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Highlights from Athens: “The Greek Way”

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss bad taste in art.The first problem that comes to mind with this artwork is Hitler. And here, McDermott & McGough has painted him 7 times. A painting is a little like caressing, which is why it seems fucked up to meditate on the lines and nuances of Der Führer’s face. However, men touching men is what this work is all about, and across the paintings are written the names of gay prisoners who were murdered in Auschwitz. But this writing looks like half hearted scribbling, the names are almost illegible, and the paintings end up being more reminiscent of fan posters than a potent critique of heinous crimes.

    On the opposite wall are a collection of giclée printed, film stills extracted from a film by Leni Riefenstahl, creator of “Triumph of the Will”. The stills are nudies of athletic boys in a range of different poses, all of them smeared across with some kind of medium to give them a haute art, torrid style appearance, but in the end it just looks careless and as unloved as mass produced hotel art. The installation is called “The Greek Way”, evoking the tradition of love between men in ancient Greece, while also drawing attention to the nazi obsession with smooth male bodies. The work is perhaps attempting to make visible the internal homoeroticism of nazism, to lure Hitler out of the closet, by spelling gay all over it in big capital letters. But it isn’t totally clear if the pictures are erotic, or simply just depicting healthy, naked men. Either way, giving attention to the gayness of nazism can be fun and subversive, but it would be nice of the artists to do so with more elegance, tenderness and delicacy than what “The Greek Way” can muster.

Highlights from Athens: Lionel Wendt

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss a titillating photo series by Lionel Wendt.

    Ok, this guy Lionel Wendt, also in the anthropological corner. He was some renaissance man. Born in Sri Lanka by Dutch  parents, he was playing the piano, studied law in England, hosted salons, was a painter, author, photographer… From what  I learned he formed the “’43 group”, the avant-garde of Sri Lanka, who fused Western modernism with local traditions.

    So he’s a native, but not so native?

    Bourgeois at least. But who isn’t? Also, documenta14 keep teaching us about artists from the peripheries of the art world, like the Sami Mazi-group, but only those who are influenced by modernism? Opsie!

    Either way, the photos are beautiful, maybe except that one picture of the “exotic mask”. I like the titillating look of the models, and  how this white fabric is gushing forward. The model seems so much in his own mind, doing his thing. And also very conscious of how good he looks and that someone is taking his photo.

    Yeah, he’s very clean and elegant. It made me think of Pink Narcissus (1971), this gay film by James Bidgood, where another beautiful boy is doing innocent, and not so innocent poses.

    There’s another photo of someone crashing a whip, all his muscles are flexing and shiny, and it’s such a really nice picture, he is capturing something genuine. But my problem with this kind of anthropological photography is that it’s like the last thing you see before everything gets ruined. You tell everyone how nice a place is and then everyone comes and ruins it.

    James Bidgood, Pink Narcissus, 1971, videostill

Highlights from Athens: “Why Are You Angry?”

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss a troublesome video by Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer.

    These women are seemingly living their everyday life, taking a dance class, sitting on the porch, business as usual. At the same time, all of their poses are very similar to Paul Gauguin’s paintings.

    What’s the deal with Gauguin?

    He was a stockbroker in Paris with a ton of kids, a wife and mistresses. Later he moved to Tahiti to live with greater “creative freedom”. Which meant having sex with 13 year olds and infecting half the island with syphilis. I’m exaggerating a little bit. But, in between all of that, he painted magnificent pictures of women too. And those are beautiful. The landscape, the colors, it’s all very nice.

    Do you think that’s what the taunting tile is referring to?

    Well, I enjoyed the video, and how it featured a girls only family. But it’s interesting that it’s made by two English women. Because, are they doing the same exoticization of Tahiti as Gauguin? On the other hand, the models are looking straight into the camera with this accepting look. Like they’re aware of the “gaze”, and so they gaze back. The women retain a sense of dignity, as if in control. However, I think there’s trouble here for sure.

    There must have been one earlier Tahitian artist who addressed Gaugin, I thought. So I googled and actually YES THERE IS! In 1998, Sima Urale made Velvet Dreams, a film noir mockumentary about some old guy obsessed with velvet paintings of exoticized nude women.

    The trailer is worth a look, I love his coquettish voice going “I’d never looked twice at any painting before,” the jazzy music and those soft, suggestive fonts.

