’t run into a single soul for weeks? She cannot expect help from anyone in the forest. If she needs help, she must go back the same way she came. But she can’t go back. Not now. Now everyone knows about her infatuation. What would she do in town? Stagger around the streets on her own? A book was also published in connection with this exhibition. The artist James Webb was asked to re-narrate his exhibition One day, all of this will be yours, which had recently been on show at Blank Projects in Cape Town; thus we gathered different artists' views on narrative; Bowles' fragmented and associative approach, and Webb's, which was strictly chronological.
After the summer break, we set out to explore artistic collaboration through a series of three exhibitions, each of them created by two artists, to explore how this collaboration might manifest itself. First, a general observation: The projects became broader, reaching beyond the walls of our exhibition space. A common denominator of all these exhibitions is that preparations have involved journeys and movement.
First off the mark were Lutz-Rainer Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik with their two-part exhibition You only tell me you love me when you're drunk, where one part was presented at Hordaland Art Centre and the other at 67 Holmedalshammaren, Askøy, near Bergen. The artists turned the house at 67 Holmedalshammaren into a sculpture. This house was from a different era, having been built during the winter of 1956–57. In the old days, houses were built for eternity, while these days homes have become an investment, more than a dear necessity. At least according to the media, where talk about properties is just as much talk about money. As Norway has changed from a nation of sensible rationing of most things to a country of extreme opulence, our relationship with our surroundings has changed, as well. The two artists created a model of the house and sent it around the world, poorly wrapped up. The model travelled via Beijing to Sydney, New York and Paris. The sculpture at Askøy is a recreation of the model as it appeared on its return. The materials that were removed from 67 Holmedalshammaren, have been used to create the exhibition at Hordaland Art Centre. The German curator Petra Reichensperger wrote the text Rapporter fra Hinterland (Dispatches from the Hinterland) for this project, where she, among other things, described how the artists consider unpredictability a quality in itself. One night during the exhibition period, people were invited to a site specific lecture by art historian Eva Rem Hansen and artist and curator Randi Grov Berger in the garage at 67 Holmedalshammaren. They discussed the place of the sculpture, and the project as a whole, both as part of artistic tradition, but also in specific political discussions about local land-use planning and the establishment of industries.
During September we had our second Outside project of the year, Knitting Concert by Victoria Brännström. This work, which was presented on a Saturday morning at the Grieg Hall, was an experimental sound work, as well as being a feminist action. As the result of long-term collaboration with Bergen Husflidslag (Bergen Folk Art and Craft Association), the artist assembled a group of some 40 women who were asked to knit a concert. The concert was produced by placing the women in an orchestra-like formation with microphones fastened to their knitting needles while they knitted, directed by Halldis Rønning and transformed by DJ Ingrid Grønli Åm. During the last couple of years, Brännström's focus has been on investigating different kinds of hierarchies, also the status of traditional female tasks and crafts in today's world. So as to underline the themes she is working on at any given time, she has also infused the processes she employs during her work with separatist feminist methods. This also characterizes the process employed in the project Knitting Concert. The product is just as important for traditional handicrafts as for modern production, but in the case of crafts and handicrafts, the associations to the process leading towards the result point in quite different directions than just the result. The time involved, the motivation required to reach the destination, as well as one's desire and memories, are important associations that are brought into play during this performance. Ethnologist Ingrid Birce Müftüoḡlu was present at the concert and has written the text Women, hands and knitting needles. She writes, These clicking sounds, which neither will nor can string together into meaningful words, make a refined counterpoint to the idea of knitting as a female art of craft. During the struggle for women's liberation in the 1970s, knitting and other traditional female activities were harnessed to shape the contents of a new female culture. This was the decade when the concept of politics was widened.
