A Season of Acceleration

‘Out with the old’ might be Norwegian art’s motto this spring, which will see numerous changes to buildings as well as directors – and plenty of experiments with new technology.

Katja Høst, Y-blokka, 2019.

Among the works I particularly noticed last year were Katja Høst’s melancholy black-and-white photographs of the Y-Block building in the Oslo government district, images that were circulated as postcards during the Oslo Biennial’s second instalment in October last year. Høst shows the building, which is currently facing demolition, from obscure angles: the façade is reflected in pools of water in the square outside; the play of light on the gnarled, sandblasted concrete; banal interior details, such as flaking paint, valve openings and wiring, etc. In the one picture featuring Picasso’s mural The Fisherman (1970), the artwork is obscured by a large Christmas tree. Høst highlights the actual materiality of the building over the historical gravity so often ascribed to it in the ongoing discussions about its possible preservation.

The fight to preserve the Y-Block was suddenly prominently featured on the public agenda at the start of the new year, when the largest protest rally on the subject seen so far was organised on 2 January. It would seem that these efforts had some effect; the decision on whether or not to demolish the building has certainly been postponed. So too has the opening exhibition at Nasjonalmuseet: due to construction delays, it has now been pushed back to 2021. Still, the list of artists to be featured will be made public this spring, just one of several initiatives made by the museum to counter the public’s impatience. For example, on 27 March it will launch the exhibition Nytt i samlingen (New to the collection), featuring a selection of the more than seven hundred new acquisitions made during 2019. The museum particularly emphasises how this exhibition, which spans art and design, historical and new works, will also “reflect the museum’s focus on strengthening its collection of works by women.”

In collaboration with the Vigeland Museum, the Nasjonalmuseet has created the travelling exhibition Gustav Vigeland. Angsten står i sofaen (Gustav Vigeland. Anxiety is on the sofa), featuring Vigeland’s earliest sculptures. The first stop was the Romsdalsmuseum in Molde on 9 January. At the Vigeland Museum itself, the spring season will be launched on 31 January with the exhibition Et modernistisk punktum (A modernist full stop), in which the Norwegian painter Dag Erik Elgin engages in a dialogue with Vigeland’s unfinished sepulchre in order to call forth an affinity with reductive abstraction from a sculptural oeuvre otherwise best known for its pathos-filled and archaic vitalism. Another Norwegian painter from the same generation will also present an exhibition this spring: on 28 February, last year’s festival exhibitor Mari Slaattelid takes over both of the main skylighted rooms at Kunstnernes Hus, presumably to present a mode of painting that is both sensitive to context and (in the best sense of the term) self-concerned.

The Munch Museum prepared for its impending relocation with the comprehensive exhibition Everything We Own, which opened last autumn at its old location at Tøyen and will remain in place until the museum moves into its new home in Bjørvika this summer. The Oslo Biennial lays low, too: in 2020, it will, in its own words, “spend a lot of resources on completing, continuing and strengthening the projects initiated,” and will “work on implementing the infrastructure that is such a key part of the biennial concept.” Let’s hope that this likeable biennial, which Kristian Vistrup Madsen aptly described in last year’s advent calendar as “the perfect way to not do a biennial,” will succeed in reaching a state of synergy with the overall conditions for the production of art in Oslo, just as they wish.

Kunsthall Oslo’s only publicly announced contribution to this spring in art is the exhibition A Collective Chaosmos, a group show that promises to be densely packed. It numbers almost as many invited artists as there are square metres of floor space at the venue. Examples include Hilmar Fredriksen, Goutam Ghosh, Anna Daniell, Eirik Senje, Siri Aurdal, Bente Sætrang, Bjørn Mortensen, Per Inge Bjørlo, and Serina Erfjord.