    Velvet Dreams, 1998 by Sima Urale, videostill

    Documenta Highligts, part 2

Highlights from Athens: “Sámi Flag Project”

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss the celebrative flags of Synnøve Persen.

    Synnøve Persen made a strong appearance at Documenta14 in Athens. The exhibition gave voice to many indigenous artists, and Persen’s sketch of the Sami flag from 1977 was a powerful example. Hanging alongside the sweetheart Stanley Whitney, we were already meditating in a world of color planes, and discovered a connection between abstract painting and flags. Persen’s work had a pride, dignity, defiance, and a kind of celebration to it. Only her newer work was less fortunate. It seemed to represent the flags of Norway and Sweden, the Sami people’s oppressors, but its cold, designed look, took away some of that original sting and energy. It was no longer a party, but more like someone pointing fingers. Or that last minute attempt to include more and new work. However, if there was one thing documenta14 lacked, it wasn’t artwork.

    Synnøve Persen, Sketch for Sami flag

Highlights from Athens: “Symphony of Sirens”

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss megalomanic sound art by Arseny Avraamov

    This guy was a crazy guy. He used to be a bolshevik revolutionist, got captured, escaped to Norway and later toured as a circus artist/musical clown riding a horse.

    He also invented a way to transfer light and images into sound. I really liked how he made sounds using ancient greek patterns, transporting 2000+ year old stuff into live music. He was kind of an octopus, I think, very brainy, and they couldn’t capture or pin him down, he just kept doing something different.

    The work Symphony of sirens, was a giant composition performed by an orchestra of workers, factories, boats, trains and armies. It’s Big scale, Big stuff. I thought the grandness, or the mad, megalomaniac attitude of his work was fascinating. I would only complain about the look of the installation which wasn’t super sexy, but his picture looks very Russian.

    There’s also an echo of Russian revolutions here. This big collective of workers coming together, using the very means of production to form an orchestra and make a montage of factory sounds. I think that was very much of his time.

    You also have the cannons, guns sirens, soldiers.

    Yes, and it felt almost scary to stand in the middle of this, the sound of the machinery of war.

Highlights from Athens: Władysław Strzemiński

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss a dazzling painting by Władysław Strzemiński.

    This is a nice painting, nice brush strokes and colors. It reminds me of a puzzle.

    Yeah, but then you read the wall text, where he goes on about some theory of vision, and you see that the motive could be like those squiggly things floating in front of your vision after having looked at the sun. Or that meme when you rub your eyes too hard and start falling into another dimension.

    mm. What else.. It reminded me of Munch’s The Sun, notice the orange piece on the right side, how it’s radiating blue, red, yellow colors.

    Yea. He basically painted it at the same time as American abstract expressionism happened. Which was all about being very big and heroic, using a giant brush. But these are small, delicate things, using a tiny brush, depicting something small and personal. I mean, what you see behind your eyelids when your eyes are closed.

    It really caught my eye

    It really caught my eye too

Highlights from Athens: Edi Hila

  • In a series of articles we present our findings and impressions of the exhibition Documenta14 in Athens. Today we discuss the most vivid drawings by Edi Hila.

    So Edi Hila. Maybe my favorite artist in Documenta.

    Yeah. We thought he was a woman for a long time, until we googled and found out.

    That was a little bit disappointing to be honest. Anyways, he was a recurring figure in the show, we saw him both at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Conservatoire.

    Yes. His bigger paintings were not as good, but his smaller watercolor drawings were so, so vivid.

    In his texts he talked about growing up in a dictatorship, so his drawings and paintings were probably very private to him.

    Probably. It also made me think how small scale work must be easier to produce during crisis, than say, carrying around a big easel.

    Good thinking. His texts described small pockets of peace and the chance to enjoy a little bit of sunshine.

    And these characters seems full of excitement, their expressions verges on caricature, almost desperation. As if feeling forced to enjoy this mini moment of relief.

    He’s capturing a break. Just like one break from real tough life. And I felt like that was what the drawings did for me too. We were surrounded by works of suffering. Next to us, a Holocaust survivor had a sculpted head of cigaret butts. Then came this beautiful drawing.

    Yeah. I also like his style of writing. His dry tone, very matter of fact. He manages to capture hope and desperation without being pompous or self-aggrandizing. And he is not explaining anything, but describing what he was responding to.

    Yes, responding rather than explaining. Because although some of his texts were very political, I don’t think he is, you know, preaching.