Next, during the second exhibition of the autumn, we were presented with the universe inhabited by Øyvind Renberg and Miho Shimizu: Upstream. They are always concerned with analyzing our relationship with the world of images and the mass-produced objects surrounding us. This exhibition presented both old and new works, as well as studies for future works. Thus they pointed both backwards and forwards in time. While all the works were presented in a black gallery space. Upstream pointed forwards as they have been involved in a travelling residency in Hardanger, in order to create a work, an Asian picture scroll for Hordaland Art Centre's Outside series next year. In preparation for this future work they have, among other things, taken a closer look at the stereotypical view of nature so common in Norway, and how our visual memory has largely been influenced by mass-produced photographs. In her text Upstream, curator and writer Denise Carvalho writes: The Dérive within the Immersion about the scroll: It serves as a matrix to rethink ideas of relationships, environmental awareness, visual perception, and performative experience. Here, storytelling can be both historically oriented and organically re-contextualized as narrative, with a beginning and an end. Their watercolours, for example, show a post-humanist narrative in which birds and animals from the region gather to help each other from drowning against a seascape of melting glaziers and majestic flaming skies, a clear critique on a manmade environmental disaster. One of their earlier works, the china set Rio, produced by Figgjo, could be seen at the exhibition, as well as purchased from the coffee shop Sakristiet, at Bryggen. Thus, this exhibition also had a life outside the gallery. In connection with the exhibition, anthropologist Charlotte Bik Bandlien presented an introduction to the dynamic interaction between the ethnographic turn in art and the representational crisis in anthropology.
During the autumn, Hordaland Art Centre co-curated the exhibition Zwischenraum: Space Between at Kunstverein Hamburg in Germany, in association with SWG3 of Glasgow. Thus this became our third Outside project of the year. This was another exploration of collaboration, both between institutions, between the participating artists: Oliver Bulas, Nick Evans, Julia Horstmann, Alon Levin, Cato Løland, Ingrid Lønningdal and Ciara Phillips, as well as other invited guests. Through a number of meetings between curators Annette Hans, Jamie Kenyon and myself, we developed a framework for the artists who were invited to attend, which gradually turned into a residency programme. The format was presented to the public in these words: A known unknown is something we know that we don't know. Inviting a number of artists to inhabit an art institution for a set amount of time is to invite uncertainty and the unknown into the exhibition space. Having decided not to impose a thematic connection between the works in this exhibition, we knew that each artist's urge to create and participate would be manifested, and art would happen, but at the same time we knew that we wouldn’t know what kind of creations, contributions and works would happen. We use the word "happen" deliberately, as the exhibition that welcomes you has been created on a residency platform which is both a part of the process prior to and a part of the exhibition. Thus the artists themselves are present within the framework of the exhibition. Due to this platform, it becomes possible for them to influence the exhibition, also while the public has access to it.. During the six week long exhibition period, the exhibition was installed twice, underwent minor changes throughout the whole period, and was accompanied by an extensive side programme, including lectures and reading circles created as a joint effort by the artists, curators and the hosting institution.
The last exhibition of the year was Leila by de artist duo aiPotu, the artists Anders Kjellesvik and Andreas Siqueland. Various concepts of inaccessibility connected with land areas, history, old traditions and knowledge were discussed through a series of sculptures inside the exhibition room as well as an extensive alteration to the exterior of Hordaland Art Centre. Like the two other duo exhibitions, this one also started with a journey. In March of 2009 the artists were challenged to visit the island Leila in the Strait of Gibraltar, in view of their ongoing project, The Island Tour. They made the journey, but they never reached their destination. The island has been a no-man's land since 2002, when a conflict over sovereignty nearly turned into a military confrontation between Spain and Morocco. The island is still under close military surveillance, and it is known by several official names: The origin of the Moroccan name Leila is the Spanish word "La Isla", meaning "the island". The Spanish refer to the island as parsley – "Perejil”, while the Berber name is "Tura", meaning "empty". The exhibition invited artist and critic Zachary Cahill to offer his thoughts about the project; his review was available already at the opening, saying among other things, The island appears to be unremarkable enough, save for its peculiar status as an island in exile. The island is, in a sense, a reverse panopticon. It is this quality of visibility to which the exhibition alludes, which may be thought of as hiding in plain sight. He wrote a longer reflection, as well, also printed in this catalogue. In connection with this exhibition, we screened the film Tameksaout by the film-maker Ivan Boccara. Throughout years of studies and immersion in the subject, Boccara has kept track of several Berber families and different social processes in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. This film from 2005 portrays a shepherd family where feeding the animals is not the only everyday concern, but also to keep the fire alive. The film is a slow-moving portrait of three generations faced with a changing world.
