MÅG 13 måg # 13 2013 published by nabroad www.maagmag.com
BODIL FURU ANJA CARR ELNA HAGEMANN MARIANNA UUTINEN SYNNØVE G. WETTEN JOHANNA WILLENFELT MARIANNE BENGTSSON
/editor/ The 13th issue of måg is a themed issue on the concept of abjection. Many things have been said about abjection. The abject is neither subject nor object. It exists somewhere in between. The abject is the part of us we will not acknowledge. It is not dirt, but it is dirt in the wrong place. The abject is hair that gets stuck in the drain after taking a shower; a worm in the pear you just took a juicy bite out of. The worm in the pear would not pose the same threat to us had it been in the ground or as fish bait on a hook.
a web of discussions about other themes and issues. A strong feminist engagement is seen in several of the features. Ideas of the body as a means of control, of identity – as a possibility but also as an obstacle. The ambivalence between reality and dream, between abstraction and recognition. I am very proud to present the featured artists; Anja Carr, Johanna Willenfelt, Marianna Uutinen, Elna Hagemann, Synnøve G. Wetten in a text by Joanna Lundberg, and a special text by Beaconsfield’s Director Naomi Siderfin on Bodil Furu as well as a series of pencil drawings by Marianne Bengtsson.
According to Julia Kristeva in ‘Powers of Horror’, the abject is: “what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite. The traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a saviour…” Marginalised groups in society are sometimes given the position of the abject. It may be women, immigrants, sexual minorities or any other group that challenges the order of conventional identity. In this issue, we see traces of the abject here and there, but there are other traces as well. There are many paths to follow and some that intersect each other. What started out as an investigation of abject elements quickly developed into
Lisa Stålspets Editor for måg #13
13 COVER: MARIANNA UUTINEN ‘Untitled’
2013 Acrylic on canvas 173 x 221 cm Image Courtesy of carlier | gebauer MAGAZINE DESIGN: Rodney Point © 2013 PUBLISHER: NABROAD
EDITOR # 13: LISA STÅLSPETS måg EDITOR: AUDHILD DAHLSTRØM CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: INGA WHARTON / LYNDON RILEY PAVLA ALCHIN / MARIANNE MORILD RUTH BARKER / LISA STÅLSPETS Copyright of all editorial content is held by måg. Reproduction in whole or part is forbidden. måg © 2013 www.maagmag.com
TEXT 3 EDITOR / Lisa Stålspets 26 MARIANNA UUTINEN / Lisa Stålspets 48 ELNA HAGEMANN / Lisa Stålspets 64 SYNNØVE G. WETTEN / Joanna Lundberg
78 ANJA CARR / Lisa Stålspets
8 BODIL FURU: THIS BIRD HAS FLOWN (II) / Naomi Siderfin
94 INTOXICATED BY MY ILLNESS / Johanna Willenfelt
110 23 COMPULSIONS / Marianne Begtsson
This bird h
the Envir and the Ex in the films o
ronment xistential of Bodil Furu
/FURU/ According to Paul McCartney, the ‘wood’ referenced in The Beatles’ song about casual lovemaking – ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’(1) – is the ubiquitous and affordable pine dominating Western interior design in the 1960/70’s hippy era. The song makes a metaphorical contribution when considering the work of the artist Bodil Furu. Norway continues to enjoy an abundance of natural resources – fish, minerals, Christmas trees (2) and the oil that ensures that Norwegians are amongst the most comfortable citizens in the world (3). Perhaps the ultimate sign of prosperity is when a country is able to respect its cultural producers in a meaningful way and support its artists. State funding has paid off in a body of moving image works produced over the past five years by Bodil Furu. ‘This bird has flown...’ was a season of six films exhibited at Beaconsfield, London over summer 2013, offering British audiences a comprehensive introduction to the work of one of Norway’s most respected artists for the first time. Embracing key themes of regeneration, environment and globalisation these films take us from the remote islands of the Arctic Circle to urban China and benefit from significant time investment and high production values. On my first encounter with Furu’s work last year
in her studio in Oslo, it appeared to fall more readily into the category of documentary filmmaking than video art, but a closer look at the six films, for me, instead charted the artist’s subversion of the tropes of Documentary. The earliest film exhibited, ‘Opera’ (4), was commissioned by Public Art Norway (KORO) in 2008 as a part of celebrations for the new Norwegian Opera house: an architectural flagship on Oslo’s waterfront. The commissioning brief was simple: to document the Folketeateret – the workers theatre that became Norway’s first opera house in the 1950’s and would now be defunct. The film opens with the camera taking us up stairs and into the backstage area of the theatre. And there we remain for thirteen minutes to witness the impressive precision of the technical crew as they move about their business. Furu chooses to focus on the Socialist narrative embedded in the building. The Folketeateret was constructed in 1935 in the spirit of early social democracy in a working class area of Oslo, along the lines of the German Volksbuhne. At one point in the short 35 mm film, the camera swings disconcertingly to a fading Swastika in the decorative frieze, painted by an unknown artist in 1938. The film is ‘silent’ but for the ambient sounds of meaningful production. The only spoken words are orders issued through the backstage intercom. Narrative is supplemented by messages interspersed throughout the film, appearing to be embedded
in the technical apparatus. The words are rendered in LED and transmit idealistic texts from various sources such as “The Tragedy works. It revolutionises the mind”. Parallel to the Opera commission, Furu worked on another ‘documentary’ project, ‘Where Mountains Fall’ (5). Started in 2007 and completed in 2012, ‘Where Mountains Fall’, might be seen as an anchor project in dialogue with Furu’s other films over the period of its making. The material for this video work was gradually gathered over six years during annual summer trips to the sparsely populated Vegaøyan (Vega archipelago) on the coast of Nordland, as the artist built trust with her two principal subjects: Anna Stensholm and Anne Johnsen Lånen. As well as landscape photography and documentary interviews, the film montages domestic video footage taken by the families of her subjects, recording daily life on the islands in the 1960’s. The credits cite Anne J. Lånan and Bjørner Stensholm as Directors of Photography alongside the artist. The title of this film, rather than speaking of landscape, refers to a comment by Anne Lånen about the scale of the waves that break on the small, flat islands of Vega. Her phrase “where mountains fall” summarises in one image of devastation, the harshness of the physical and psychological climate for the artist’s subjects: the last women to leave the islands of Lånan and Hinskjœret, after a thousand years of cultivation.
In this video, the stories of two women are woven together, offering a backstory to popular narrative surrounding the iconic Norwegian Fisherman. Anna and Anne respectively recall lives of unremitting work and hardship: ways of life eventually swept away by an economic policy of centralisation. Both women, whilst living on different islands, have similar experiences of abandonment by their men. In these tiny sea-bound communities the menfolk spend months away from home leaving their women to do all the land based work: to farm and raise their children – large families of six or seven. When home the menfolk appear to spend much of the time drunk. Anna Stensholm, a native of the archipelago (who changed her name by only one letter when she married), recalls having to physically move the family’s wooden house from one location to another, alone, three months after giving birth. Like other women in extremely stressful situations at childbirth, her milk ceased and she was unable to feed her child. As well as raising six children she ran the island post office where she became the keeper of other people’s secrets and the butt of gossip as a result of her position of relative power. As the film progresses, it is revealed that the pressure of her position led to eventual emotional and mental breakdown. “Scandal and slander” was also the experience of Anne Johnsen Lånan who recalls the difficulties for an outsider marrying for love into the closed island community of Lånan. Anne’s memories of the shame of a
/FURU/ woman having to cut her own corn in the absence of her husband, imply her sense of his betrayal. Through interviews with the artist, she relives the anxiety of having to send her children to the mainland state boarding school from the age of six – for fourteen days at a time – where bullying of the islanders was rife. She describes her determination, as they got older, to show her children that there was “more than just this barren landscape here” by sending them to the mainland whenever she could. As the family name indicates, Anne’s husband was a community leader and it is ironic that, despite her negative experiences of isolation, Anne was among the last to leave Lånan. The Norwegian state policy of relocating remote communities for mainland factory work was strongly resisted, with the government resorting to forced eviction by cutting power lines to the islands. As Anna Stensholm reflects, the loss of identity that accompanied relocation devastated the male islanders – “they just withered”. Furu’s treatment of this tale of physical survival and psychological destruction lying beneath an idealised image of progress is skilful. Critical to the confidences she elicits from both women was the creation of safe relationships. Furu maintains this language of respect in her final presentation of the material – without pulling any punches.
