24 December

Kunstkritikk’s editor-in-chief, Mariann Enge, recommends two ongoing exhibitions and thinks back on one she fervently wishes she could see again.

Ayman Alazraq & Liam M. Alzafari, Hanging Memories, mixed media, 2023. Photo: Studio Abrakadabra / Fotogalleriet.

Ayman Alazraq, The Lost Tapes of a Peoples’ Tribunal, 1982, Fotogalleriet, Oslo

The struggle for a free Palestine has been going on for generations. The same applies to the associated solidarity work, and Alazraq’s exhibition, which runs until the beginning of March next year, takes its starting point in archival material from the Norwegian solidarity movement. A central feature is the video documentation of a hearing in Oslo in October 1982 about the massacre of the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. The witnesses consist mainly of Norwegian and international doctors and healthcare workers, but the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish is also among them. It is striking to note how the crimes witnessed then – the massacre of civilians, the use of illegal phosphorus bombs, the mistreatment of prisoners, the targeting of hospitals, and the destruction of cultural heritage – are exactly the same as those that Israel is perpetrating on a larger scale now.

Ahmed Umar, Glowing Phalanges, 2023. Installation view from Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo. Photo: Ulli Holz.

Ahmed Umar, Glowing Phalanges, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo / Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen

What does a prayer look like? Perhaps like Umar’s sculptural prayer beads, which range from the delicate and beautiful to the strange and abject. The Forbidden Prayers project is intended to continue until there are a thousand of them, but the ninety-nine works shown at Kunstnernes Hus – each held by a cast of the artist’s hand – were impressive enough. In particular, I was captivated by the ninety-ninth prayer bead: a monumental textile work that covered the entire ceiling in one of the skylight halls, accompanied by an atmospheric sound piece with prayer calls that invited viewers to slow down and reflect. A version of the exhibition remains on display in Bergen Kunsthall for a week into the new year.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth: Only sounds that tremble through us, 2022. 4-channel video, 2-channel sound and subwoofer, steel and concrete panels. 34:37 min. Installation view from Astrup Fearnley Museet. Photo: Christian Øen.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, An echo buried deep deep down but calling still, Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo

I saw this exhibition twice before it was taken down at the end of May, but would have liked to visit it even more often. Not least to view it in the light of all the things I know now, after more than two months of live-streamed genocide in Gaza. New York and Ramallah-based Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s show was like a declaration of trust in the resistant power of art and poetry. The power of dancing in a place where you belong, but aren’t allowed to be. The power of staying with the broken, to transcend what holds you bound. The power of a dried thistle.

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