Posted by Power.
It was busy times in Norway this time. I felt like a running rat. First stop was Skien on the west side of the Oslo Fjord, more exactly to the Telemark Kunstnersenter where I signed the contract to become their “external curator” for 2013 – which means to curate three small exhibition over the year.
Then I went straight to Moss on the east side of the Oslo Fjord for a rounds of meetings with the director of the circus Momentum and Punkt Ø, Dag Sveinar, and the rest of the Momentum-team’s invaluable associates, and with some of the artists who will be part of the part of the exhibition that I’ll curate. The artists came to have a first look at the spaces we have (the Kunsthalle in the center of the city) and the spaces we might get at the so called Peterson-area with large, soon-to-be emptied out and scrubbed clean industrial sites. As I wrote earlier, we have experienced some serious economical troubles that lead to the decision to sell the largest and best asset Momentum has: the Kunsthalle. The space is up for sale, but we will be able to use the space for the next biennial anyway. The Kunsthalle is absolutely beautiful, and I really love these windows that were all closed for the 6th Momentum Biennial last year. Outside the windows you see in the below image, a stream rushes past, and beyond the stream there is a vast industrial area which is now being cleaned up after years of producing paper in the factory buildings.
I’m extremely excited to hopefully be able to perhaps work with one or two of the spaces in the Peterson area as I see how almost painfully beautiful they are, and how well I could install some of the artists pieces in these spaces. There are high ceilings, large doors, ceiling windows, large windows that let in much light and absolutely vast floor spaces. But even if I am excited, it doesn’t mean necessarily that the artists are, so naturally I was a bit nervous when five of “my” artists took the tour.
The artists didn’t know each other from before, but any fears of tensions vanished over a dinner and some good red wine, and even better after some drinks at the rock bar “Nattåget” where the artists engaged in pool with each other and with the local scene and I was readily cheering with arms in the air.
I’m not yet entirely sure what all of the artists thought of the spaces, but I do know that I’m not alone with my excitement anyway, and that is a good sign. Since the artists and I myself are still processing everything, you’ll have to forgive a certain vagueness here about both the artists and what projects we are planning as I know these things are in a fragile state at the moment, and of course, very much subject to loads of changes yet. I’ll be a bit more loose on the tongue later on when things are just a little more settled.
After a couple of days with artists, meetings and space inspections I stole an afternoon and made a short but intense visit to Oslo to see some shows.
Oslo has changed a lot in the last couple of years, new flashy houses are popping up everywhere – and the little island of Tjuvholmen is now the spot for a Renzo Piano building housing the collection and exhibitions of the Astrup Fearnley Museum. It opened up with a big bash written about in Artforum.com to which I unfortunately couldn’t come just a couple of weeks ago. I was curious to see the “starchitect” Piano’s vision. The architect of for instance Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Foundation Beyeler in Basel has earlier on presented innovative, cool and beautiful solutions and experiments for the future museum. I had not yet read the now infamous review about the new museum in The Guardian, but I had read the text by Erlend Hammer in Dagbladet which unfortunately is not online – but he was thinking about the status of the Astrup Fearnley museum rather than the architecture. In any case, I was super disappointed. Yes, the museum has a faiblesse for “lobby art” which the writer from The Guardian calls it, but that is perfectly alright, it is a private institution and can do whatever they very well want, and buys the art they like – and they don’t have a mission to reflect the taxpayers from a gender perspective or from any other perspective than their own, so that is fair enough. They don’t even have to care for the things they buy for the rest of eternity and can even sell off works, something never a national museum can or may do. The problem that Hammer raises in his critique is that the AF MoMA might see itself as some kind of a national museum of Norway, and if the public starts to see it so as well – then there is a problem with selection of art and artists. But who in their right mind would really do the mistake to think that AF MoMA has any real power of definition of what is good art? They only define what is in their own interest, which is good enough, I suppose. I’m happy some people care so much about art that they buy it and later on build massive museums to show it to a wide audience. But having said that, if the museum all of a sudden becomes the very icon of Norwegian art and not only a private museum like many others, well, Houston: we do have a problem!
I was hugely disappointed in the architecture which really isn’t very interesting nor good for the works on display. Tiny rooms. A display of the works that felt like the curators experienced some red hot Horror Vacuii. Corridors – tiny corridors. The line in the linked Guardian-article above “[…] many of the rooms feel like leftover corridor space – as if you’re passing artwork on the way to the loo.” says it all, really. Why??! The worst thing is however the lighting! How is it possible that in 2012 the best solution to light up works in a museum space is large spot-lights which fill the space with SPOTS!? And the spot-lights are clumsy and butfuckugly as well. I can understand the use of spot-lights in a Kunsthalle in the countryside where there simply is no budget to even imagine buying new stuff – but when you have at your disposal a completely new structure, one would think that someone could have imagined a better way to light up works, no? Ok, enough bashing for one day. I’m glad the Museum buys art from relevant contemporary artists, and I’ll leave it at that.
But, uh, sorry, I still have more bashing to do. During lunch with artists at the Gallery F15 (which will not be used in Momentum 7 as a venue) the news broke about the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU. After two years ago giving the prize to a war-lord (Obama) who was at the time actively fighting three war fronts, the EU was up next. I mean, WTF!? One of the artists cracked the joke that next year, the Nobel Peace Prize committee will most likely give the prize to: the Nobel Prize Committee for such great work, and this was most likely the only thing that made me smile about the wretched affair, and I could easily picture Jagland give the prize to himself in a ceremonious ordeal. Gee. Some has their heads up somewhere deep where the sun doesn’t shine, and furthermore; seem to really enjoy the stench.
So. To continue on a more light and shiny note, I had a nice meeting with the House of Foundation, a space for literature, art, aesthetics and whatnot. It is situated in Moss, quite close to the Kunsthalle Momentum, in a former industrial site and hosts literature festivals, exhibitions and a helluva-library in the book-shop! It was amazing and I felt a real connection here, not only do we have similar taste in books, but dayom, I could easily ruin myself here filling some voids and gaps in my bookshelf at home… The website is in Norwegian only unfortunately. One of the initiators, Martin M Sørhaug asked if I was interested in a joint venture to be one of the editors of an upcoming compendium bracing against thoughts on the factory, the industry – evidently connecting directly to Moss and also to Momentum and the spaces we will use. Naturally I said yes and we had a first meeting in Moss.
My last mission in Moss was to speak a little about the future plans of Momentum with an audience at gallery F15. One of the artists invited to “my” part of the show is Jan Christensen who joined me for the talk and we spoke about a lot of things – but mainly of course our plans for Momentum. I tried to speak a bit about Erlend’s part as well, but the focus was mainly of course about the general things that Erlend and I share, and specifically how I think about the show and what is important about it. At least some people showed up, see the audience below.
First another link to The Independent’s article about the AF MoMA with the most hilarious and to-the-point take on the museum: “the comb-over”!
Secondly – the “little” issue about the main new sponsor of the AF MoMA (I didn’t realize they needed one, I thought they had enough money as it was…) namely Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish company well-known in Sweden for it’s involvement in Sudan and the allegations of being part of genocide etc. It has nothing to do with the architecture and the content of the museum, which was in my focus here, nevertheless, it is naturally a very pressing issue for the museum, and thankfully it is being raised some questions about it – here is Jonas Ekeberg’s take on it in Norwegian at Kunstkritikk. Ethical questions about oil and oil companies in Norway has a special level of delicacy since the Norwegian oil-fund is permeated throughout the society – something Ekeberg brings to surface. Money is never ever clean, no matter the source, but how dirty can it get? Is there a line and how do we deal with it?