The film opens and closes with music accompanying breathtaking seascapes: blue skies and romantic shorelines echoing Travel Industry portrayal of the magic of Scandinavia and lulling us into a false sense of expectation. A stunning natural backdrop runs throughout the 59 minute film, but (in the tradition of ‘pathetic fallacy’) takes on a more sinister character as the human traumas unfold, reminding us that ‘Nature’ is in the end an abstract concept, that existential longing does not greatly differ from one society to another and that one may be “as lonely in the city as on Lånan”. These are themes that are developed along different trajectories in other films within the body of work under discussion. During her research into Norwegian island micro-societies, Furu completed a film of similar length in which the theme of Nature also runs as a backdrop, but this time the setting is an overpopulated city in Northern China. ‘Misty Clouds’ (6) is the outcome of an Artists Residency in Beijing, where Furu became fascinated by the culture but found no direct subject to excite the production of a film. Instead, on her return to Norway, the artist applied for state funding to travel to the Shanxi province on two occasions. Shanxi province is one of China’s largest energy providers and has been declared an ecological catastrophe area. Coal is China’s long-term primary energy source and half of the country’s energy supply is produced in Taiyuan, an industrial metropolis ranked in 2007 by the
criticism of the status quo.
Passages of personal recall are intercut with scenes in which two young amateur actors recite poetry in a variety of locations in and World Bank as one of the world’s beyond the urban environment. most polluted cities. ‘Misty Clouds’ Ancient Chinese poems idealising was completed in 2011, from material nature are juxtaposed with a poem generated through the artist living for written during the early days of three months in Taiyuan. China’s Cultural Revolution and valorising the mining industry. The ‘Where Mountains Fall’ is interesting film ends with a scene set high up more for its Content than for its Form. in the city where the actors offer The 52 min film riffs on the tradition poetic reflection, surrounded by a of the documentary interview. landscape obscured by the smog Mindful of the self-censorship that of pollution. “The misty clouds surge Chinese citizens adopt as second towards my breast, The returning nature, Furu, engages in a variety birds fly out of my eyesight. One day of ingenious strategies to win I shall climb up the zenith, To look the confidence of a coal miner, down lower mountains.” environmental engineering students and various citizens of Taiyuan. As the film progresses, it occurs Their reflections on coal production, to the Western viewer that this health, urban planning and financial anthropological artwork could be structures create a range of views regarded as highly subversive by the about the experience of extreme Chinese authorities. Although the pollution. The correlation between artist did not intend her title to be China’s rapid economic growth and explicitly referential, it is hard not to the demand for increased energy associate the expression of individual production is well understood by views in the film with suppressed Furu’s subjects – “we have to create longings for personal freedom, pollution in order to develop” one as expressed by the Mengeloshi comments; “we would be nothing – a group of 20th century Chinese without coal” asserts another. A poets whose work reacted to the woman who has suffered from restrictions of the Cultural Revolution bronchitis since the age of seventeen – known as the ‘Misty Poets’. is more outspoken: “I’m not happy for the price I pay for economic Furu’s next project addresses development” (7). In the classroom environmental debates closer to the artist has tempted students to home as she turns her attention to enter Utopia in their discussions about the river Alna that flows through urban planning and the future of their eastern Oslo and around which city, opening up broader reflection the city is built. She reflects on the on environmental issues in a global complexities of urban planning and context and safely avoiding any demonstrates how difficult it can
of a cinema. The cinema fell into disuse when the economy of a town that had suffered from the loss of its fishing industry in the 1990’s, was rejuvenated by the discovery of gas in the North Sea. History repeats. be to create a park when several Like their southern counterparts agendas are at stake. who benefitted from oil, the people of Hammerfest got very rich, very In this instance, rather than observing quickly. Symbolic of the new wealth, Montage conventions, the artist and chiming with the new National divides her content by making two Opera in the capital, was the separate films. ‘Alnaelva I’ traces creation of a brand new art centre the course of the river from source to – Hammerfest Arktisk kultursenter. As sea in video and sound recordings was the case in Oslo, the advent of a and can be equally experienced as new cultural building was the death a visual or a sound work. ‘Alnaelva knell for the old. But while the tales II’ is a more conventional, “talking of two redundant social spaces run heads” documentary where the artist parallel, the artist’s treatment of each interviews the full range of people story is very different. with vested interests in the future of the river and the projected park on its Narration falls to a disembodied banks: the landscape architect, the voice speaking in the first person urban planner, the users, the activists and (as in ‘Misty Clouds’) two young and the politician. amateur actors from Hammerfest. With ‘Den gamle kinoen’, Furu takes ‘Den gamle kinoen’ (The old a step further in her engagement cinema) is Furu’s latest film and was with local people. In this film the completed days before its London script is written and filmed by the premier in July 2013. Separated by participants of a video workshop, five years, this film echoes the 2008 with the artist playing the roles of ‘Opera’ in its choice of subject, Director and Producer. Like ‘Opera’, which is a disused and derelict the story opens by taking the viewer cinema in Norway’s most northern up stairs and into the fabric of the city, Hammerfest. building - but unlike the opera house, the cinema is derelict and dead. High up in the Arctic circle, The camera cuts to night scenes of Hammerfest is best known as a Hammerfest Fjord with the constantly centre for polar bear hunting and burning gas processing plant lighting for the free roaming reindeer in its the background and the ghost of the streets (an ongoing Sami freedom cinema speaking. that would be politically explosive to revoke (8)). Totally destroyed Through the project with young by German armed forces in WW2, people the issues of the city are the post-war reconstruction of exposed. They write and perform Hammerfest included the building the script during an exploration of
the shell of the old cinema. In their conversation they reflect on the past and talk about their futures, at the same time as commenting on global issues. In the course of the 12 min film it is revealed that since the advent of the processing plant in Hammerfest, it has been snowing soot. With world-weary cynicism, the youngsters seem to accept the inevitability of the environment being sold down the river as an outcome of prosperity. They talk about placing an “end-date on nature” and about the probability of Norway selling its midnight sun. They extend the thought with a reference to the exploitation by Chinese mining companies of the African Congo. This is a clue as to where Bodil Furu is heading next. During August 2013, Furu is in Congo, commissioned to produce a film for the Congolese art Biennial. She has chosen as her subject a copper mining town in the south of the region, where multinationals carve up mining rights in the absence of government controls. As she did in Taiyuan, Furu will travel with a film crew of one – her long-term Director of Photography, Cecilie Semec. She prefers to work this way: low budgets bring freedom from vested interests. A two-week visit in 2012 has prepared the ground: the artist has made a connection with a Congolese art school, local people will build the script and Furu will produce the film in six weeks. Bodil Furu’s political interests are unequivocal and she is an expert in documentary research. To unearth her narrative she must find ways of
engaging with those at the heart of the issue and earn their trust. But this is where the association with Investigative Journalism ends. In each of the films discussed there is a formal progression. The public art commission, ‘Opera’ closely and objectively observes people at work and in the editing makes her succinct historical point. By the time she creates ‘Den gamle kinoen’, Furu has drawn her human subjects into the process of making the film to such an extent she neither holds the camera nor writes the script and the form of the short film is taking on some attributes of a Feature film. So where should Bodil Furu’s films be shown? Due to the length of some of these works, the most obvious destination might be the cinema and the film festival has indeed been the context in which Furu’s work has most frequently been seen. At the same time, the content of Furu’s films make them significant historical documents that should be archived for posterity. As an example, ‘Where Mountains Fall’ is politically and historically important as a missing link in folk history, making a useful contribution to cultural understanding. The artist has made – so far unsuccessful – attempts to get this video shown on Norwegian TV: a museum or library might be another potential context for this work. Where better to find an audience receptive to precious, early domestic video footage of herded cows swimming to pastures green onranother island? Nevertheless, these video works have been made in and for a visual
arts context and it is a measure of their accomplishment that, despite thehconsiderable length of some, the videos operate successfully in the gallery space: it is as possible to derive meaning by dropping in on one of Furu’s films for a few minutes as sitting through for 50 minutes from beginning to end. And it is in this context they are likely to remain for the moment. Furu is simultaneously interested in the dynamics that bind communities together and the forces that tear them apart and this is territory that can be challenging in more conservative contexts. Whilst reflecting on socio-economic factors that shape change, these politically charged screen works are likely to continue to be seen in the arena of art because of the oblique way in which the artist tackles the issues. Politicised enquiry is balanced by the artist’s interest in the universal way existential questions surface, reinforcing the left-field truism that the personal is political. Cultural differences between northern and southern Norway are great, and between Norway and China vast, yet the artist finds commonalities through the human face of the dilemmas surrounding the personal and environmental cost of accelerated economic growth. Furu’s integrity as an artist lies in the way she works and reworks her subject matter to deliver her message – but not at the expense of the people she works with. No fixed ideological position is taken; rather the films increasingly become a platform from which others may