New directors, new tech

Just before Christmas, it was announced that Solveig Øvstebø will take over as director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum after Gunnar Kvaran. Øvstebø previously headed Bergen Kunsthall before joining the Renaissance Society in Chicago, and her appointment is sure to entail a change of direction in the museum’s exhibition profile. But we still have another geographic group show to go before the changeover becomes palpable. Opening on 31 January, Alpha Crucis – Contemporary African Art, curated by André Magnin, will present a total of seventeen artists from seven African countries, including Senegalese artist Seni Awa Camara, John Goba (1944–2019) from Sierra Leone, and Lebohang Kganye from South Africa.

Lebohang Kganye, Ka 2-phisi yaka e pinky II, 2013, from the series Ke Lefa Laka: Her-Story, 2013. Courtesy of AFRONOVA GALLERY, Johannesburg.

Kunsthall Trondheim ended last year with the travelling exhibition A beast, a god, a line, featuring more than fifty artists from the Asia-Pacific. That exhibition ends on 16 February. The programme created under the leadership of Stefanie Hessler, who took over as director in September, has its first outing on 4 March in the form of a solo show featuring Jenna Sutela. Sutela participated in Mud Muses at Moderna Museet in Stockholm last year, an exhibition which sought to examine the relationship between life and technology. A similar aim underpins Setula’s exhibition at Kunsthall Trondheim, which will revolve around artificial intelligence and machine learning, featuring exhibits such as lava lamps shaped to resemble the artist’s head, slime mould sculptures, and an app. Concurrently, the venue also presents the art and design collective Geocinema, which works with videos based on photographs and footage from smartphones, surveillance cameras, and satellites to show how our planetary-wide sensory networks constitute a vast cinematic apparatus.

Podium in Oslo has devoted the first quarter of the year to a collaboration with Lesia Vasylchenko, focusing on her project STRUKTURA Time, an interdisciplinary initiative that will investigate “temporal aspects of the media and social change.” On 16 January, the gallery space will be taken over by Kim Laybourn’s representations of processes of decay, filmed with a macro lens. On 14 February, the venue presents an exhibition by Bahar Noorizadeh, dedicated to communist city planning and the soviet concept of “disurbanism,” and on 5 March they will screen a video work by Lebanese artists Bassem Saad and Edwin Nasr on the use of virtual reality and video games among political parties in the Middle East. In addition to the programme at Podium, STRUKTURA Time will also host a lecture at the Academy of Arts on 19 February, featuring literary scholar Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, who will present his ‘Ant Network Theory’, which aims to promote a de-centred and dehumanized future-oriented ethics of hybridity.

Kim Layburn, Sentient Landscape, 2019. Photo: Istvan Virag.

Noplace is entering its final year with a habitually tightly packed programme of solo shows. First off the block was Asle Nilsen, whose exhibition opened last week, on 10 January. Terje Abusdal is next on 31 January, followed by Marie Svindt on 21 February, and Ilija Wyller on 13 March. Solo exhibitions featuring Norwegian artists are also on the cards at Galleri Riis, which presents last year’s winner of the Lorch Schive art award, Eline Mugaas, on 30 January. Other solo shows in Oslo this spring include Malin Bulow at BOA, opening on 16 January, an event advertised by the now familiar images of people in semi-transparent white chewing gum costumes. 222T gets the spring season going on 23 January with an exhibition featuring Yngvild K. Rolland, followed on 13 March by a presentation of British contemporary art created in collaboration with the gallerist and curator Anthony Wilkinson. That same day, Ivan Galuzin will appear at the Norwegian Sculptors’ Society – boasting a fulldome planetarium(!) alongside sculptures in wood – preceded there by exhibitions featuring Farhad Kalantary and Eamon O’Kane, both opening on 23 January.

If you wish to view the exhibitions presented at Haus der Kunst in Oslo, you must keep your ear to the ground: they are often announced on the very same day they open. I only managed to wrangle one fixed date out of the gallerists: on 28 February they will present a duo show featuring Zoe Barcza and Gaia Vincensini. The spring programme also promises a visit from artists Peter Friel and Matthew Langan-Peck. Destiny’s kicks off the year with a performance event on 15 February, featuring artists such as Greg Pope, Elina Waage Mikalsen, and Simon Daniel Tegnander Wenzel. On 17 April, it will present an exhibition of paintings by Gritli Faulhabers.

