Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fra Angelico, "Annunciation"

Fra Angelico, "Annunciation" 1438-1445. Museo di San Marco, Firenze.

This Renaissance fresco painted by Fra Angelico shows a moment which is quite crucial to the fast approaching Christmas holiday: The moment when Archangel Gabriel gave Mary a message that must have seemed quite overwhelming to her.

She is visited by an angel who either is about to tell her - or just has told her - some pretty devastating news. But she looks so calm. And her simple surroundings - the barren walls and the stool she sits on - accentuate her modest, but intent gaze. Mary and her visitor look at each other, both slightly bowing their heads, and they hold their hands in identical positions.

Even though they are situated below different arches, on each side of a column, their calm attentiveness towards each other makes them seem close. And the depth and space that is created by lines of perspective further enhance their intimacy.

Fra Angelico has created a balanced composition, where only the cell-like window far off in the back may distract us from the quiet action in the foreground. The architecture that surrounds the protagonists of this story is very similar to the architecture at the convent where Fra Angelico has painted the fresco, the San Marco Convent in Firenze. His "Annunciation" is the first painting you see as you ascend the stairs to the first floor, where the monks' cells are (many of them have beautiful frescos by Fra Angelico, as well):

Photo: roma-antica.

Fra Angelico has painted several Annunciations (most of them on panel), and in all that I have seen, Gabriel wears a similar dress made from beautiful gold adorned material.

Fra Angelico, "Annunciation", 1433, detail.

In this version Gabriel points up towards God and over towards Mary.

Fra Angelico, "Annunciation", 1433, detail. Museo Diocesano, Cortona.

And as you can see here, this earlier version does not emit the same quiet contemplative mood as the San Marco fresco does:

Fra Angelico, "Annunciation" 1438-1445. Museo di San Marco, Firenze.

Fra Angelico's depiction of this momentous moment will be my Merry Christmas post to you, and my last post this year.


I have had some great moments myself this year (though not quite as defining as the one Mary experienced a couple of thousand years ago...). Several of them have been about meeting people I have not seen in a long time. Thank you so much for showing up in my life again! (You know who you are:-)

Also, while talking about calmly accepting what the moment brings (like Mary does), I want to thank my beautiful yoga teacher, Kari, for making me more able to cut through the grime and experience quiet moments of physical and spiritual enlightenment.

I am so happy I started writing MOMENT/C this fall. It gives me great joy. Thank you so much for visiting, and welcome back early next year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Art and architecture

The Main Post Office in Bergen,1961. Monumental painting: Rolf W. Syrdahl's «Postens formidlere».
Photo: bt.no: Birkhaug and Omdal

This beautiful interior is from around 1960 (the building was finished in 1956), and does no longer exist. What was originally the Main Post Office in Bergen, Norway, has now been turned into a mall, and it is totally changed.

I had one of my earliest moments of aesthetic satisfaction while waiting on line in this grand room when I was quite young. - Can you se how beautifully all the details in the room merge together? The very light frames around the windows that face a flight of stairs towards the street outside. The globe light pendants out there in the hallway. The slim furniture design with matching tables and benches. The typography of the signs.

- And do you get a sense of the overall light and spacious feeling the room gives? This is primarily achieved by a large skylight, which also benefits the huge painting above the ceiling.

That monumental work consists of several panels. It is 20 meters wide and 3 meters tall, and it was painted by Rolf Syrdahl to fit this particular space. The subject matter of this frieze-like painting is the important work that is done by those who distribute and deliver mail, and it fits very well into the long tradition of monumental painting that contributed to the building of a national consciousness and social democratic values in a relatively young nation.

This whole interior, which is elevated from the street outside, serves almost as a shrine to the postal service as an institution of great importance in society. But that is not really my main point today. What I would rather like to point out, is how perfectly Rolf Syrdahl's artwork was integrated with the architecture in the old post office.

Photo: bt.no: Ørjan Deisz

When the old post office was turned into a mall, Rolf Syrdahl's painting was taken down and stored in a basement for many years. But yesterday it was unveiled at its new location, at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen.

It has been restored and cleaned to get back its beautiful colors. And although its new location is far less ideal than the original one, the painting can again be viewed in a building that is open to the public.