Clare Milledge at the Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Hi Victoria, whazzzapppp,

    I saw a performance by Clare Milledge last week, and I think you would have liked it too! Milledge, an Australian artist, had made different scenes about chirping birds, mating rituals and a wicked girl with whips. The performance happened inside Tori Wrånes’ Hot Pocket, as she and the museum got a performance program going to accompany her exhibition. Milledge covered the museum in bright blue light and adorned the back wall with a hand sewn curtain. Two boys entered in long white robes with big sleeves, and big, bird-beak-like hats. They ascended to the top of the cake-scene in almost perfect synchronicity to perform some kind of greeting procedure, different poses and exercises. It was sermonical, but also like a mating ritual, and they were certainly very nice to look at. With white painted faces and hair, they could also be Roman sculptures. Then entered a little character with long orange hair covering her face, almost like that girl from The Ring, carrying two whips. She spun them above her head and smacked them about with sensual and erotic intensity. It was violent too, and I think there’s something about a petite person with a lot of power, maybe something for the S&M clubs. At least I found myself rubbing my hands in delight whenever she made a perfect whip. She also made me think of Little My by Tove Jansson, another very serious and resolute character, but that’s from a children’s book. Oh well. The boys escorted her out in a wheelbarrow, and that was that. Lately we have talked about art and accessibility, and this was an example of art that could speak to “everyone”, I think, even though what exactly happened was kinda cryptic. But all the different tableaus were very nice to look at, intriguing, well executed and generous. It was a good show

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Performance night at the museum

  • The opening night at this year’s Skulpturbiennale featured 5 performances and a kind of somber attitude. We didn’t get to go excavating too deeply into the sculptures as we were too busy trying to see all of the performances. Marthe Ramm Fortun started off the night, but only 15 people could go, and no one knew how to get a hold of the already sold-out tickets. We realized that the show had a bit of an anti-dissemination (anti-formidling) kind of vibe. It seemed like the curator wanted to only let the art speak for itself, leaving little information or printed material for us to read or to learn more. This approach could tie into the recent debate about art language and accessibility: should art cater to everyone, or is it OK to be a bit inaccessible, to require some kind of commitment and prolonged concentration? Maybe it dosen’t have to be the one or the other, and maybe “lofty” art can be just as numb as “funny” art, that’s at least part of our conclusion after spending a night at the Vigeland’s Museum. Here is what we made of the performances

    SANDRA MUJINGA
    Sandra Mujinga ended the long night of performances with a generous fashion show/performance act. First she came out and it was like she was the DJ at her own show. Playing a little club and a little getto-gothic sound, and chanting now and then to accompany her beats. It was bringing energy at a time when all had been drained out of us. The model’s outfits were based on a loose narrative around loose fitting materials and overly long sleeves. Each outfit had a different character and kind of authority. A denim empire waist top with baggy denim pants tied together in the back like a hospital gown was especially nice. It had elegance and something indignant about it. One model had a more slinky jersey outfit that abstracted the body, it started at the top of his head and the sleeves went down to the floor, reminiscent of a ghost, or one of those scary octopus kites. At times, they would pose with their iPhones, looking both statuesque and connected to the everyday life of staring at your phone, but also alienating and rejecting the audience. Should we look at this like a fashion show, or as performance art? It lasted for a little bit too long, and in the end, the bored demeanour of the models made us a bit bored too. The wall between performers and audience was ready to come down.

    HANNE LIPPARD
    “How do we get rid of the body?” This was the question Hanne Lippard kept asking in a very British accent and a tone of voice which reminded of an airport announcer or Siri from the iPhone. The performance was a reading, and the question of the missing body seemed to be vaguely hinting at the cloaked agony of a long distance relationship or some abstract, post-modern philosophy phrase salad. Lippard delivered platitudes and aphorisms about life and death in the language of commercials. She exaggerated the use of artistic breaks and that “thoughtful” poetic voice, dropping papers from her clipboard like a seasoned TV-host, mimicking both the form of commercial TV and performance art. Perhaps in an attempt to prove their similarities and shared hollowness. But reproducing empty clichés could also mean just that, to produce emptiness. We zoned in and out, longing for an emphatic syllable, a hint to a personality or a texture to a sentence. It made us indifferent and more hungry than usual. The question of the body is a precarious one. The refugee crisis and police brutality keep showing us how some bodies doesn’t seem to count. And in times like these, ironic lectures about how to get rid of a body might come off as a tiny bit cynical.

