Scott Elliott on MA 2020

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

The MA 2020 exhibition, hosted this year by Kode, presents the work of 21 students in what postures very comfortably as a museum show. There is rarely a common logic to how such a group exhibition functions, the inherent difficulty of connecting the works often simply based on the fact that this is a group of colleagues and in this case, the sense of a hurried rush back to the way things were. 

Tucked away at the end of the exhibition hall, a dark room hosts three works that seem to host an internal dialogue, somewhat bound in frustration and a state of limbo given to us by the state of events in 2020, PV Knude, Kaeto Sweeney and Haruka Fukao’s works present a welcome push of resistance against this return to the standard, happily colluding in discomfort in an otherwise more stoic setting. This is resistance to what feels like a period of ‘normativity terrorism’ and one mourning a time when congregation was possible, thankfully without being overtly illustrative of this particular period. Fukao’s intended ceremonial space lies neighbour to Kaeto Sweeney’s installation ‘I seem to live’, an homage to times when queer spaces were accessible as a place of solace for queer individuals, even if in a reduced capacity due to the lack of such spaces in Norway in general. 

This moment we are currently faced with is one of forced domesticity, with alternatives for presentation being shifted to a mostly digital realm. Sweeney’s installation sees the artist longing for a space beyond this domestic confinement. A printed textile with ‘I think that ‘’atmosphere’’ sounds like ‘’utmost fear’’ ‘ written on it acknowledges nefarious goings on outside, and with a move to the digital, this has taken on a new meaning for queer artists and queer bodies, often now presented with a digitisation of practice as the standard alternative for gathering. 

The digital one, for many, is far from a safe space or even one of respect, and is for sure a sad substitute for our club culture with these ceremonies waiting in the wings and the last parts of our society to come back together once again. Altogether, this room seems to be one populated by almost autonomous objects, perhaps object oriented anthology I assign through a desire for things to move again, to dance in sync to a pumping soundtrack that seems to come from the room next door. Haruka Fukao’s ‘A ceremony from a planet I went someday’ ought to have been a sharing space where guests gathered and drank together. In this context it feels closer to a different type of ceremonial practice, a wake for our community.

PV Knude’s vinyl record ‘The Anti-Terror Album’ sits amidst Sweeny’s installation, with a crown missing on my second viewing of the exhibition, now off-site at Kunsthall 3.14 a few hundred metres away. The work was created out of refusal to accept the racist narrative of Denmark’s national terror exercise script and in many ways, resists the structure of the overall show, with the vinyl also presented in the main hall, almost antagonistically against a brutalist pillar, reminiscent of hostile architecture. The fact that Knude’s vinyl is also sitting amidst Kaeto Sweeney’s installation, by a cast of a fist now makes more sense to me, their collusion hinting towards protesting of whitewashing and a normative presentation. 

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