Laurie Lax on MA 2020

Artist: Daniela Bergschneider

On September 10 VISP, in collaboration with KODE and KMD, hosted a Critics´ Conversation about the MA-show 2020, here is Laurie Lax´ thoughts on the exhibition:

I sensed a lot of pain and felt a lot of life in MA2020 – a surprisingly unimaginative exhibition title to come from 21 artists and a curator. Thankfully, the title had no bearing on the actual works, which were vivid in their portrayal of real life and sometimes offered a welcome escape from it.

Mundane reality of life on a cruise ship comes sharply into focus in Dale Rothenberg’s video-essay Crew Deck, via a slow tracking shot, except the boat was moving not the camera. This mundanity I find painful because it points to so much labour inequality and waste, which is all the more striking against Norway’s sublime fjord backdrop. I admire the slow contemplation of this work, capturing the voyeur in all of us.

Several works dealt with the pain of others, including Everything is attached to work, money, health and the homes we live in by Amalie Vestergaard Olsen. Her adept drawings have been enlarged and laser cut, expressing the desire for hidden realities to be seen. I was particularly moved by the small artist book which permitted a more private emotional response.

A pulsating drone pervaded the whole exhibition throughout. To find its origin, the audience was lured into a small black box with rapid imagery of self-inflicted pain (also pleasure) – in Espen Pederson’s Blood & I. Through sharing and inviting the audience to witness this private, controlled performance, Pederson’s work demanded freedom and autonomy over one’s own body and sexuality.

The untranslatable sense of longing (pain?) was a constant refrain in the letter correspondence forming the backbone of Nayara Leite’s Meus Caros Amigos – Part II. I understood the slowness of letter-writing and the slowness of processing her close-friend’s photographic portraits, as processes filled with care. In times of rapid screen-based communication, it felt poignant that the text-based video component of Leite’s installation was a greater pull than the photographs – at least to me.

In yet another, deeply personal work, I reflected on the pain that leads to addiction and the reproduction of pain in Robert Carter’s Tears from the Concrete Cloud. This video-essay was juxtaposed alongside two copies of the same print. For anyone who does not know the process: woodcut is very arduous. Carter’s labor was at the service of a picture designed to please, but unable to communicate what it is (it doesn’t even know which way up it should be). Is it a labor of love, despite everything?

I wanted to touch Daniela Bergschneider’s porcelain / textile pieces the same way I want to touch hedgehogs (knowing it would hurt). For me the seriousness of their polished steel frames distracted from their playfulness though – a quality I greatly appreciated in Oda Bremnes’ Life Forces. Through delicate use of programming and computers, Bremnes imbued two lamps and a radio with a sense of life force that goes beyond human experience. At the same time, this installation acknowledged the presence of a human audience with its interactive quality, inviting them to marvel and enjoy. It’s refreshing when art and technology are not interpassive, made for their own enjoyment.

Tech-oriented interactivity also featured in Kaeto Sweeney’s installation; its strewn casts of arms made me think about the lost limbs of the Parthenon/Elgin marbles that were stolen from Greece by the British. Was I supposed to forget all this pain and dance when the muffled music of Planningtorock started pumping?

I’m attempting to bring the focus of this piece of writing away from pain and towards life and celebration. Perhaps you’ve heard that 80% of life on earth is contained in the ocean? The importance of this fact is paramount, so I understand why Emilie Wright’s sound piece, One day the sea, was blasted out of Kode 2 into the public space of Bergen, a city that is intrinsically knitted to the North Sea and the fjords. How did we all wash up here? There are many and diverse ways, and one of those ways – which is a reason to celebrate – was through MA2020.

(The Critics´ Conversation was possible due to the generous support of Bergen kommune and Norsk kulturråd)