speak. One gets the impression that participants have taken the opportunity to work out their own thoughts, perhaps raising their own levels of consciousness in the process of filmmaking. In this way Furu’s films simultaneously operate on a micro-political level whilst making a significant contribution to macro-debates. Her message in its simplest form is that money changes everything and it suggests that (to quote an LED message from Opera), “We have to start a revolution against ourselves and our own laws”. By pure coincidence, the artist told me that her name – Furu – is the word in Norwegian for the Pine tree… And when I awoke I was alone This bird had flown (9)
NOTES Naomi Siderfin studied at Newcastle University from 1981-85 and at the Royal Academy Schools, London from 1987-90. She lives and works in London. Naomi Siderfin is the director of BEACONSFIELD, London. http://beaconsfield.ltd.uk ‘Bodil Furu, This bird has flown…’ was at Beaconsfield, London, 12 June-30 August, 2013. beaconsfield.ltd.uk beaconsfield.ltd.uk/projects/bodil-furu-ii
Lennon/McCartney, 1965. Released on The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul, 1965. IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
REFERENCES 1 Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), Lennon/McCartney, 1965. Released on The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul, 1965. 2 Oslo continues to make an annual presentation to London of the enormous conifer lighting Trafalgar Square each Christmas, commemorating allegiance in WW2 and symbolizing ongoing friendship between the two countries. 3 Norway ranked third in the world’s GDP per capita index in 2012. 4 Opera, 35mm (1:1,850). 13min. 2008. Director of Photography: Cecile Semec FNF Sound: Thomas A Holmemo, Martin Tur Eriksen Script Writer, Editor and Director: Bodil Furu 5 Where Mountains Fall HD video, 59 min. 2012 Directors of Photography: Bodil Furu, Anne J. Lånan and Bjørnar Stensholm. Script Writer, Editor and Director: Bodil Furu 6 Misty Clouds HD video. 52 min.,2011 Participants: Jia Li, Shuai Jia, Wang Jng, Wu Zhiting, Wen Zhao, Anxin Ma, Gong Yu Ying, Wu Zhuanlian, Mengze Li, Pei Xiahong. Director of Photography: Cecile Semec FNF Production Assistant: Wong Men Hoi Script Writer, Editor and Director: Bodil Furu 7 Goldman Sachs estimates that 9-10% of China’s gross national income is spent on the social costs of economic success. 8 There is ongoing tension between the State of Norway and the indigenous Sami people of the Arctic. A nomadic tradition means the Sami are found across Northern Scandinavia - in Norway, Sweden and Finland – making territorial boundaries very difficult to control. 9 Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),
Fjell som Faller (Where Mountains Fall) 2011 Video still Image courtesy the artist Fjell som Faller (Where Mountains Fall) 2011 Video still Image courtesy the artist Misty Clouds 2010 Video still Image courtesy the artist Den gamle kinoen 2013 Video still Image courtesy the artist Den gamle kinoen 2013 Video still Image courtesy the artist Opera 2008 Video still Image courtesy the artist LINK: http://bodilfuru.com
UUTINEN by Lisa St책lspets
/UUTINEN/ Marianna Uutinen works with abstract painting. Maybe it is wrong to say that Uutinen works with abstract painting - because her images remind me of something I have seen. They remind me of things I know about. I just forget exactly what it is they remind me of. Something from everyday life. Something I have seen before. I am drawn to her voluptuous surfaces. If one could touch with ones eyes… I think that that is what one does when confronted by her canvases that are somehow wrapped and smeared with paint. In works such as ‘Smudge up’ and ‘Tonic’, it looks as if sheets of plastic have been wrapped casually around the canvases, creating creases and folds. The plastic is in fact acrylic paint; Uutinen uses only painting materials. Nevertheless, there is something on the surface rather than something within frames. I am drawn, seduced, but the impact is so strong that I become uncertain. I also want to push the paintings away. “Go easy, painting, you…” But the painting cannot speak or understand. I am meeting some otherness that I helped create by merely looking. There is something very corporeal in Uutinen’s practice. Yes, I am meeting a painting physically rather than just looking, even though that is what we do. We look. The blotches and the spatter of paint resemble
something we vaguely recognise. This something that we recognise is not something psychological, like an emotion, (though the something may very well evoke emotions) but a thing from life. An other. A sign. Uutinen works with the physical aspects of painting. The idea of painting, and of paint, as something that refers back to itself. She makes a something that is a thing. A fake – an illusion – a fiction that becomes real. LS: I think that these paintings could not have been made anywhere, at any time. There is something about your images. They are pictures about what being in the world might be today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today. They are at the same time physical experiences. What is your approach to painting? MU: Painting should be able to communicate through its physical aspects, still referencing a social sign of reality, rather than being only deconstructive and conceptual. The material aspects can formulate a psycho-physical space where the viewer’s abstract projections become concrete observations. The image becomes real, a living thing; tactile, communicative, undefinable but familiar. What is it like being in the world? An awareness of both the real and the sense of reality. LS: The idea of the painting as a sign leads me back to the question of whether or not your work is abstract. Maybe it is the wrong question to
Do you have any thoughts about the physicalities of painting? And ideas around fetishism in regard to painting?
MU: ask, even. Since the paintings are Painting has a fetishist and self-referential they are actually very formalist quality that is characteristic concrete. A smudge is a smudge. of the medium. These qualities need Paint is paint. Your work is abstract to be recognised and valued. I do just as the alphabet is. There are signs not think that I fetishise the here, in a language that is open to painting, but I do probably fetishise interpretation. We add meaning to and objectify experiencing through the signs. There are a few rules to the the material. The painting gets a game, some boundaries, but we take certain ”look” which is familiarity, and part in the process of creating which refers to material culture in meaning. general. I am particularly interested in how superficial culture brings Your paintings have something of the apparently insignificant things into abject to them. They are seductive, focus… and the ambiguity there: but there is also something a little bit what is unseen and what is noticed? sticky or spattery about them. Something that makes me I do not think about these things from associate to bodily functions and a counter culture or critical point of organic life processes. To death, view per se. even. Works such as ‘My ups and downs’ and ‘My roommate’ contain LS: shapes that are a lot like excrement, I think that any association I get to only that they are white and bodily functions, or the body as such, blending in with their clean concerns ideas of a body, or life, monochrome backgrounds. placed firmly in society as opposed I suppose that it is this uncertainty to the universal (pure) body. A body, of figuration – it could very well be or some kind of other, not myself, but something entirely different that we maybe, it is uncertain… some body are watching – that adds to the that likes to dress in fake gold, that feeling of abjection. At the same likes to put makeup on. A body that time, abjection is not something that eats cake, that bleeds and feels and defines your work. I become aware lives just as any other would have in a of some fetishist part of myself that different time but with our wants to touch and feel the contemporary cultural signifiers. material. (1) The curator Maria Lind It is not what we are but what we do wrote that your work “lies between that is at stake. Your paintings look cooking, handiwork, bodily like traces of activity. They are titled secretions, sculpture and painting, ‘Smudge up’ and ‘Silver Surf’. As if we and it often elicits both fascination are watching some kind of gesture and discomfort.” that has taken place.
You use glitter and bright shiny materials, pink transparencies, and in some of your earlier works you used an icing syringe to apply paint. Is there a feminist act at work in your practice? MU: I am a feminist. However I do not want to think of my painting as feminist in the sense that it is a straight comment or critique of patriarchal painting. I am using different painterly languages and discourses to create a heterogenic and ambivalent, outwardly, abstraction. This is in itself a feminist action if one likes to think so. The feminine aspect is very natural in my work because I am a woman; but to be honest I cannot say if my work has a gender at all, and I like that. LS: Maybe it is more a matter of discourse than anything else. We are used to reading methods of gender criticism into the work of women artists. Perhaps we need a new discourse that includes women in the discourse of everyman. There are more people in the discussion now. We cannot all be ambassadors of our sex. At the same time, we will always be part of a group no matter who we are.
REFERENCES (1) Lind, Maria 1997, â€œIf Freud had a great interest in the young hysteric Doraâ€?, exhibition catalogue Clean&Sane, 14 August-2 November, Sollentuna, Sweden. IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Love Surpreme, 2013 Acrylic on canvas 182 x 160 cm Image Courtesy of carlier | gebauer Boy 2006 Acrylic on canvas 195 x 254 cm Image Courtesy Lars Bohman Gallery My roommate 1993 Acrylic on canvas 92 x 73 cm Image Courtesy of the artist Pippa 2011 Acrylic on canvas, 270 x 350 cm Photo by Jussi Tiainen Image Courtesy of Galerie Forsblom. Smudge up 2009 262 x 215 cm Acrylic on canvas Image Courtesy of the artist Rendez - Vous Set 2005 Acrylic on canvas 220 x 180 cm Image Courtesy of Lars Bohman Gallery Photo by Jussi Tiainen Glamshot 2011 Acrylic on canvas 230 x 202 Photo by Jussi Tiainen Image Courtesy of Galerie Forsblom Tonic 1994 Acrylic on canvas 254 x 173 cm Image Courtesy of the artist Untitled Image Courtesy of the artist and Lars Bohman Gallery Surreal 2013 Acrylic on canvas 192 x 171 cm Image Courtesy of carlier | gebauer Spotted 2005 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 300 cm Image Courtesy of the artist.
