Strategic mumbling

NoPlace again replaced "young and alternative" with a more established artist, this time Vibeke Tandberg, who showed new works and launched a new book in the exhibition Mumbles.

Vibeke Tandberg, Mumbles, 2011.Photo: Petter Buhagen.

Vibeke Tandberg, who usually exhibits in commercial galleries like Klosterfelde, MGM/OSL, and Gerhardsen Gerner, has found new pastures on the east side of Oslo. The artist-run gallery NoPlace recently showed new text works by Tandberg in an exhibition titled Mumbles. She has explored visual mumbling in previous projects like Untitled (Scribble) in which a flourish of doodles cover a photograph. If we freely translate the scribbling in the photographic works with the mumbling of the textual pieces, the mumblings at NoPlace looked more like conceptual works with a sober appearance, as opposed to the expressive and destructive treatment in the photographs. Three canvases leaning against a wall were covered with two words each, one over another. Arse. Ears. Or Not. Or Eye. Ass, ears, and eye (the last a homonym in English with I). A publication from Onestar Press launched at the opening—also called Mumbles—deals with the same body parts, each in its own way, but with more words and longer sentences that often form poetic constellations. The narrative voice in the book does perhaps mumble, but mumbles about mumbling: possibly not to communicate, but to establish a mumbled I that can challenge how language can make claims (an I, a self) and create a subject. The language Tandberg uses develops its own logic, with a limited and repetitious usage that comes across as playful, partially naive. The mumbling may come not just from the mouth but also the ass.

Vibeke Tandberg, Mumbles, 2011. Photo: Kristian Skylstad.

There’s a connection with the ass and language, as Dominique Laporte wrote in his 1978 History of Shit. The book discusses how language was standardized and cleaned up as sanitary conditions and hygiene improved across Europe, and how this goes hand in hand with power and subjectivity: a double cleanup in both language and hygiene. Tandberg’s language in the book, and to a certain degree on the canvases, ducks away from normal syntax and structures of meaning. In the paintings this language becomes more spartan, in the book more complex, but always revolves around mumbling as a strategy, the ass, and our physical senses. A final work, a video shown on a laptop in the window, follows a hand that writes, erases.

These three works continue Tandberg’s interest in language as related to identity, definition, and power. Her works have undergone a series of changes in expression and medium across the years, and the artist has to a certain degree abdicated the role of photographer. But the threads from older works concerning identity and authenticity are still there. A large potentiality exists in the forms and formats in which Tandberg works, such as the textual paintings and the poetry in the book. This potential is not wholly emptied, in that the two varied formats work on how we construe and categorize language and the formation of meaning, how one can simply categorize the book as poetry and the paintings as art. Can one also dig more deeply into these structures, especially when NoPlace and Tandberg, two established entities in their own right, must constantly make choices about how they will participate in the art world, where and what they will show? In any case I place great value on the attempt of NoPlace to mix generations and hierarchies as it does when it works with Tandberg, but also with Michel Auder and Henrik Plenge Jakobsen.

Vibeke Tandberg, Mumbles, 2011. Photo: Kristian Skylstad.