Photo: Wyatting

Monday, December 13, 2010

There's a certain Slant of light

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons --
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --
'Tis the Seal Despair --
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --
Shadows -- hold their breath --
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death --
(Emily Dickinson, c. 1861)

It's December 13 today, Santa Lucia's Day, and we have celebrated the Sicilian woman Lucia, who brought supplies to Christians hiding in the catacombs during Diocletian's reign in the third century. She carried a wreath of candles on her head, and has thus become a symbol of light.

When I looked into Uta Barth's photographs the other day, I saw that Lyra Kilson mentioned "A certain Slant of light" in her review of Bart's recent work. And being quite obsessed with light these days (it gets dark at four in the afternoon where I live) I thought this particular poem by Emily Dickinson would fit well on this dark winter day (which is Santa Lucia's).

But while Santa Lucia used light in a practical way, to be able to maneuver through the catacombs, Emily Dickinson's light holds a spiritual meaning. However, the literal image of light that enters her room on a winter afternoon forms a very important grounding to a poem which says a lot (that is quite difficult to grasp) about spiritual enlightenment.

I found a suite101 reading that helped me understand this poem a little better. Here is what it says about the third stanza:

The speaker declares that no one can teach another how to become aware of the mystical attributes of the yearning for meaning. While “Despair” leads one in that direction, and the desire is universal, it comes to each one as simply as breathing. One’s spiritual development has to be right before one can entertain such divine cravings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Uta Barth

Uta Barth, "Ground #30", 1994. Sies + Höke Galerie.

This blurry photograph from the "Ground" series by Uta Barth gives us just enough information to see the corner of a room. It is photography on the brink of complete abstraction. And it shows very clearly that photographs are created by light. The light that falls from the window high up to the left, and the shadows that are formed as the light's negation, build space.

I see painterly qualities in this photograph that remind me of Harald Fenn's paintings. But the most obvious reference is "The Milkmaid" by Vermeer.

Uta Barth, "Ground #42", 1994. Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

It is as if these "Ground" series photographs could be backgrounds for portraits where the sitter would be in sharp focus. And the feeling of vacancy or void that is left by the missing subject is particularly apparent in this "Ground #42". The small reproductions towards the upper left look like they just happened to be included as a background for a sitter that simply is not there. And compositionally they are balanced by whatever it is that has snuck into the image from the right.

If you look more closely at the top left "painting", you can see that it may very well be a reproduction of the Vermeer I mentioned above...

And if you would like to depart from the more or less literal references these photographs induce, you could try to see them as representations of fleeting thoughts or vague memories...

Uta Barth, invitation card from exhibition at Sies + Höke Galerie, 2008. (Sundial series)

Then there is this image from the "Sundial" series. It is sharply focused, but it has the same vacant center as the photo above. My attention is drawn towards the yellow coach because it almost looks like it is slipping out of the picture, but for some reason it is the shadow that marks the transition between wall and ceiling I end up looking at. Maybe because this is yet another photo that is mostly about light, - about how the light changes through the day (in Barth's own home).

As Lyra Kilston points out in ArtReview:

Barth has long followed the Zen notion of what she calls a ‘choice of no choice’: she refrains from intentionally seeking out photographic subjects and instead turns her camera towards what is already around her – the sundial of her home. Through this disciplined practice, her work highlights the act of seeing as an autonomous undertaking. She does not seek out things in order to make a photograph, she makes photographs of what she happens to see.

Uta Barth, "... to walk without destination and to see only to see (Untitled 10.8)", 2010.
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

The Quote above is from a review of Uta Barth's exhibition at 1301PE in Los Angeles in May/June this year. And the title of that show was "Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees". A similar approach to the act of seeing is evident in the title of the diptych above: "...to walk without destination and to see only to see".

Having said that, I will encourage you to look again at all these photos, while trying to forget what you have just read... - Try to see them only to see...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Debate in Bergens Tidende

Michael Johansson, "27m3", 3x3x3m, site specific installation, 2010.
Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum. Photo: michaeljohansson.com

Observant readers have already seen Michael Johansson's cubical sculpture in this post about the room Entré curated for the BGO1 exhibit at Bergen Art Museum.