ELNA HAGEMANN by Lisa St책lspets
/HAGEMANN/ Elna Hagemann works with video and sometimes photography. She analyses and deconstructs preconceived ideas about gender, and takes on stereotypes such as the patriarch and the passive woman. Common motifs are slightly overweight men engaging in some kind of weird social intercourse, often in staged settings where the architecture and room become an outward picture of some kind of inner psychological process. There are also psychedelic patterns, food still lives and frequent uses of opera music in her work. Hagemann investigates power relations on a personal and political level. She also deals with human conditions such as loneliness, melancholia and the feeling of being powerless. Her works are concerned with what it is to be human. How do we deal with being in the world?
the men who are dominating and submitting to each other in turns. One thinks of love, but also of power play between the two individuals, where the roles of who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed can shift quickly. The video is a frozen situation, as if the actors are locked inside a scenario that has no real beginning or end. Time is at a standstill where psychological processes and the absurdities of life are investigated. The body is a conflict zone.
As the director, Hagemann pushes her actors beyond the physically comfortable. She documents bodies put under pressure from outside, struggling from inside. She explains that the room was very hot during the video shoot. It was a warm summer’s day and she also kept the fire going, exhausting and manipulating her actors into carrying on with the fight, into getting physical with each other – rolling around, pushing and pulling at each other. Hagemann describes her The suffering human. videos as extended scenarios, stretched out in time, dissected and Hagemann often portrays analysed. She is interested in the suffering, helpless individuals. They relationship between the oppressor are not individuals who are alone in and the victim: especially the role the world, even though they perhaps of the victim. Is it sometimes so that like to think so. In one of her works, there need not be an oppressor for ‘Duet II’, she has filmed two rather there to be a victim, or that we are voluptuous men engaged in a sort of our own oppressors? Is there comfort passive-aggressive wrestling game in in the experience of pain? Safety, front of a cosy fireplace. The men are even. Pleasure? You can exploit the lying on the floor, on faux polar bear role of the victim to your own benefit; skin. There is also a beanbag on the play on your weaknesses in order to floor. In the background an get what you want, or to get people opera aria is playing. The situation is a to take care of you. At the same prolonged power struggle between time, being weak is something taboo.
Hagemann says that her practice deals with the things we hide – taboos and shameful secrets. These secrets become abject extensions of ourselves, threatening our identities. Hagemann finds her inspiration in theatre and film, in addition to visual art. She mentions Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett, David Lynch, Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller. She is interested in the performativity of the body; what the body looks like in a room. Most of Hagemann’s videos take place behind closed doors, in private spaces. She thinks in narratives and in scenes. Usually she builds stage sets. Only rarely does she use authentic locations; she finds them limiting. On location one has to be careful not to break stuff or make a mess of things.
nature of his emotions, his overexcited sensibility, his taste that required ever stronger spices, his instability which he dressed up as principles... all of this taken together represents a profile of sickness that permits no further doubt. Wagner est une névrose”.
In the video ‘Duet (the pearlfishers)’ the viewer is presented with two men sitting in bathrobes on a couch. They are sitting in front of an excess of pastries and waffles. They are sitting next to a burning fireplace. Everything looks idyllic, however one quickly senses that the men are not happy. There is a melancholy in the image. The music starts. The men start singing. They are skilled opera singers. They perform the duet while eating waffles and pastries. They sing with food in their mouths. They chew Hagemann mentions Samuel when they are not singing. They eat Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’ as too much. More than anyone would a source of inspiration. There is an want to eat. They sing. absence of action. Nothing The elements of opera in seemingly happens, but there is also Hagemann’s work are about life as comedy and tragic suffering in the a scene; life as an illustration. The waiting. Life is, in many ways, combination of tragedy and comedy suffering. The characters are is present in opera. The tragedy in all waiting and waiting for Godot to the painful despair that the come and make everything all right, characters are expressing and live but of course he does not come. through becomes comical in a It is a picture of the passive and parodying sense. “The louder I cry the irresponsible individual waiting for an more I am in pain. Look at me – how external (masculine) force, I am suffering!” There is something a Christ-figure, to save or condemn melodramatic about this. Something us. almost flimsy. So much drama in such a static form. It is madness, but Who is who? The discourse of gender. presented in a sane form. There is no bodily reaction. A mind without a Friedrich Nietzsche has written body. A scenic illustration of hysteria. “Wagner’s art is sick. The problems he Hagemann is, nevertheless, inspired presents on the stage – all of them by the big feelings and the powerful problems of hysterics – the convulsive music.
/HAGEMANN/ The eating and singing men are portrayed as passive and soft. They are eating sweet, rich food. An orgy of waffles. One gets the feeling that it is not how much food they need but how much food they can endure that is at stake. How much therapy, care, food, sex can the individual stand? An excess of food is a symbol of replacement, of nonexistent boundaries. The food becomes a sculpture and a still life in itself. We know what happens with food in still life paintings. It rots. It is life but also death. Are the men killing themselves with self-pity? Suffocating on too much care – on the wrong kind of care. Hagemann comments on the size of her actors; they are usually slightly overweight. She is not interested in body ideals but she thinks that the models look vulnerable like this – helpless babies with round bodies and not much hair. People become like babies when they victimise themselves, when they stop acting like adults or lose the ability to take responsibility for their own actions. If you do not take care of yourself, then nobody can help you either. An illustration of madness. Hagemann is interested in the patriarch. What happens when the strong leader becomes a patient himself? The great man has fallen, but refuses to admit his defeat. In the project ‘The Last Daze’ Hagemann
takes on the last weeks in Friedrich Nietzsche’s life before he died. Nietzsche, the philosopher who wrote about strength, aggression and nihilism, ended up at the mercy of others. A lonely powerless person, cared for by his mother and sister. The stark contrast between his immense body of work, full of energy, of life-affirming thought and how he ended up: helpless, ill, confused and weak. In the project, which consists of several video works and a series of photographs, the viewer is presented with Nietzsche in everyday situations during the last weeks of his life. The situations are taken from a biography about his last days. In one of the videos he is dancing on a bed. In another one, he is crying like a baby in his mother’s arms. The mother rocks Nietzsche, who howls without words. One gets the feeling that the mother is both nursing but perhaps also a threat to the wellbeing of her son. Nietzsche is ill with shame. Big men are ashamed of small things. Shame is linked with taboo. It is as if the taboos of our society carry with them a power or a force that the characters in Hagemann’s videos are missing. The force that lies within sexuality, within violence, in the forbidden. Nietzsche’s shame is a growing tumour of pain. The tumour takes place outside his body. It seeps out into the room; it takes place in the architecture and the stage design. A thin sheet of despair covers the scene. The room is a claustrophobic space where the character is locked
inside. It is as if the room determines the powerlessness of the character that inhabits the space. The body becomes a sculpture, and the room becomes an extension of the body. Nietzsche sits next to a black garbage bag – mysterious mess, contained but clearly visible, a crazy calm. Deciphering patterns. Hagemann is interested in patterns, in interiors, in ornamentations. In her stage sets she often includes patterns on wallpaper or in other forms, as chaotic reflections of the disorder and unease in her characters’ minds. Hagemann is inspired by a sort of psychoanalytic approach to interior design but she also works with patterns in dialogue with an existing discourse on interior design, architecture and gender studies. In one of her photos, where she uses herself as a model, she is wearing a kimono that has the same colour and pattern as the wallpaper in the surrounding room. The woman becomes a part of the space she is in; swallowed up by the background surface. Captive. Hagemann mentions the book ‘Behind straight curtains: Towards a Queer Feminist Theory of Architecture’ written by the Swedish architect and queer feminist researcher Katarina Bonnevier. Bonnevier describes how tradition and ideologies have formed architectural history. She continues by describing a history where it is traditionally the men who build and the women who inhabit. How men are outdoors and women are
indoors, men are in the public, women are in the private. Women represent nature both in its kindest and most evil state, while men represent culture. The ultimate triumph over nature is thus a masculine triumph. Hagemann continues by saying that these things might seem self-evident to criticise. And that it may seem as if even the discussion in itself is old fashioned, as if we have got past this point, as if these values are no longer posing a threat to gender equality. But we should not be so easily calmed. The idea of a gender dichotomy is deeply embedded in our sociological and cultural way of thinking. As long as we keep thinking about men and women as opposites, or complementary to each other, these ideas will re-emerge from time to time. Bonnevier’s book discusses the dichotomy between decoration/ ornaments and structure, where ornaments are always interpreted as superficial but structure is considered essential. And where ornaments and interior design are considered feminine and moreover associated with criminality. Ornaments become a representation of “the other”(1). It is not only bodies that are sexed. Everything from clothes to objects, spaces, places, etc. are either marked by or associated with masculine or feminine qualities. Traditionally, women are associated with bodily needs, intimacy and sensuality while men are associated with rationality and public life. Hagemann has worked with this dichotomy, trying to reverse the roles
REFERENCES 1 “Ornament and Crime”: short essay by Adolf Loos, 1908, in which, according to Katarina Bonnevier, Loos tries to elevate the modern man over “any mark of femininity, ethnicity, sexuality or class”.
