19 December

A new, albeit useless, entrance for the National Museum – Architecture is among artist Anders Eiebakke’s favourite works of 2020.

Alexis Destoop, Northern Drift, 2019, still from video.

Alexis Destoop, Northern Drift, Barents Spektakel, Kirkenes

Before 2020 turned into what we will always remember as “2020,” I was in Kirkenes for the art and culture festival Barents Spektakel, where I represented Norway in the exhibition Spy DIY, on tour from Electromuseumin Moscow. As part of the extensive and impressive programme, Barents Spektakel had invited a number of artists to create and show site-related works in Kirkenes, with Belgian artist Alexis Destoop among them. In his film, set in the Norwegian-Russian border areas in the Arctic, a narrator’s voice from the future presents us with the past and present. Traces of Soviet Futurism in the Arctic tundra, American imperialism, and the gloomy and paranoid state of affairs that threatens to militarise conflicts about resources – all these things form the backdrop of my most powerful art experience of 2020.

Sara Baban, Hanan Benammar, Pia Maria Roll, and Marius von der Fehr, Ways of Seeing, Black Box teater, 2018. Depicted: Ali Djabbary, Scenography and costume: Jennie Bringaker. Photo: Leif Gabrielsen.

The trial against Laila Bertheussen, Oslo District Court

The trial against the former Norwegian minister of justice’s live-in partner started as a piece of post-dramatic theatre at Black Box at the end of 2018 and went on to dominate the news throughout 2019 before ending this year in a farce where the defendant’s zany self-designed handbags came across as quasi-artistic meta-comments. The trial uncovered a secret network of right-wing extremists who had conspired against Ways of Seeing and the Black Box theatre. For a while, this network included both Norway’s minister of justice and minister of public security, and in the meantime, the artists were charged, had search warrants issued against them, and were criticised by the prime minister on national TV. Being a right-wing extremist has become so widespread among the Norwegian social elite that it is no longer considered right-wing extremism; it’s the new normal. And that was basically what Ways of Seeing was all about. The verdict will be passed in 2021.

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito, Potemkin Village, 2020, Noplace and National Museum – Architecture, Oslo. Photo: Damian Heinisch.

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito, Potemkin Village, Noplace and National Museum – Architecture, Oslo

The passionate people behind the artist-run gallery Noplace were behind what may have been Oslo’s most interesting site-specific artwork in 2020. In a time-consuming process based on 3D models generated using photogrammetry, Juan Andrés Milanes Benito copied and crafted details of the façade of the National Museum – Architecture and placed the result in front of the museum like a kind of inverted Potemkin village. The strange installation prompted an equally strange (if not more so) reaction in Aftenposten’s art critic, who claimed that Potemkin Village was “ugly,” “superficial nonsense,” and “art at its worst.” According to the reviewer, it took “20 seconds to see it.” Accordingly, he failed to see that the artist had, through an extremely demanding sculptural process, created a thought-provoking work about alienation.

Anders Eiebakke is a visual artist living in Oslo. His work has been shown at Manifesta 8, The Shadow of War: Political Art in Norway 1914–2014 at Kunstnernes Hus, and PAM 18. In 2020, he created the video work The Park for Fotogalleriet in Oslo. Currently, his temporary work Datamirror for Künst im öffentlichen Raum, made in collaboration with Nando Schneider, is on show in Munich.

For this year’s contributions to Kunstkritikk’s Advent Calendar, see here.