I am showing it again now because I have been so busy debating the art public and criticism in the regional paper Bergens Tidende, that I have not had time to write any post since Thursday.  - And that debate revolves partially around this sculpture.

I have posted my text, Øystein Hauge's reply, and my reply to Øystein Hauge here. It is all in Norwegian, of course, so if you would like to comment on the debate, please feel free to do that in Norwegian.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

David Wojnarowicz censored by Smithsonian

David Wojnarowicz, Self portrait. (From Wikipedia)

Sadly coinciding with the World AIDS Day, which was yesterday, the video "A Fire in My Belly" by David Wojnarowicz was removed from the "Hide/Seek" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. Wojnarowicz made the video in 1987 to honour Peter Hujar who died from AIDS that year.

Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes has followed the story closely.

Blake Gopnik has written a thorough condemnation of the censorship in the Washington Post.

And for more links and the video itself, check out Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chris Ofili, "Afrodizzia"

Chris Ofili, "Afrodizzia", second version, 1996. Photo from Tate Britain

Using "Afrodizzia" (second version) by Chris Ofili merely as illustration of what I want to say below, is really quite unfair. Especially since this work lends itself very poorly to photographic reproduction.

It is a canvas filled with layers of lots of different stuff, like paint, cut out photos and elephant dung. And as you can see above, the frame itself also rests on balls of elephant dung. By using that rather untraditional material, Ofili quite blatantly plays with stereotypical notions of African culture. - Like he does when he spreads out images of faces with afro hairdos across a very colorful surface.

The reason why I'm showing this work today is that I want to say something about art and Advent. - Some connection, uh? Well, it's December 1 today, and Sunday was the first of the four last Sundays before Christmas, when we light purple candles. - Four of them in a wreath, and one more to be lit every Sunday.

This year we invited our friends who are originally from Ethiopia to come light the first candle and have dinner with us. So it's not really Advent I want to say something about, but the experience of getting to know Sara and Omar, who are refugees from Ethiopia, and their four children. They are Muslim, and sharing our Christian traditions with them, gave me a fresh perspective on those actions that I perform every year without really thinking about them.

Sara and Omar are great people that I would enjoy hanging out with in any circumstance. But sharing Advent with them and getting to take part in some of their ways and traditions, gives me such a valuable perspective on my own life choices (small and large). And it confronts me with plenty of stereotypical and generalized notions that I have about Africa. - For instance, I realize that Africa is so much more diverse than I tend to assume since I have never been anywhere on that huge continent.

So thinking about all this in relation to Advent, I searched my memory for suitable African art to go with it. But tellingly enough, the British artist Chris Ofili was as close as I got. I think it must have been his "Afrodizzia" (second version) I saw in the SENSATION show at Hamburger Bahnhof in 1998.

I do not know anything about African art, but Ofili's work does more or less the same as getting to know people from Africa: It highlights my prejudice.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet IV"

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet IV", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

I stopped by Bergen Kunsthall the other day to see the exhibit of four artists that is currently showing there. Among all the works that are included in that show, the one above, by Michael Krebber, gave me the most momentous moment of seeing "something".

But what was it that I saw?

For starters: Three primed canvases in a vertical pile that is halfway covered by a polka dot "hood", with a smear of black paint up towards the right.

This seemed quite meaningless to me. But knowing how rear it is, - that experience of not immediately connecting a visual uttering with some kind of perceived message, I was thrilled. And even more so when I found out that the work is titled "Miami City Ballet IV".

The connection between the covered up canvases and the title "Miami City Ballet IV" made no sense to me. I could find no literal connection, apart from thinking of other artists that have painted ballet, - Degas, for instance. But bringing Degas's impressions of dancers into my moment at Bergen Kunsthall, just seemed like an irrelevant distraction.

- Or maybe the three canvases could be perceived as stopped in moment, lined up and covered by a mutual piece of costume? No, the title "Miami City Ballet IV" left me with an even stronger notion that this work does not give any direct meaning in and of itself. (But the exciting experience of actually trying to find one, and feeling very close to finding it, was what made that moment at Bergen Kunsthall worthy of bringing on.)

What I found when I looked for meaning outside of the artwork itself, you can read below the next pictures. But that is more or less random information which ends up confirming a notion that this work is not a painting in any traditional singular sense, but a "painting" that is only concerned with the premises of "painting" as a general notion, and with the context that makes works like "Miami City Ballet IV" possible.