by making the man into an object, a vulnerable being, a body in a private space. In Hagemann’s last works this has become evident where she produces objects that are put in relation to persons or spaces. Nietzsche sits thinking at a table with decorative phallus-shaped objects in front of him in a photograph. There is also an issue in the way that Hagemann uses clothing – the men in their bathrobes or nude. To label some things feminine and thus also give them low status is a form of symbolic misogyny. Hagemann is inspired by the idea that it is possible to make way for a more open understanding of what biological sex or gender can be – that you can twist and alter the stereotypes of the sexes “both to emancipate the undervalued feminine and to untie the masculine from narrow definitions of a rational, heterosexual, stern manliness”(2). Hagemann reverses the cliché of the weak woman into a weak man. The man is vulnerable and defenceless in his underwear or in a bathrobe. She strips the patriarch of traditional masculinity. She reverses the relationship between the female nude model and the male artist. She thinks of her practice as political in that sense.
2 Bonnevier, Katarina (2007). Behind Straight Curtains: Towards a Queer Feminist Theory of Architecture. Stockholm: Axl Books. IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE The Last Daze (Via Milano 20, Turin) 2012 Photography Image Courtesy of the artist Duet II Video Image Courtesy of the artist Fafner Will Teach You Fear (instalation view) 2011 Video Image Courtesy of the artist Castle Pine Collection 2012 Photography Image Courtesy of the artist The Last Daze (Humboldtstrasse 36, Weimar) 2012 Photography Image Courtesy of the artist The Last Daze (Weingarten 18, Namburg) 2012 Photography Image Courtesy of the artist
G.WETTEN by Joanna Lundberg
/G.WETTEN/ Translation – A New Language for the Future: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Synnøve G. Wetten often works with performance, text and video, dealing with themes of sexuality, gender and identity. As a member of Trans Panthers, she writes manifestos that are poetic and, at the same time, political. I see the manifestos of Trans Panthers as an important part of Wetten’s practice. The voice of the manifestos are with “we”, and could be you and I, a very small group, or a larger part of society. The manifestos are connected to something outside the individual, crying out for change and justice. We are living in a society where (1)“presumptions … of normative gender and sexuality determine in advance what will qualify as the human and the liveable” – as Judith Butler writes in her classic and ground-breaking book ‘Gender Trouble’. When talking with Wetten about her work, the word “archive” tends to come back into the vocabulary – history as an archive, as the past that lies behind us. We inherit all the presumptions and norms about gender, but through our living bodies we have the possibility to change and revise “reality” and “truth”. I see the work of Wetten as dealing with
the archive of the past, remembering it while at the same time transforming the world we are living in into something new. I ask Wetten about what the concept of the manifesto means for her, and she replies: “Invention gives us what did not exist before. The manifestos are projections of actions, performed right now, but also performed in the emergent future. The manifestos serve as a mutable index. Manifestos become archives in the future. The concept of time is closely related to an expanding gender spectrum. The future itself has a future.” (2) Robert J. C. Young writes in ‘Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction’ about the concept of translation, how it seems to be an almost neutral act. He points out that the Latin word for ‘translation’ literally means to carry or to bring something over. Translation is, for Young, a metaphor in the Aristotelian way – a metaphor as something that lies, defining an object by what it is not. Young is simultaneously writing about Nietzsche’s definition of the concept of truth as a kind of metaphor we have forgotten is a metaphor. When I see and read the work of Synnøve G. Wetten I think of this translation; how we constantly translate concepts of sexuality and identity, bringing them into the world as “truth”. In her work, I sense a kind of new translation, maybe a new grammar and vocabulary, or even a new language for the future. Or as Wetten herself says: “Performance can be seen as translation, the basic desire of
sharing. Love is translation. Love as a political concept is translation. It is in our blood, sensuous body of language. ‘Trans Panthers’ intend to reactivate demands of emancipation and unconditional acceptance of an ongoing expanding gender spectrum. We are rapidly rising because love is radical. Politics is that which escapes those with the power to define what politics is.” When Judith Butler writes about gender, it is not about acting from a fixed position or place. Identity happens by the repetition of acts, and gender becomes constructed - not a fixed identity. Butler is writing about the possibility of transformation in these acts. A gap can occur when we perform our identity in everyday life. Maybe a gap between something that we believe is “true” and how we are performing it. When describing her own practice as an artist, Synnøve G. Wetten uses the word “hacking”. “Could the acts of “hacking” create freedom, changing how we perform our identities?” I ask Wetten. She replies: “‘Trans Panthers’ believe hacking creates fluid love stories. We believe reactivating social solidarity starts from the reactivation of the desiring force of enunciation. Subversive hacking is an infinite drift through the unplanned, the unexpected, the improvised and the surprising. This is a process just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.” ‘TRANS PANTHERS/Today’s Labyrinths’ (2011) is an installation work by
Synnøve G. Wetten where we see a photograph of Camilla De Castro, a transsexual actor from Brazil who committed suicide after being diagnosed HIV positive. The tragic fate of the individual becomes “unreal” through the stylised monochrome image and the living body, the flesh and blood, disappears in the beautiful features. And still, suddenly, for a short moment in time, the viewer can feel the human and the living body. And maybe this is where we need to start – to see and live the human body, our bodies; to be individuals with multiple possibilities. ‘Preparation on a mutable manifesto’ (2010) is a video by Synnøve G. Wetten where the viewer sees the sexual act of two moving bodies. Wetten herself is talking about the slow and blurry image as a form of modern dance, where gender transcends. Here I am thinking of the words from ‘Manifesto for a Wild Democracy – In a system that requires speed, we decided to slow down’ – where the act of a slow motion makes us perceive the image differently. The slow image makes it possible to see the sexual act in its movements, transforming it into a dance. Another video (transferred from Super 8) by Wetten, ‘Ritual Moon’ (2009), is moving towards the mythical and the mystical. The viewer sees an androgynous face in a repeated move, almost in a cycle, where a feverish moon sets the mood and everything disappears in the daylight, maybe the light of a new daybreak. I read the ritual as a transition into something new, a hallucinatory view into the future.
/G.WETTEN/ In Trans Panthers ‘Manifesto for a Wild Democracy’ (2009) I read about hidden identities and secret strategies. In ‘Deviant Center Manifesto’ (2011) the deviant centre becomes important, where the idea of a wild democracy emerges. Synnøve G. Wetten talks about hidden faces and masks; how the phenomenon of hacking and hidden identities is creating disturbance. Maybe freedom today is more about not being seen than being visible, in a world of monitoring and controlling the individual. Synnøve G. Wetten illuminates that it is from here we must start making a change, from the living body, from the individual with multiple possibilities when it comes to how to live through our bodies, how to express identity, sexuality and gender, and how to live and make another future possible: “A wild democracy is understood as disturbance within a state system. Deviation and disturbance are essential to eccentric local perspectives, flash centres, temporary focal points; the point at which rays or waves meet after reflection or refraction. You can think of it as points from which diverging rays or waves appear to proceed. The revolution is unfinished! Radical trans awakening, teenage Muslim girls, Anonymous, gender kids, covered women, Women journalists without chains, The Pirate Bay, gender anarchists, whistle blowers,
and other lovers are demanding emancipation and a transparent society protecting the freedom of speech.” ‘Trans Panthers Manifesto” (2011) describes the oppressed world we are living in today, demanding progress and change. Synnøve G. Wetten talks about Trans Panthers moving toward stronger political action, pointing out that the revolution is unfinished, and a transparent society protecting freedom of speech is yet to come. Wetten explains her practice as a laboratory, as a room for experimentation; at the same time calling us to “go outside”, urging us to open up the art spaces for new activities. In her essay (3)‘A phenomenology of whiteness’, Sara Ahmed describes the situation of the non-white individual who is born into a world already given to a certain kind of body, an inherited and reproduced “whiteness” of the world. I believe that one can apply this “whiteness” to other human concepts such as identity, sexuality and gender. In the work of Synnøve G. Wetten I read a strong demand for change, for changing a world already given to certain bodies. I watch the video of Wetten called ‘Splinter Trip’ (2009), and find it very beautiful and melancholic. First I come to think that it is the opening scene of a film; two young boys in a car moving through a landscape. For me the scene is about what happens before and after, what the viewer never sees. The boys never talk and we don’t know where they are going or what
happened before this moment. When I see the video sequence, I realise it tells me a lot about Wetten’s work – to be in a place in-between, to be moving towards something and at the same time carrying the past. (4) Judith Butler writes about when the reality of gender is put into crisis; how it is suddenly impossible to distinguish the real from the unreal, and how we come to understand that what we think is real is a revisable reality, is “play, falsehood and illusion”. I am thinking about what one of the Trans Panthers members said about the dancing crowd, how they were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. It is sad to think about the deafness of the world, and it is even worse to think of those who don’t even want to listen. What kind of concepts of gender, sexuality and identity do we repeat through our living bodies? What kind of lies and illusions do we carry into the future and leave to future generations? Why are we continuing this stylisation of human identity? The concept of “truth” is in itself a metaphor and a lie. We have the possibility of changing how to read this metaphor, of opening up for multiple “truths”. I do believe it is too late not to listen when change is already here. Trans Panthers themselves signify this, saying: “We are in preparation of live action. Trans Panthers are making a new dance.” A new language is being constructed. I believe the time has come for listening, and not even for just listening, but for taking part in the new dance and vocabulary.