Besides the six exhibitions described above, we have made a tradition of asking two MA students from Bergen National Academy of the Arts to create a Master's weekend. In the spring, art student Sol Hallset presented her exhibition Belonging. Becoming. Being, which, in the shape of a simple drawing of a human figure, confronted us with the question, "what does it mean to be human". Hallset enlarged the proportions of the figure to fit between ceiling and roof in the exhibition space, thus making her discussion visible. Being human is not just a question about the relationship between one's inner self and an outer surface or facade, but also about one's relationship to other people. We are concerned, not just with our outward appearance and how others perceive us, we are also constantly comparing ourselves with our surroundings. This autumn's art student was Therese Hoen; in her exhibition, The frame consists of nothing but this, a reflection about a house served as her starting point. Following a process where a number of people drew their own plans of the same house, she created a work without allusions to themes like property and ownership. At the exhibition, this house was held together by memories and fragile armatures made of china, creating a new plan of the house which people could step into.
Involving young artists is a tradition at Hordaland Art Centre, and recently we have also invited young art historians to add to our activities. We have noticed that by asking non-artists to scrutinize art and its domain, we get a wider discussion, one that is of use to all involved parties. Besides those who have contributed their reflections on art in connection with exhibitions, young art historians have presented their projects and research findings to an open audience during a series of lectures called Master's Night. Thus we would like to create a meeting ground for students and professionals within the art scene, and facilitate closer contact between the academic scene and art practice in Bergen.
In addition to being an institution exhibiting and communicating art, Hordaland Art Centre is also a centre for professional debate. This becomes particularly obvious during B-open, where we coordinate open studios and seminars. This year the entire programme had the same title as the seminar: To produce an art scene. Like last year, we invited an observer to attend the seminar – Susanne Christensen, literary and art critic. Her text is also included in this catalogue.
We always want to contribute to discussion and be ever generous with the thoughts arising within our sphere. And so we invite all our guests from the residency programme to talk about their work, a theme that is of special interest to them, or their plans for the future, as they visit Bergen. We have been presented with a wide range of activities and reflections, indeed, we have even been invited on a picnic. During 2010 our guests have been: Hyunjin Kim (curator, South Korea), Margret Holz (artist, Germany), Daniela Castro (writer and curator, Brazil), Marco Bruzzone (artist, Italy/Germany), Bertram Haude (artist, Germany), Juan Andres Gaitán (art historian and curator, Canada/Holland), Maija Rudovska (art historian and curator, Latvia), Cécile Belmont (artist, France/Germany), Johan Lundh (curator, Sweden) and LeRoy Stevens (artist, USA).
In addition to facilitating public debate, we also want to be an open-minded place with space for different explorations. Our collaboration with two other institutions, Baltic Art Center – BAC in Visby and The Factory of Art & Design, FFKD in Copenhagen, has resulted in the creation of a Collaborative Research Residency where a group consisting of three collaborationg partners come together for a month to research and investigate a subject of their own choosing. The first group to be welcomed to Bergen was Miriam Fumarola, Marti Manen and Katarina Stenkvist, who set about investigating the possibility of new thinking about gender and representation within the art institution. They invited Olav Fumarola Unsgaard to be their guest. Together they want to develop viable methods by studying the interaction of different forms of discriminatory power structures, and during December they will both lead a presentation and hold a workshop for members of the public who are interested in the subject. Namik Mackic, Samir M’kadmi and Camilla Shim Winge visited BAC, and Andjeas Ejiksson, Virginija Januškevičiūtė and Valentinas Klimašauskas visited FFKD.
Once again this year, we have had a witness, someone who has observed the institution throughout the year. The artist Anne Marthe Dyvi, who graduated from Bergen National Academy of the Arts this year, has presented her reflections about Hordaland Art Centre, what it is and might be, in the text Promemoria (Memo).
In closing, let it be said that we will continue our exhibitions, presentations and residency programmes in 2011, but on top of all that, we will mark Hordaland Art Centre's 35th anniversary. We wish you all welcome to a jubilee programme which will manifest itself throughout the whole year!