    ANE GRAFF
    Graff inhabited the sad girl pose. She performed a rather long and monotone reading, speaking in a gloomy, melancholic voice about biology, atoms and black holes. The character she invoked seemed confused and dazed by the complexity of life and the universe. She was listing up that which exists in the world, giving evidence to the enormous mass of things that surrounds us, and the impossibility of knowing them all. It was as if she had given up on trying to understand, and instead recoursed to merely retelling, or registering, events and processes. It was a little confusing and on trend that her reading was so melancholic. The content of the text was lux, beautiful, and something worth reading, maybe even a few times, but the delivery was rough. Watching someone yawn at the limitless possibilities of life was a rough ride too, and we felt trapped, like fans by the bonfire, listening to that guy with the acoustic guitar. Ane Graff, performance,

    DAISUKE KOSUGI
    Kosugi showed a minimalist-dance-like performance. The performers were dancing around with very precise and gracious movements. They wore sombre, but also kookie looking costumes. One dancer had her legs through the arms of a jacket, all of them wore masks velcroed to what looked like the lining of military helmets. References to war was also noticeable when Kos’s sculptures were used as prostheses. The performance seemed inspired by butoh, an avantgarde Japanese dance from post World War Two, and a response to the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyways, the ending was the prettiest, when Kosugi were trying to move into that woman’s jacket-cum-skirt, as if trying to crawl back into the womb. He then played a flute, and that was nice. There was definitely something going on. But it also felt like a lot of different ideas, narratives and anecdotes put on top of each other. It seemed very smart, but we’re not sure how to connect the dots.

    Daisuke Kosugi, performance, Skulpturbiennalen 2017

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That punk attitude

  • We decided to take our easterly tour of Oslo’s art exhibitions from the middle out, beginning at OCA where we observed Anders Sunna “scenography” for “M– USEUMS ON FIRE”, later we moved to Schloss to look at a VERY prominent projector installation, before we ended our tour looking at a painting with attitude at RAM galleri.

    First things first, “M– USEUMS ON FIRE” was a symposium at OCA that happened April 20-21 in which indigenous and non-indigenous artists, writers and curators discussed the role an institution plays in the exhibition of indigenous art. We will get deeper into the symposium itself and its surrounding topics later. For now, let’s talk about the look of the scenography. Sunna is a young sami artist, often using traditional sami symbols mixed with graffiti, reindeers, weapons.

    The weird thing is to call this a “scenography”. It’s not an exhibition, mind you.

    What is a scenography anyways?

    In Norwegian it’s a quite common word, but not in English. Maybe you would say “mis en
    scène”, or set design. The visual stuff on a stage.

    Aa, well I would settle for some kind of definition in the press release at least. It sounds like one of those international art language words you would only find in theory text books. We could have a whole symposium on scenography

    Anyways, this scenography, it looks very much like Urban Outfitters to me, like Urban Outfitters only 10 years ago. The wooden floors, the skeletons, this plastic fence, graffiti on the walls…

    Ya, the stage could just be a skate ramp. It leaves me feeling a little sad. Is it really like that cool to imitate your own cultural appropriators?

    It could be cool, but then you would have to alter it, add something?

    I have so many problems with skeletons, they’re like: this is how you will look like when you’re
    DEAD!

    I know, I know, I will DIE ONE DAY. I KNOW.

    I like the trees though, bringing part of the forest and “vidda” to the city.

    Yeah, me too, the trees are nice.

    There’s also the noose with a queue machine, a butcher’s ticket to death sort of thing… And Darth Vader clad in Sami clothing printed on the wall behind the gallows. Around the corner is a store mannequin with an assault rifle strapped to her “body”. Its head is replaced by a reindeer head. Its arm is dismembered, laying on the floor.

    I dont think it’s the artist’s intention, but this reminds me of finding a dead woman in the woods.

    Have you encountered many of those?

    No. But it’s hard to work with mannequins, they look so already disposed of. And what’s going on with this wall painting, some figure forcing its eye open with the pinky and the ring finger. Who would open their eyes it like that?

    Haha, true. The handwork, the craft of putting these things together, isn’t all that convincing.

    No. And it’s very, very bro-y.