(If you are uncertain about the term "context", please look at this former post).

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet I", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet II", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet III", 2010.
Photo from Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

Since then, I have found the paintings "Miami City Ballet" numbers I-III. They were included in a show Michael Krebber had at Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Berlin this summer.

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet", Installation view, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, 2010

And this was how the paintings were installed: Three of them to the left, and then the covered up ones to the right. With a big box clad in fabric between.

Michael Krebber, "Miami City Ballet", 2010,
invitation card photo,  Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2010

I also found out where the artist got the title from: The entire show at Daniel Buchholz was titled "Miami City Ballet", and here is an excerpt from the invitation card written by Krebber:

"'Miami City Ballet" shall be the first stop in, or the downbeat of a series of ”new” exhibitions
following a lengthy period of inactivity. I took the photograph on the invitation card during a
Douglas Crimp lecture. It shows the photograph being projected—of Edward Villella—the ballet
dancer and later founder of the "MCB"—in the midst himself of holding a lecture. He shows his
arm; looks at it and—according to Crimp-comments on it. That he is “beholding” his arm is un-
knowable from my blurry photograph. More or less the same applies here, too.

[...] At this point we put in the picture of Paul Swan, the actor and dancer who once held the title: "Most Beautiful Man in the World"; Swan who appears and dances beside a curtain behind which he disappears for a costume change or some other preparation but doesn’t reappear except perhaps when no one can believe it any more.[...]

- So was this what Michael Krebber intended all along: Covering up the paintings ("painting") until no one can believe in them (believe in "it") any more?


On December 2, David Joselit will speak about "Painting Stripped Bare" at Bergen Kunsthall.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nicholas Nixon, "The Brown Sisters"

These were the photos I was looking for yesterday, when I got distracted by Harry Callahan's "Chicago". I had never before seen that beautiful image of trees on the shore of Lake Michigan. And I had never seen "The Brown Sisters" either, - not until one of my former high school students showed them in class last year. - Thank you, Sofie!

I let my students browse the MoMA Photography Collection on the internet, and their task was to choose one or more pictures to present in class. Sofie gave a very inspired - and inspiring - talk about "The Brown Sisters", - about affection, connection, and differences. And about growing older.

I think these photographs fit well on a day when most people in the USA are getting ready to give thanks. They may inspire thankfullness about having a family, and perhaps feeling close and connected.

The time span that is so evident on these women's faces and bodies, forms a very important part of Nicholas Nixon's project (he has photographed the sisters every year from 1975 to 2008). Their age is accentuated, but the last two photos show that they are not ashamed of growing older. - Why should they be?

- And why do I even bring up this issue?
Well, maybe because I turned 40 a year and a half ago, and I do not like being targeted by all those who want to help me look younger...

I will rather listen to the actress Liv Ullmann who refuses to put on makeup that would hide her great life from showing on her face; I will look again at the portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe that tends to make me a little better able to love my own wrinkles; and I will give thanks to Nicholas Nixon for sharing the beauty of growing older.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan, "Chicago", c. 1950. Museum of Modern Art.

Looking for another photographer's work in the MoMA database, I just stumbled upon this image.
And I instantly fell in love.

It has got such intensity and near symmetrical beauty that I felt physically pulled towards it.

There is the white snow, - horizontal, and the black trunks, - vertical. Such powerful contrasts that would have been too harsh if it weren't for the calm grey water and sky that flow in between. The water and the sky form an even expanse, with a barely discernable horizon. But there, over to the right, is a glimpse of light.

Six tree trunks are rooted in the white snow, rhythmically organized in pairs. The pair to the left and the pair to the right seem well established, whereas those two trunks in the middle are a little more hesitant. The branches, though, are not shy. They blend together and form a web that almost entirely covers the sky.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fred Sandback (+ more on Juan Muñoz)

Fred Sandback at Dia Chelsea, 1996. Photo: Dia Art Foundation.

On Friday, I wrote about one of the two sculpture shows I saw together with my former art history professor, Dag Sveen, at Dia Chelsea in 1996. Among all the different shows we saw that day, neither of us remember more than these two: Fred Sandback and Juan Muñoz (see Friday's post). - That may say something about the quality of their work, don't you think?

