24 December

After a year of experience overload, Kunstkritikk’s Editor-in-Chief Mariann Enge singles out three exhibitions she cannot forget.

Aage Gaup, Máttáráhkku / Urhode (Primordial Head), 1976–81. Soapstone. Courtesy of RiddoDuottarMuseat. Installation view from LIAF 2022. Photo: Kjell-Ove Storvik.

Fantasmagoriana, Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF), Kabelvåg and Svolvær

After two years of pandemic dormancy, everything seems to have exploded. It feels as if 2022 contained at least fourteen times as much as a “normal” year, overloading my mind to the point where it’s hard to recollect things. Still, among the art events that remain fairly clear to me, I find this instalment of LIAF, delayed by one year and curated by the duo Francesco Urbano Ragazzi. As the title indicates, the ghostly, dark, and mysterious were recurring traits in the exhibition, without there being any overarching theme. The opening weekend included an interesting seminar on tacit knowledge – and, as if they had been booked beforehand, absolutely marvellous northern lights.

Victoria Verseau, Hope Is a Dangerous Thing For Women Like Us, 2022. Installation view. Photo: Julie Hrnčířová / Fotogalleriet. The exhibition is on view until 8 January 2023.

Victoria Verseau, Hope Is a Dangerous Thing For Women Like Us, Fotogalleriet, Oslo

In the centre of a grey-blue podium stand pedantically arranged groups of what look like simplistic dildos. But these are not sex toys; they are dilators used to prevent the constructed vagina from scarring over after gender confirmation surgery. Associated with pain, not pleasure. At the same time, these phallic objects can also be said to symbolise the desire for a partner. There is a lot of suffering and sorrow in Victoria Verseau’s exhibition, which I am told is supposed to resemble a mausoleum. Every little object related to the transition process is on display here, ranging from empty pill trays to used make-up pads and queue number tickets, all interspersed with sculptural elements. But we never get to see the women it’s all about. Even so, they got under my skin, not least thanks to the intimate whispering voiceover in the video work and an almost unbearably beautiful song.

Pearla Pigao, Different kinds of water III & IV, 2021/2022. Digitally hand-woven textiles / interactive sound installation. Installation view from the exhibition I Call It Art, 2022. Photo: Frode Larsen / Nasjonalmuseet.

I Call It Art, The National Museum of Norway, Oslo

It would be strange to talk about the year in art 2022 without mentioning the fact that Norway’s new National Museum finally opened. I agree with much of the scathing criticism of the opening exhibition I Call It Art, a chaotic and densely packed cavalcade of totally different works spanning from the excellent to the horrible. At the same time, it documented a substantial and not unimportant piece of institutional critique fieldwork which saw curators Geir Haraldseth and Randi Godø travelling around Norway to meet artists the museum had not shown before. The result was an imitation of the artist-driven scene’s “invite all your friends” energy, combined with a mirror-heavy, SoMe-flirting exhibition design, all of it didactically geared towards youth. The exhibition furthermore included Joar Nango’s goathi-like structure on the roof, which punctuated the building’s aesthetics of power. Prompting nearly inexhaustible discussion, the show also testified to a willingness to experiment that one does not necessarily expect from a national museum. And for that, I am thankful.

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