REFERENCES 1 Butler, Judith, (1990). Gender Trouble. New York and London: Routledge. 2 Young, Robert J.C., (2003). Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 3 Ahmed, Sara, (2007). ‘A phenomenology of whiteness’. Feminist Theory, Vol. 8(2), 149-168. SAGE Publications. 4 Butler, Judith, (1988). ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenolgy and Feminist Theory’. Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4, 519-531. The John Hopkins University Press. IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE DEVIANT CENTER MANIFESTO 2012 Text, Performance Reading Image courtesy of the artist Photo by Mariann Enge TRANS PANTHERS MANIFESTO 2011 Text Dimensions A4 Image courtesy of the artist DEVIANT CENTER MANIFESTO 2011 Text Dimensions A4 Image courtesy of the artist PREPARATION FOR A MUTABLE MANIFESTO 2011 Video, 16:9 Image courtesy of the artist SPLINTER TRIP 2009 High Definition Video Image courtesy of the artist SPLINTER TRIP 2009 High Definition Video Image courtesy of the artist LINK: synnovegwetten.org
ANJA CARR by Lisa St책lspets
desires and started to influence what I want to own and do. One strategy that women use, when they realise that this is the way the world works, is to get rid of all the pink things in their possession. Anja Carr has a different PINK CUBE. strategy. She includes the colour pink in places where it would not There is a shade of pink called normally have been. We are used ‘Flesh Tint’. Very few professional to seeing the white in the typical painters use it when portraying white cube galleries as neutral. white skin. The colour is associated It is not. Gender is everywhere. with kitsch, amateur painting and Dynamics of power; everywhere. a misperception of how you think The pink paint that covers the walls as a painter. A painter looks for of this gallery contains body fluids undertones of colours, for warmth that were added in a secret ritual. and cold, for shade and light. A PINK CUBE is thus a space loaded painter will mix red, maybe a bit with bodily energy; something of blue, a bit of brown and naples unknown that you can sense. A yellow in thin layers and that will be context that does not pretend to a representation of white skin. That is be neutral. The ritualistic imagery good taste. That is sophistication. goes even further in the staging of the exhibitions which are presented Anja Carr is both sophisticated as “battles” between two artists or and tasteful. She is an artist, and artist groups. A battle is a way of as a part of her practice she runs a staging a conflict, a playful way of gallery space that is located in the competing in art. PINK CUBE has a neighbourhood of Grønland, in the flat structure, and the invited artists centre of Oslo. The space is called deal with each other in their own PINK CUBE. The walls of PINK CUBE way, with their own artistic weapons. are coloured with a shade of pink “Making and showing art is always a little bit lighter and less aggressive a battle”, Carr says. On the Oslo than ‘Flesh Tint’. Growing up, most gallery scene, and in the art world in girls like pink at one time or another. general, women artists are not given Anja Carr is interested in the symbolic the same space and opportunities meanings of the colour - for example, as their male colleagues. In PINK pink as an image of infantile desire. CUBE Carr has created an alternative What happens when you realise that space, showing more female than the object of your desire did not only male artists. She wants PINK CUBE come from within yourself but was to be an example of how you can imposed on you from outside? You do things - “a space for reflection have to change your understanding and spontaneous art” - rather than of the world and of yourself. Who criticising other initiatives. “Yes, we are, who I am, is not only coming there are more men than women from inside me. Somehow society running galleries, and more men made its way into my head, into my exhibiting. I see the situation as an
even better reason to make an own space and to make myself and others visible. I guess my attitude towards competition is quite macho”, she says, with a smile. PINK CUBE presents a way of showing art that is not an imitation of the way that art institutions present art. Artistrun spaces have the freedom to do that; to pose questions and make statements. Not just by which artists they show but by choosing alternative strategies of exhibiting art - be it in a private setting such as a private home, or by taking other liberties. Carr thinks of the exhibition space as an organic process. In a way, PINK CUBE is an art project in itself. One can draw parallels with Niki de Saint Phalle’s “she-a cathedral” which was a sculpture and an exhibition space at the same time.
are particularly interested in my work. Maybe it is the fur and the excrement. However, we are all animals; some people are just more clever hiding it”, she says. Carr is interested in spontaneous communication with the audience, but even more if the experience of the works can work on different levels and change over time, from attractive to disgusting, from innocent to violent. Like a dream changes into a nightmare. “Through dream-language I create dreamworlds – spaces for associative thinking where you can escape logic.”
She shows me a number of works that are on show at Kunstbanken Hedmark Kunstsenter in Hamar, south of Oslo. There is a plastic lawn that covers the floor in the exhibition. Another kind of animal. We sit in front of the installation ‘You make me I make you’, which consists Apart from PINK CUBE, Anja Carr’s of a life-size sculpture of a male practice involves installations, figure wrapped in bacon, holding live performance, sculpture and a camera in his hand and with a performance-related video and pig mask for a head. An umbilical photography. She constructs intimate cord made from bacon runs from spaces where the audience is almost the pig-man’s stomach over to a forced into a physical confrontation bed where a female pig-figure lies with the works. Carr’s characters are deflated on the bed. Her body is an human animals. They look like teddy empty costume. She watches a TV bears or stuffed animals. that is next to the bed. The female She talks about dream language, pig-human is only a shell. She is skin intuition and working with a shared without a body. The male pig-human set of symbols open for associations is a body without skin. In a way they – a non-verbal and physical are one subject split in two. Maybe it communication. Carr is interested is the image of motherhood? What in the visual language’s strength it could be like, at worst, to be a as a non-authoritarian language, mother? There is also the problem as opposed to verbal language. of the subject-object relationship at “It is a way of communication work in the installation. The male pigthat everyone with eyesight can human holds a camera in his hand. experience. Children and dogs He does not hold it up to his
somebody inside the costume. This one guy had the idea that he would tickle me while I was lying there – I could hear him whisper to his friend. It was really quite unpleasant. I started to worry about where he would tickle eye like you would do when you take me, and if it would provoke me to a picture but he points it out, as if break character. It is interesting what holding a gun or some sort of power people think they can do to you tool. The camera is tilted slightly because you are wearing a mask. forward. Were he to take a picture When you cover your face it is as if (shoot), he would shoot your sex. you are not human anymore. AC: I was stopped by a tourist in the street, who wanted me to take his picture. At first he was happy. Then he started to criticise the images I took and suddenly he grabbed my arm and wanted to take pictures of us two together. When I refused he began to take pictures of me instead. I told him to stop but he just kept snapping away. The bacon-pig who is holding the camera came out of that experience. This fast shift from subject to object, and the camera as a weapon of power – a trap – was interesting to me. However, I think the visual language, also the figurative, works like a mirror. The spectator sees his own experiences in the work. The stories you make up when interpreting the work point back at you instead of me, like the camera lens in this installation. At the opening of the show, I was lying on the bed, completely still, inside the pig costume. As I lay there, I could hear what people were saying; the honest and spontaneous reactions of the spectators. Some are fascinated and others are just disgusted, especially by the dried bacon on the sculpture. Nobody, except one guy, understood that there was
LS: Another installation in the show is an empty rabbit costume hanging by its feet from a chain in the ceiling, its face and arms reaching down towards the plastic lawn on the floor, with real carrots coming out of the ground instead of being hidden in the earth. There is the possibility of a performance if you climb inside the rabbit costume and give it life. A rabbit hanging, reaching in vain for an El Dorado of juicy carrots. As the exhibition continues, the carrots start to rot and in the end resemble faeces. It could be an image of desire beyond control. Desire that can be harmful, perhaps even lethal. It is not far-fetched to see the fresh carrot as a symbolic penis, and Carr mentions the work of Yayoi Kusama as a source of inspiration for this piece. The work is a tribute, titled ‘Yaaay!!! Oioioi...’ Many of your works include meat, rotting food, decay. Are you interested in purity? In cleanliness? AC: I often create ambiguous scenarios. I am interested in situations where there is a possibility of a
