24 December 2020

Kunstkritikk’s Editor-in-Chief Mariann Enge rounds off this year’s Christmas countdown with three exhibitions from 2020 that gave her hope.

Joar Nango, Girjegumpi / Sami Architecture Library, 2018. Installation view from Bergen Kunsthall, 2020. Photo: Thor Brødreskift.

Joar Nango, Festival Exhibition 2020, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen

Was this exhibition a watershed moment? It certainly feels that way. And I’m not just thinking about the fact that Joar Nango was the first Sámi artist to be selected as the official Festival Exhibition artist at Bergen Kunsthall. I returned to Oslo with the feeling that Nango and his many collaborators had created a space of expanded opportunity and potential, as if they had shaken and opened up the institution, made it more porous and unpredictable. The exhibition was also inspiring on a personal level as a point of reference for the fundamental questions about how we live, what is truly important, and how art can function as a collective strategy for liberation.

Rosa-Johan Uddoh, Performing Whiteness 3 (Private Life Drama), video still, 2019.

Rosa-Johan Uddoh, She is Still Alive!, Destiny’s, Oslo

The first exhibition held in the artist-run gallery Destiny’s new premises at Alexander Kielland square addressed one of the year’s central topics of discussion: structural racism, both within the field of art and in society in general. In six short video works referencing black feminist icons from popular culture – author Una Marson, presenter Moira Stuart, musicians the Supremes and Beyoncé, as well as tennis stars Venus & Serena Williams – British artist Rosa-Johan Uddoh stages herself in various roles with a mix of incisive observations, wit, musicality, and whimsical absurdities. Throughout it all, she regularly fixes her eyes directly on the camera. As if to establish an alliance, perhaps to force some response?

Georg Óskar, Your Dream is Dead, installation view from Noplace, 2020. Photo: Kristian Skylstad.

Georg Óskar, Your Dream is Dead, Noplace, Oslo

I used to joke that Noplace, which for the last ten years has been invaluable to the artist-run scene in Oslo, was my regular watering hole. Once upon a time, you know, openings involved alcohol and intense socialising. But even though there were only five or six people present to listen to the Oslo-based Icelandic artist Georg Óskar’s poetry reading in broken English, my visit to his exhibition one Sunday in October was still a highlight for its combination of art and human interaction. Partly because of the intimate and vulnerable atmosphere, and partly because I got to have a conversation with the artist about almost every single picture – paintings, poised somewhere between the cartoonish and the abstract, depicting states of isolation and loneliness with a mixture of everyday desperation and dark comedy.

– Mariann Enge took up the position as editor-in-chief of Kunstkritikk in August this year, having acted in the role since February.

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