It's not easy to find photos of works that were shown 14 years ago. But the one above is from that very Sandback show at Dia.

As far as I remember, the yarn he had used in those sculptures was red, and it was put up in vertical rectangles without any perceptible attachment to the ceiling.

It was fascinating to walk around those shapes that were so modest, and still feel so strongly affected by their presence. I felt required to respect the shape they outlined. Crossing the horizontal line that was attached to the floor seemed impossible...

Fred Sandback at David Swirner, 2009.

It is a general defining feature in sculptures that they have a certain volume, but in Sandback's sculptures volume is perceived almost only indirectly, as the shape they outline.

Fred Sandback at David Swirner, 2009.

In this photo, you can see how the string seems to have grown quietly out from the ceiling. And even though they are made from string, the sculptures look surprisingly solid, almost like wall panels dividing the gallery space.


Juan Muñoz, "Five Seated Figures", 1996. Photo from: The City Review.

Right after I had written about Muñoz' "A Place Called Abroad" on Friday, I went to an opening where I ran into Dag. So we talked some more about that show, and he reminded me of the slightly-less-than-human scale Muñoz has given his figures. This is crucial to their double appearance, - as both familiar and foreign. If you merely give them a fleeting glance, they seem quite vivid and familiar. But if you look more closely, you notice their slightly washed out features and puppet-like limbs.

(The photo above is taken in Sotheby's New York exhibition space. This group of sculptures with mirror was sold at Sotheby's on November 11, 2009 for $1,202,500.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Juan Muñoz, "A Place Called Abroad"

Juan Muñoz, "A Place Called Abroad", 1996, Dia Art Foundation.

Reminiscing with my former art history professor, Dag Sveen, about the day we spent together roaming New York City art galleries back in 1996, I found out that among all the shows we saw that day, neither of us remember more than two, and those are the same two! - Both were at Dia in Chelsea, and both were sculpture/installations.

The scrawny picture above is the only one I have managed to find from Spanish artist Juan Muñoz' "A Place Called Abroad". He had changed the gallery space into an eerie streetscape and naked interiors inhabited by figures absorbed in something we as viewers were not invited into. It gave us an uneasy, but very interesting feeling of being foreigners in "A Place Called Abroad".

What I have found, though, is this beautiful video, made as homage to the artist who died in 2001, by Ray Anderson

The music is by Alberto Inglesias, and it is apparently the same music as Juan Muñoz listened to while he installed the work. (It certainly adds to the melancholy mood...)

Fred Sandback's subtle string sculptures were the other works both Dag and I remember from that gallery crawl. I'll get back to that someday soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOMENTs in film

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being", 1988.
Picture from nighthawknews

I hope you are up for a post that stretches the definition of art and gives an almost embarrassingly personal account of certain precious moments I experienced around twenty years ago, when I saw something that made me understand more about art (but also about love and communication...)

The first time I watched "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (in 1988) I realized that film is not only entertainment, but also art. I was not particularly moved by the love story it tells, but (... I am aware of how pompous this sounds....) Sven Nykvist's fantastic cinematography made me see the world in a new light!

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being", 1988, Picture from stickyfingers

I was probably too young and immature to be very fascinated by Sabina (Lena Olin's character). I wanted to be like Tereza (Juliette Binoche), -  able to see beauty in harsh realities.


A little later that year I watched "The Good Mother", a mediocre film that I can hardly remember. But one scene made a lasting impression. When I saw the mother (Diane Keaton), who is in danger of losing custody of her little girl, talk to her by the kitchen counter one morning, I understood that it is possible to communicate with children in ways that crucially enhance their feeling of self worth.

It took eleven years from I watched that film until I became a mother myself, but that "Good Mother" character still represents an ideal that I strive for.

"The Double Life of Veronique", 1991. Picture from David Bordwell's website on cinema

"The Double Life of Veronique" gave me a similar kind of inspiration as I had got from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being": The cinematography, the music, and the way the main character (Irène Jacob) experiences the world around her.

"Shadowlands", 1993. Picture from henryzecher.com

Love is difficult (that must be the obvious reason why it is the theme of so many stories). But the film "Shadowlands" made me understand what my challenge is, and I am still working on it...