/CARR/ transformation over time – of subject identities, power relations or materials. Death is something I think about every day. The idea is not to provoke, but to play with what is not expected. There is a tradition of work by female artists dealing with body fluids, meat, etc. in performance art, but I think it is more interesting to hide it inside a sweet and innocent dream-world, somewhere you would not expect it to be. LS: Let us get back to the TV that the pig-woman was watching from her bed. On the TV, a video is playing. A person in a pony suit takes a shit in front of a painted rainbow. The pony character is clearly inspired by the Eighties toy My Little Pony – with the long hair in all kinds of colours. No effort is made to make the viewer believe that it is one of the original pony toys we are dealing with. Rather, this is a human pony, or a pony inside the head of a child, identifying with the pony to the very extent that a perversion of identity takes place. What you do with these toys seems self-evident. You either comb their hair or you create a narrative. But what the toy industry will never control is the anarchy of childhood; the creative misuse of toys that children invent. There are girls who cut the heads off their Barbie dolls… It is also common that children create altogether new identities for their toys. Something happens here,
in between the toy and the desire of the imaginative child. One of the desires of childhood is the fantasy of the toy that comes to life at night, when nobody is watching. A wishful fantasy where the borders between the imaginary and the real are finally overcome. In order to come to life the pony must shit and eat. But when the pony becomes real it also loses some of its magic. The dream dies, becomes reality with new life forms in it. The shitting pony in the video is played by the artist herself, actually taking a shit through the costume onto the floor. AC: It was really hard to manage to do it in front of the camera. As you can see I am really struggling to get it out, and in the end I produce something small that falls to the floor. LS: On another TV there is a video with the pony trying to eat grass. Or, more correctly, the artist trying to eat grass through the long, narrow latex mask. AC: That was super difficult too. I finally managed to get one straw. LS: The viewer sees a tongue that does not reach out of its costume; the head inside nearly crushing the pony’s muzzle. The pony is trying to live, and the effort of trying to live looks like the process of dying. On the walls there is documentation of previous performances presented as a photo series. One of these performances includes
the pony standing on four legs outside a closed shopping mall from the Fifties, in Coney Island, New York. It was an attempt to walk on four legs, like a pony would. “It was very hard”, the artist says. The light blue human pony on the photo looks like it is ready to take off. Where to? The image of the human being is a man. Girls and women learn to identify themselves with other women but also with men. Do men identify themselves with women? Is it the case that men would sooner identify themselves with stuffed animals than with women, the way that a child will identify with its toys? Animals representing human qualities? When I leave Anja Carr’s exhibition in Hamar I think to myself that it is clever to hide gender dynamics and power relations under animal masks and furry costumes. This way, Carr creates an image of life that is somehow accessible for anyone to see themselves in, no matter which gender or group in society they identify themselves with.
IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE ‘Moments (Act 5)’ (detail from photograph) Anja Carr 2013 Photography, from the series of performance documentation titled Moments 84.1 x 59.4cm. (original) Image courtesy of the artist Performance by EVERBABE (left and right) and Mom from “the living pieces of art” Mom & Jerry (middle) at the exhibition ‘Battle 11’ at PINK CUBE. 2012 Photo by: Anja Carr Sara Christensen: ‘Uden titel’ bucket, epoxy 2012 (top) and Jacqueline Forzelius: ‘Tallefjants hemlighet’ video (7 min.) 2012 (bottom) at the exhibition ‘Battle 05’ at PINK CUBE. 2012 Photo by: Anja Carr ‘You make me I make you’ Anja Carr 2013 (Performance in installation, at the opening of the show ‘Pig Pictures’) Image courtesy of the artist Installation view from the exhibition ‘Pig Pictures’ by Anja Carr at Kunstbanken Hedmark Kunstsenter, Hamar (NO) (Part of the photo-series ‘Moments’ on the left and the installation ‘Yaaay!!!Oioioi...’ on the right) Anja Carr 2013 Image courtesy of the artist ‘Moments (Act 2)’ Anja Carr 2013 Photography, from the series of performance documentation titled Moments Dimensions: 84.1 x 59.4cm. Image courtesy of the artist ‘Moments (Act 3)’ Anja Carr 2013 Photography, from the series of performance documentation titled Moments 84.1 x 59.4cm. Image courtesy of the artist LINK: anjacarr.com pinkcube.no
Intoxi by My Ill
icated by lness
The abject is often theorised as a “missed experience with the real” (Hanjo Berressem, ‘On the Matter of Abjection’ in Monika Mueller and Konstanze Kutzbach (Eds.), The Abject of Desire, The Aestheticization “The sick person’s best medicine is of the Unaesthetic in Contemporary desire – the desire to live, to be with Literature and Culture, 2007,21), other people, to do things, to get much like traumatic events or back to his life. […] I’d like to suggest, physical pain. Similar to trauma to invent or imagine or recall, ways of and pain, abjects do not allow for keeping one’s desire alive as a way dissociation from bodily or mental of keeping oneself alive.” events, resistant to being objectified (Anatole Broyard) or replaced by representation. In addition, one of the most tangible “If you don’t have pain, you don’t traits physical pain and abjects feel anything at all, on any level. So have in common is their being pain is not just about being hurt, it is contradictory. The pain~abject is an incredibly complex thing.” pure affect, and at the same time no (Stephen Dwoskin) affect. It is explosion and at the same time implosion of matter. Seminal work on the phenomenon of pain Spaces of abjection has proposed that pain, one’s own and others’, needs an object or visual The context of the abject in Julia image to be comprehended (Elaine Kristeva’s influential text on abjection Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making adopts a Lacanian topology. “The and Unmaking of the World, 1985, abject is not an object facing me. 14). According to Elaine Scarry, the Nor is it an ob-jest, an otherness notion of creation, or world-making, ceaselessly fleeing in a systematic resides in and arises out of the quest of desire” (Julia Kristeva, framing intentional relation between Powers of Horror: An Essay on pre-cultural, physical pain on the one Abjection, 1982, 1). The place of hand, and imagined objects on the the abject is that of the in-between, other. The closer on the scale we get the uncanny, the fringing. The to pain, the less autonomous we are abject expels me. It makes the “I” as individuals, as physical pain tends collapse by drawing the inside out to bring the individual back to a state and, conversely, the outside in. “anterior to language” (Scarry, 1985, In topological terms, the abject is 49). Conversely, the closer we get too near to the subject, while an to the realm of imagination, culture, object is clearly separated and at a and disembodied thought, the safe distance from the body, noncloser we get to fulfilling our status threatening, non-imposing. Like the as human subjects. Now, although image of a car stuck in the blind spot, contested, some of the residual the abject is closing in on me, without Cartesianism that can be found in ever being fully visible. Scarry’s work also constitutes the
foundation for cultural or affirmative abjection. On the matter of abjection, it is important to separate the cultural production of disgust and nausea from material abjects. Cultural, or affirmative abjection, generates faux-abjects through processes of standardisation, and considers certain events or practices disgusting and reprehensible. Whereas biological forms of abjection pose a direct threat to the composure and coherence of a material organism by forcing the subject to face the anonymity in “a death” – respectively the impossibility in experiencing “my death” – cultural abjection only poses a threat to the human order from fixed positions that consider and judge certain practices and behaviours unethical or unnatural (Berressem, 2007, 43). Affirmative abjection thus feeds off and maintains cultural prejudice through demonisation of bodies and practices that do not belong or can be contained within the symbolic order/language, to keep with a Lacanian topology of abjection as developed by Kristeva. Such bodies include pained and other-abled bodies (“other-abled” is an alternative, as I experience it, more consciously aware term for “disabled”), but it also sticks itself to racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and other countercultures that become “abjected” culturally. We can, for example, see the rampaging of cultural abjection in the ways we categorise cultural representations as “abject art”. In his essay on the distinction between real and faux-abjects, Hanjo Berressem
pays attention to the works by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose self-portraits in particular (in which the artist himself can be seen naked striking poses and gestures that are known to be iconic for gay sexuality) have been appointed abject art. Certain sexual practices (here anal sex is clearly implied) become targeted because they lend themselves as Berressem puts it: “to a false, essentialising biologics, according to which they introduce a logic of waste into what can only be thought of as a procreative/ productive act” (Berressem, 2007, ibid.). While representations of gay practices have been (and still are in many places) highly contested cultural grounds, they in are in fact nothing but faux-abjects, a result of affirmative abjection. New economies for the abject of desire This text began with a quotation by the late writer and critic Anatole Broyard who, in his posthumously published book Intoxicated by My Illness, draws up technologies for the self to be applied not only when in pain but also when dealing with terminal illness; when facing “a death” that is the impossible experience of “mine”. Broyard’s thesis is that desire is the opposite of pain and suffering. By looking at the economy of desire of pain we can see that pained bodies are nondesiring and less-consuming bodies. They are chaotic (incoherent) and psychotic, and by the latter I mean that some of them, taken together with their non-consuming traits, are more resilient and resistant to
