To learn or not to learn

HAiK, Unlearning / Interpretations - Rod Bianco Gallery, Oslo

  • At Rod Bianco we find 4-5 industrial looking metal casings using mirrors as tabletops to stack clothes and different objects. Some clothes are wrapped around cardboards, others are folded. All of them are made using Toril Johannessen’s fabrics, in bright colors and ornamented with geometrical shapes: circles, squares, cylinders, lines and grids. Among the clothes are small sculptures in plexiglass fastened to hand shaped clay, these look more organic, rounder and with smoother edges, like cactuses, or twisted scientific graphs. Each table is paired with a TV screen positioned as though looking at or talking to the clothes. A video by Jacob Riddle is running, and here, on a white background, what looks like pencil drawings of different symbols, arrows, a thermometer, test tubes etc., are sliding rightwards. Johannessen’s fabrics reappear in the video, as if blowing in the wind, sometimes filling the entire screen, or flying by like magic carpets.

    Installation view. Photo: Rod Bianco

    Everything is for sale, where is the price tag?

    Guess it will turn up. Look how nice and sharp these screens are, real HD.

    Yeah, true. And the videos are really nice. I talked to the guy who made them at the opening, and he was saying how he wanted to deconstruct all hierarchies, and how there’s really no difference between actual and virtual reality. They’re both real. Real-ities.

    Deconstruct is such a buzz word though, or like 10 years ago…

    Yeye. But there’s something going on here with the video and the mirror, as if everything is reflected, and happening, existing, or whatever, at two places at the same time? Real/virtual? I don’t know. We were also saying how a murder in a dream was also a real murder, but one you could get away with.

    The perfect murder?

    Sort of! So now every night I’m dreaming of how to escape the detectives. Anyways, this stuff looks good, I am only afraid to ruin the arrangement of the clothes, maybe they should hire someone from a clothing store.

    Hehe, yes, like some angry girl folding clothes and giving looks.

    Lol, exactly, now it could all look like a mess in two weeks time.

    I think the show looks really tight though, only in between, there are these clothes made in collaboration with Melgaard and Rod Bianco, but they seem out of place, or not in line with the rest of the clothes and videos which are all doing something with the Johannessen’s pattern.

    True, maybe they wanted it to look more lik a market, with random stuff in between. I’m not sure if i would wear a gallery t-shirt though, like: “PICK ME, PICK ME, I WANNA DO A SHOW”.?

    Haha, maybe. There’s also a lot of stuff going on here, and I am a bit confused as to what we are looking at. The unlearning interpretation part is pretty dense, and to change how we perceive the world is kind of an ambitious statement. Although, I think good art really can do just that.

    I feel we have to read the catalogue text to understand more.

    Part of the take is that these fabrics, or patterns, look like something we think would come from Africa, and they do, everything is made in Ghana. But this way of making fabrics was introduced to Africa by colonialists in the 18th hundreds. So when we think we’re looking at these expressions of “real African identity”, we are really looking at European colonialism.

    Still though, I’d say that 200 years is quite some time, so we’re not “only” looking at bad Europeans, but now the fabric is also part of an African tradition. And weren’t all European nations busy crafting their national identity in this same period of time? Like the “bunad”, no? Folk songs and fairytales. I mean, a lot of clothing we perceive as originals, or markers of some true national identity, are more like copies of a copy for which there is no original… either how.

    I am not quite certain about the bunad. But I get your point, identity would always be some kind of half made truth. I once wore a HAiKw/ dress around to an art fair. Because of the cut, most people thought it was a play on the Kimono!

    I’m thinking you can learn or unlearn the way of recognising these clothes and patterns as African, but will that comment stick as the clothes now travel out of the gallery and into the streets?

    Well, who knows. But also, do we need that additional conceptual stuff in order to appreciate the show? There’s also this thing on optical illusions, if you look at them in a specific way, you’ll go crazy, or something. I mean, there are layers upon layers, and I’m wondering how to connect the dots. And also, in a way, everything about the pattern and fabric is already explained to us, even before we enter the gallery, so there’s not that much left to think about.

    Installation view. Photo: Rod Bianco

    Maybe we should just unlearn all we just learned, and give the clothes a rest for a little while.

    Hehe, or talk about something else? I think, besides all, that this kind of printing technique is a form of advertising and marketing in small communities that would recognise the rite things.

    Yea, which is also a comment on how HAiK/w’s clothes function, as they’re making this social community of insiders, you know everyone in the artsy scene in Oslo is wearing HAiKw/, if you see someone on the street with these patterns, you can tell that this person knows what she’s doing.

    Yass, be sure to wear that caps, dude!