I would be very happy to hear if you have had similar experiences with MOMENTs in film :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College: experiment in art, ed. Vincent Katz, 2002,
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

When I read that Gagosian Gallery now represents the estate of Robert Rauschenberg and is showing a museum quality retrospective exhibition of his work at their 21st Street Chelsea space, I came to think of the documentary film about Black Mountain College I did research for as an intern at David Royle Productions in New York in the early 1990s. I was only at the production company for a semester, and I never got to see the film finished, but I was fascinated by what I learned:

- Black Mountain College was such a magic place! Beautiful, as you can see from the picture above, and very important as a hub for artistic experimentation and collaboration in the early careers of great artists like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and many others (...Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Susan Weil, Denise Levertov...)

Robert Rauschenberg, "White Painting", 1951, Gagosian Gallery.

Robert Rauschenberg was adamant about distancing himself from the Abstract Expressionists. He wanted to minimize evidence of the artist's hand, and painted a series of all-white and a series of nearly black paintings. According to Vincent Katz in Black Mountain College: experiment in art, John Cage has said that Rauschenberg's white paintings gave him the push to compose 4'33'', his very important silent piece.

Many collaborative and experimental happenings were staged at Black Mountain College, and "Theater Piece No. 1" which John Cage "orchestrated" in 1952 is considered the first one. There was film, there were slides, Cage talked about music and Zen Buddhism from a stepladder, Cunningham and other dancers moved through and around the audience, and Rauschenberg's white paintings were suspended above.

Viola Farber in "Summerspace", 1958 by M. Cunningham,
Design: Robert Rauschenberg, Photo from: MONDOBLOGO

In 1958 he designed the set and costumes for Cunningham's "Summerspace", first performed in New London, CT, with music by Morton Feldman.

Robert Rauschenberg, "Bed", 1955
Museum of Modern Art, Photo:

And while he was still at Black Mountain College (the school closed in 1956), he acquired the quilt that he used in one of his first Combines (what he called the kind of works he is most famous for having made, in which he used found objects).

Tornsey and Elsley in their book Quilt Culture: Tracing the Pattern, p. 149:
The Log Cabin quilt used in Bed once belonged to artist Dorothea Rockburne. She recalls, "It was kind of special to me because I had it at the time my daughter Christine was born, and she used to spend a lot of time on it. I didn't actually give Bob the quilt, it just sort of appeared one day. We were living at Black Mountain College then, and when you sent the wash out things had a way of appearing and disappearing. I remember when I first saw the painting he had made of it I thought 'Oh! That's the quilt that I had!' It was a wonderful experience seeing it."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stian Ådlandsvik

"One Day All Sheds Will Be Useful", 2006

Installation view: "Historical Detour (Consequences of a Slip of the Tongue Awarding
Denmark the North Sea)", 2006, Galleri Erik Steen.

The photo of the shed in the field hangs on the wall right outside my office. And the pallet stands up against the wall below it. Even though, many people who come by have a hard time noticing the connection between them. - Can you see it?

There is such a romantic feel to that photo: The tough, but at the same time sheltering mountainside, and the dark clouds in contrast to the soft sunlight that shines on the patches of snow.

But what about the the boards that are missing from the shed's wall? - Well yes, exactly, the pallet has been made from them. And it has become a beautiful pallet, carrying years of rain, snow and sunshine on its surface.

As romantic as all this may seem, the work's title introduces a political perspective: "Historical Detour (Consequences of a Slip of the Tongue Awarding Denmark the North Sea)". ... What if?

- If his native country were not entitled to sell oil from the North Sea, would the artist Stian Ådlandsvik then be making pallets from all the sheds that are no longer in use ("One Day All Sheds Will Be Useful")? - Or maybe then all the sheds would still be in use, like they were about fifty years ago...

Documentation: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Installation view: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Installation view: S. Ådlandsvik and Lutz-Rainer Müller,
 "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk",
Hordaland Art Centre, 2010

Documentation  (from Hordaland Art Centre)

The other pictures document a work Stian Ådlandsvik recently executed together with Lutz-Rainer Müller in Bergen, Norway, and on the island Askøy, right outside of Bergen. It was titled You only tell me you love me when you're drunk and consisted of three parts: A model of a house which was to be demolished (bottom pictures); the house itself, altered according to the state the model was in after having travelled around the world; and sculptures made from the materials that were torn down.