invented a new idiom of movement for the camera, exempt from any devaluation of tacit knowledge and embodiment for the sake of vision. This poetics is especially apparent in Dwoskin’s 1974 film Behindert, becoming annexed as affecting a film that tells of the romantic capacities by capitalistic forces than relationship, and the hardships in ‘healthy’ bodies are. The point here is maintaining it, between an otherthat when we find ourselves obliged abled man (Dwoskin himself, marked to identify ourselves as citizens of that by childhood polio and bound to a other place, which Susan Sontag wheelchair and his crutches) and an established as “the kingdom of the abled-bodied woman. There is hardly sick” (Sontag, 2004, 3), when we are any dialogue in the film. Instead, obliged to use that other passport, the drama is played out in the facial we are already filled with dread over expressions and physical movements the biological forms of abjection of the actors – a storytelling that illness and disease may have technique supported by the static, thrust on us. The stigmatisation that haunting soundscape, and the affirmative abjection brings about, specific style that Dwoskin created on top of actual threats of real, for the camera (which in his time was material abjects, thus contribute to not a tiny, hand-held digi-camera, the decrease of desire for one’s own but a bulky apparatus that the artist body and, ultimately, for life. handled by propping himself up in the bed, on chairs and in corners, To resist cultural abjection, to invert and towards railings in staircases). the idea of the pained body as Through his methods and style, the (culturally) unintelligible, incoherent, artist could procure and disclose reverted to a state “anterior the surfacing of faux-abject in interto language”, seems to me to embodied experience, i.e., to reveal necessitate two things: First – to unveil how bodily and social practices are structures of affirmative abjection interconnected in the production of inherent in a representational cultural effects. system and, second – to invent strategies for the retrieval of desire Pain, as Elaine Scarry pointed out, is for the materially abject body. On not in the world for anything. That is the unveiling of inherent cultural to say, physical pain is exceptional abjection, I want to draw attention to in the fabric of perceptual states the late filmmaker Stephen Dwoskin, for being the only one that has whose oeuvre is, in part, devoted to no object in the external world investigations into and disintegration to which it relates, which is the of culturally produced abjects. In case with hunger, or sexual desire. many of his films, the filmmaker made Likewise, when adhering to a explicit use of his own embodiment psychoanalytically informed theory, as prerequisite for aesthetic desire will always be desire for an autonomy. Dwoskin basically object. The lives that have no object
of desire must therefore be sustained elsewhere which, in a theory based on Lacanian topologics, is outside of language/the symbolic order, subjected to strategies of exclusion. To reinstate the pained and ill body as an active and inclusive participant in the subject-forming process, in addition to reinstating desire for the su/-abject of pain, non-cultural levels of abjection must be considered. The idea of an intelligent materialism can be drawn from Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari. Reality here consists of our material bodies, which form a part of a larger complex of bodies and organisation of bodies, whose organs enter into complex relationships with other organs. The difference between Lacanian and Deleuzian topologies Berressem elucidates, are that the realm of the abject considered on non-cultural levels is spread out in all reality, where the material abject poses a threat to all materiality, including any psychic register in human beings. In this context, the abject is not simply something that is always already excluded and made taboo. ”You do not desire someone or something, you always desire an aggregate” (Gilles Deleuze) What Deleuze means is that the object of desire cannot be externalised or abstracted away from the body or thought, but it always takes the shape of a cluster, a network of things. When we desire someone or something, we do not desire the subject in isolation; we always desire as embodied beings, that is to say, we enter into an affecting/-ive relationship with
the “landscape that envelops” what is desired. It is an embodied movement where I desire from within that same aggregate. To Deleuze, “The body is the place [...] where all confrontations, battles, and meetings unfold”,(Fredrika Spindler, Deleuze - tänkande och blivande, 2013, 101; my translation). The body thus exceeds the notion of lived experience in a phenomenological sense. It is something more. Fight Fire with Fire In a Deleuzian biopsychic model the forming of meaning is a deep-rooted, embodied event where meaning is understood as that which arises out of the movement of a body or, rather, the becoming on its way towards the surface (Spindler 2013, 104). The abject~pain can thus be grasped as pure affectivity, connecting with, and disturbing the plane of immanence, which is the ‘site’ or process from where meaning is produced. At some point though, instead of being a surface of relations constituted by contractions of pure pain, the body becomes an “organised” or organic body, a body with forms and determinate organs. The aggregate of desire becomes more and more stable and static as it is gradually uncoupled from its environment until fully severed from it. In other words, the body becomes coded and inscribed in a cultural context. It has an effect: A subject. Apart from shedding light on cultural abjection, Dwoskin was also known for his personal films although I would like to propose that his
Deleuzian topology can never be understood fully in positive terms, but it can be experimented on, be opened up wider. It can be made to a Body without Organs (hereafter BwO). BwO denotes a practice films had a prominent impersonal or a set of practices intended element to them. Several of his to reorganise the body through movies negotiated sexuality and disorganisation. A BwO is, above all, sadomasochism as aspects of the circulation and exchange of power, reality of pain featured in, amongst but is nothing in itself. The BwO does others, ‘Pain is… ‘(1997), and later in not occupy a concrete space, but ‘Intoxicated by My Illness’ (Parts 1 & 2 allows for the intensities to spread Intensive Care) (2001). In ‘Intoxicated out over a gap that is intensity itself. by My Illness’, the pained body serves In the transformation of the body to as the site for (and of) an undulating intensity the body becomes “world” borderland, oscillating between (Spindler 2013, 116). That is to say, it intense pain and exquisite pleasure. is nothing, has no defined identity, The film shows the filmmaker’s all flows of desire and affectivity pass body, drugged out, superimposed, through it freely and aimlessly. In the without tension. Material reality is circulation/-exchange of power, soon transmuted into fantasies of changes and becomings may occur a sadomasochistic nature. In the according to self-imposed strategies. frames that follow, it seems as if the The goal with the BwO is not death body no longer has a surface but has or despair but to produce a new, become an open vessel, or a coarse differentiated, and ultimately, a sieve, through which waves of pain better body. and affects stream unimpeded. Returning to Dwoskin, as he To manage to reorganise and performs his propped-up, static, redirect the aggregates of desire, and anaesthetised body in a space it is important to acknowledge the where hospital becomes museum, difference between cultural and the artist is alluding to the impersonal material abjection again. Being what pain affects and their corporeal they are, material and imperceptible, entanglement with the inside of the even Deleuzian counter-politics body, instead of reverting to making of abjects risk getting caught in a manifest abject experience through linguistic matrix if they do not reach the culturally coded realm of the “I”. the material level of abjects. Material Much of what Berressem concludes abjects are inherently a-political and about the artist Bob Flanagan’s 1990s operate on widely dispersed levels. performances is applicable to the They are literally what they are, methods of Dwoskin’s: whereas culturally produced abjects “the power of the image does not are nothing but their contexts. only and not predominantly lie in its Since abjects drain the body from social commentary although it invites the inside, the body in pain in a such readings, but in that it is an
/Willenfelt/ image/fact of an organism’s and a subject’s long history of material pain and the fight against material dissolution. From this perspective, the exhibition becomes an example of the birth of art from intense pain; especially a pain that has become, once more, pure intensity. [ ...] In the event´s excessive economics, this pain is put into the service of life, which means that the event is more than a spectacle of abject jouissance.” (Berressem, 2007, 45) Both Dwoskin’s, Flanagan’s, and other artists’s (e.g. Eva Hesse’s) artistic practices refute the notion of a naïve biographism by finding different ways through inverted activities; to convey, relate, and negotiate their pain as part of compound desires as well as for the material abject.
IMAGE TITLES, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Documenting Bodies 2010 Mixed media installation, ink on medical exam paper Photo by Johanna Willenfelt Documenting Bodies (Detail) 2010 Media Mixed media installation, ink on medical exam paper Photo by Johanna Willenfelt Chronic Frame 2013 Photography, ink on framed glass 35 x 35 cm Photo by Johanna Willenfelt Documenting Bodies: Epikris 2010 Mixed media installation, ink on medical exam paper, medical stretcher Photo by Johanna Willenfelt Documenting Bodies: Epikris 2010 Mixed media installation, ink on medical exam paper, medical stretcher Photo by Johanna Willenfelt LINK: johannawillenfelt.blogspot.co.uk
NEXT MÅG OUT 29TH NOVEMBER 20 13 MARIANNA UUTINEN
PIPPA, (DETAIL) 2011, ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 270 X 350. PHOTO BY JUSSI TIAINEN IMAGE COURTESY OF GALERIE FORSBLOM