At UKS – Young Artists’ Society, the season starts on 31 January with an exhibition featuring Bruno Zhu. He will instruct the UKS staff, dressed up for the occasion by the artist, to spread gossip and misunderstandings about the exhibited objects, several of them borrowed from the UKS archive. On 24 April, the venue officially opens an exhibition featuring Eli Maria Lundgaard’s explorations of physical changes and bodily decay through video and ceramics. Fotogalleriet collaborates with artist Nina Strand and the Paris-based duo Anna Planas and Pierre Hourquet on the five-part project Le Book Club, a project dedicated to exploring the photo book as an exhibition venue. The first “chapter” will be launched on 15 January. From then on, weekly instalments will be added until 16 February.

Across the mountains

On 28 February, Entrée in Bergen will open an exhibition featuring Sara Wolfert. Taking the copyright dispute surrounding the song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ as her point of departure, Wolfert will address the issue of cultural appropriation. On 17 April, a solo exhibition starring Oliver Ressler will premiere the artist’s film Carbon and Captivity. At Bergen Kunsthall, Sandra Mujinga’s exhibition, which opened last year, remains on until 19 January. It will be followed by a presentation of artist Simone Fattal, opening on 31 January. Beginning on the same day, the educator and artist Adelita Husni-Bey will introduce viewers to non-competitive learning models inspired by elements such as participatory theatre, presented here in the venue’s project space. At Kode, audiences will be interested to learn that this spring, Jeanette Christensen will stage an intervention in The Rasmus Meyer Collection, opening on 13 March. Later, on 8 May, the venue will host an exhibition featuring Paul McCarthy.

Adelita Husni-Bey, from the series The Council: Founder’s Room: Third planery session on the future of The Institution, 2018.

Marie Nerland’s siteless, Bergen-based curatorial platform Volt’s plans for the spring season include projects featuring artists Xaviera Simmons and Kiluanji Kia Henda, respectively. At Kunsthuset Kabuso outside Bergen, the spring season is gently ushered in on 8 February with an exhibition featuring Maia Urstad and Lars Ove Toft, who use sound and video to call attention to “changes happening without us realising it.” We may expect a similar daintiness at Veronica Bruce and Karoline Bakken Lund’s exhibition opening at artist-run Palmera on 22 February; certainly, if the works showed at Destiny’s in 2017 are anything to go by.

A more emphatic statement is issued by Kristiansand Kunsthall, which launches its season on 17 January with educational political theatre, specifically the play Cleo’s future – a collaboration between Cleo Højholdt and her father, stage director Jeppe Kristensen – in which a fourteen-year-old interviews experts from various disciplines about what her life will be like.

Oslo is not alone in seeing delays caused by construction work. Kunsthall Stavanger will make a late arrival this year due to upgrades to its building. On 26 March, it presents a Marte Eknæs exhibition that continues in the footsteps of her Air Body project from last autumn, which consisted of an inflatable sculpture crowbarred into a stairwell. Eknæs’s works form part of a series of commissions which will, in the years leading up to the venue’s anniversary in 2025, respond to the renovations currently in progress.

The Sami Centre for Contemporary Art in Karasjok will open the season on 25 January, presenting exhibitions featuring Ingunn Utsi and Andreas Holtung. On 28 March, they will be followed by Katarina Pirak Sikku and Arnold Johansen. This spring, Tromsø Kunstforening will show an exhibition featuring Belgian artist Anouk De Clercq. Opening on 17 January, the show will present works inspired by a research trip to Tromsø in the winter of 2019. These include two new films, one of which is described as a protest song for the 21st century inspired by the idea of ​​radical empathy. With this, spring is well on the way.

Anouk De Clercq, Thing, 2013, still from video.