More information about this project can be found at Hordaland Art Centre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Entrée at BGO1

Michael Johansson, "27m3", 3x3x3m, site specific installation, 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.
Photo: Vilde Andrea Brun.

These days, at Bergen Art Museum, there is a cube put together from stuff that has been collected at different artists' studios. It is the work of Michael Johansson, who has done similar sculptures in many other venues.

Michael Johansson, "27m3", 3x3x3m, site specific installation, 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.
Photo: michaeljohansson.com

The dimensions of this cube fit very well into the room in which it is exhibited, - in such a way that it activates the space around itself, and seems to be of perfect size. Since the walls and the space around the sculpture are (almost) empty, it is as if lots of stuff that has been lying around, somehow magically imploded into a perfect cube...

And by transforming into art transportation boxes, monitors, file drawers, and light bulb packs etc., this sculpture pays homage to the tedious everyday studio effort that has been carried out to produce all the other works that are exhibited in the same collective show, - while also directing our attention behind the scenes of the art museum.

When I first saw this sculpture, I enjoyed its formal aspects very much: The composition of colors, shapes, and different sized objects. Does anybody else come to think of a Mondrian painting?

Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, "First we take Manhatta, Bow & Arrows", 2010. Entrée at BGO1, Bergen Art Museum.
Photo: Vilde Andrea Brun.

Then, quietly, in the corner of the room, these three arrows have been shot into the wall. Well, one is broken, and the back part of it lies on the floor. This subtle and delicate work by Gabriel Johann Kvendseth goes well together with the big and loud colored cubical sculpture. Sometimes a quiet whisper becomes more audible than high-pitched insistence...

(This one room in the exhibition BGO1 at Bergen Art Museum has been curated by Entrée)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

(William Carlos Williams, 1923)

To me, this poem has always been about seeing. - Ever since I first read it in early fall, 1989. I remember the moment exactly; because "The Red Wheelbarrow" was presented in the very first lecture I attended at the University of Bergen, during the first couple of weeks that fall semester, before I went back to New York.

Professor Orm Øverland used it as an introduction to English literature and asked what the meaning of it was. I answered that it shows us the importance of noticing beauty around us, even in unspectacular, everyday objects.

I still appreciate this poem very much. I think it says something important about what art is, and can be. Visual art points out beautiful, interesting, shocking, funny...etc... aspects of life, that we may not notice on our own. And artworks often draw heavily on their context; a big part of a work's meaning may be generated by the surroundings in which it is presented. - Just like the image of the wheelbarrow in Williams's poem is something we can see more clearly when we imagine its red color next to the white chickens, an image that we most likely would not have been able to appreciate if he had not pointed our attention to it.

What do you think this poem is about?
Is there another poem that tells you something similar (or different!) about art?
Then please send it to me by e-mail, so that I can include it in my poetry page (momentc@hotmail.no).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Olafur Eliasson (+ maternity care in Ethiopia)

"Your strange certainty still kept", 1996, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

A rule I have set for myself in writing this blog, is always to present works that I have experienced "live" and that have made a lasting impression on me.

That is true of "Your strange certainty still kept". When I saw this at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in 1996, it was the first time I came across Olafur Eliasson's work, and it made me want to see more. The problem is, now, so many years later, I can only remember that I very much liked this work, but not why...

"The weather project", 2003, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London, UK.

And having announced that rule, I go ahead and break it right away...
I never got to experience "The weather project". But I would have liked very much to lie down on the floor in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, bathing in the light from the big "sun", while looking at my reflection in the mirror that covered the ceiling high up above me in the "sky"...

"Many small fireflies",
ongoing, Maternity Worldwide.

What I do get to see everyday, though, is the "Many small fireflies" screensaver that I got when I donated 30 euros to Maternity Worldwide's work in Ethiopia, where they give women life saving maternity care.

On my black computer screen, a myriad of fireflies light up, each representing a donation that has been made to Maternity Worldwide. Thus, for every person who donates, a new firefly is ignited, and this way your contribution becomes part of the artwork itself.

(Here you can see what it looks like.)