    Bro. Very bro-y

    I think his press release is on point though. Talking about how his family has been under threat by the government and state authorities for over 40 years. To slaughter their reindeers, to end their livelihoods. It’s utterly sad and disheartening. But most samis dosen’t deal with reindeers, which is historically true as well. The reindeer symbolism is more like a stereotype, a cliché. Besides, I question how he is placing himself on the moral high ground, because the reindeer situation is very complex. I don’t think there’s a either/or answer to the conflict. You have the state, it’s interventions and environmental concerns on the one side, and then the claims of families like Sunna’s on the other side. But capitalism, industrialisation of the herding, climate changes, increased competition, etc. etc. are also added into the mix.

    Yea, there’s lots of pain, and it’s totally fair to be angry, but this scenography is addressing a very specific problem in a way that is totally “in your face”, but also too vague to be confrontational. I like the spirit of the work, but I think I want him to take direct visual aim at what the issue is.

    Yes, and I’m also thinking that perhaps there are other struggles worth paying attention to as well. What is it like to be gay, a feminist, whatever, in a bro-y reindeer world like this one?

    Could be what they they talked about at the symposium, but for the general public who didn’t attend it, this scenography is what we are left with.

    SCHLOSS

    From OCA we make our way towards Schloss gallery where they are currently showing Keren Cytter, according to the press release she is one of the “most prominent artist of our generation”

    Keren Cytter, The Mirror of Simple Souls, 2017. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and
    SCHLOSS, Oslo. Photographer: Vegard Kleven

    Ach, this text, isn’t it such art writing? It goes on about Fassbinder, Fellini, something, something. Oh boy, you can only experience the show while in the gallery because the works are made on reflective mylar… by the MOST prominent artist!

    I’m trying to decide whether they’re being ironic or not. The t-shirts they got for sale with a take on the Kellog’s Cornflakes design is making fun of something. Also notice how careless they’ve gaffer taped that projector to the floor.

    Like a really punk projector installation.

    But I think for this DIY-style to work out, you really have to be desperate, and have no money and still be trying to make it work. Like to make an earnest effort. Now it looks more careless, or calculated.

    I do like how these pictures themselves look as if someone were possessed by the devil and
    decided to make a a bunch of drawing

    Yes “devil may care.”

    A what?

    Oh, it’s this expression people use to say “reckless” but now since the expression is so old it just sounds corney.

    Hehe, yea. Also because the show really isn’t that intriguing to look at, more like, “OK. Art,”

    If they’re making fun of something, it might be the audience, at least that’s often where irony gets you. I think irony is dead. Be sincere. Be generous.

    “you wouldn’t understand anyway, you’re a peasant an I’m a very prominent punkish artisté”

    RAM GALLERI

    At Ram Galleri they’re showing “Force Majure”, a group show with students from the textile department at Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo. Several works are good, one piece we liked was Solveig Aurora ́s ceramics attached to warp strings and another one stands out, a big painting on a velvet screen by the artist Liv Melin.

    Liv Melin, fanship friendship and fictional support, 2017

    This is very nice.

    Yeah, agree. Also because it’s a very basic approach to painting. The only thing is that weird black thing attached to the bottom of it.

    Ya, but also, it would have been strange if the painting just ended.. It’s a take on the frills, no?

    Anyways, I like how the canvass looks like leather, and how these characters are dressed in coats almost like the Marlboro man, very cool. Western style.

    Like Oslo West, or wild wild west?

    Haha, I meant Wild West. But maybe both?

    Lol yes, Oslo West, because it feels expensive.

    They could also be munks, in a religious sect or something. The one girl on the far right reminds me of Matisse’s painting, Dance, how she is holding hands with the others. Or they could be ready for a photo shoot, it has got this Instagram vibe, and the pastell colored dreamy, velvety, background.

    The colors and figures reminds me a little of Richard Diebenkorn, a painter from San Francisco in the 50s, he approached painting with a no muss no fuss attitude he also loved Matisse. I love his paintings because they so don’t try to be cool so they really are.

    Yeah, it’s a great pice. And those women got attitude. The painting got attitude. Like a Frank Sinatra attitude. And that’s real punk.

Archive

January 2019

Looking for love in all the wrong places

March 2018

Dreaming in America

Trippin’ at the gates of womb

December 2017

Deilig er julen

November 2017

John Savio på Studiesalen

Brute

September 2017

Ut i vår hage

Sing Your Life

August 2017

Lines and Caricatures

Clothing for the Apocalypse