A room in twilight. Only a faint trace of light illuminates the scene. The iron bars of the window cast a pattern of vertical shadows onto the walls, which starts spinning like a carousel when a car passes. This is not the setting of a film noir, but Endre Tveitan’s solo exhibition at Kunstplass  in Oslo. Tveitan, who studied film and video in Copenhagen and who holds a Master’s degree from Oslo’s Art Academy, operates on the threshold between the illuminated white cube of art and the immersive darkness of cinema.
The exhibition comprises five video installations: two screens can be viewed from the outside, another two are located inside the gallery, while the fifth work, Touch: swipe, tap, and beyond, is visible from both sides as it is projected onto one of the windows. There is something provisional and transitory about this arrangement. But the rather loose distribution of works in space is no coincidence, as the exhibition is a work-in-progress. Over the next four weeks, Tveitan will use it as a studio space. He will edit and modify some of the exhibited pieces, discard others, produce new ones and change their arrangement. Thus, if you stop by in one or two weeks’ time, you might find the exhibition completely changed. The dynamic premise means that this review can only be a snapshot of a mutating whole. However, the exhibition also has a conceptual core that will possibly carry over as its materials change, seemingly to do with making tangible a withdrawn world of objective agency.
Two of the pieces inside, floating stone #3 and floating stone #4, are nearly identical. In each of them, the camera captures a rock from close range. Camera and stone are so closely intertwined in a movement of rocking back-and-forth and side-to-side that it remains unclear which one of them actually produces the motion. This accelerated waltz between recording device and object takes place on a small screen installed in the ceiling and as a big projected image on the wall.
Touch: swipe, tap, and beyond is a video of a hand seemingly interacting with the interface of a smartphone. projected on the window. Tveitan used freely available stock material, which is meant to be laid on top of filmed touchpad interfaces. By skipping this step of the video’s commodification, namely by not allowing the tool to manifest, the hand becomes an estranged bodily object performing a dance of spontaneous motions of contraction and extension on a black plane. Through the sensual register of dance, Tveitan makes visible this usually withdrawn and unnoticed grace of a well-known object.
The title of the video saliva collage, whose screen points out towards the street, is to be taken literally. Drops of spit land on the camera lens one after another, sliding in various directions. But it takes a while to recognize what is going on. At first, all one sees is a morphing ornament of white forms and structures set against a black background, building up ever-more complex formations. They recall scientific visualizations of digital networks, brain activity or galaxies. Discovering that you are actually looking at saliva prompts the work to take on an icky quality as it shifts from diagram to secretion, from cold visual code to warm and formless fluids.
While saliva collage implies the near identity of the work’s ‘paint’ and the artist’s body, the untitled work underneath does exactly the opposite. It consists of a plugged-in, smashed LCD screen where the liquid crystals produce a shimmering, painting-like composition consisting of stripes of blue, red, green and pink. Another colour field on the screen shifts its tone in respone to vibrations. Once again, the object’s agency – this time an artistic one – manifests itself. Tveitan reveals to us the material and hardware reality of digital media culture. If nothing else, this art piece is also digital rubbish, alluding to the deep time of the new media, that is to the enormous timespans of their material decay.
As engaging as Tveitan’s video works are on an intellectual level, they fall a bit short as visual sensations. I, at least, found myself underwhelmed by the brown-colored shakiness of the stone’s short loop. Maybe it is the sheer banality of the object that prevented me from being hypnotized by the rhythm of its dance. And my fascination with the glowing ornament of the saliva collage was rather short-lived, since the grotesque identification of the saliva as the image’s substrate comes off as a bit gimmicky after the immediate affective response of disgust has faded. Thus, while Tveitan’s object videos know how to spark reflection, there is some untapped potential in terms of giving them the visual punch that they deserve. But since we are only at the very beginning of what promises to be a progressive event, it is perhaps too early for a definite verdict.