mag STEIN NERLAND azar alsharif
sigmund skard LEWIS & TAGGART NIRMAL SINGH DHUNSI
m책g issue nine/ 2012 published by nabroad www.maagmag.com
10 mรฅg issue tenSPECIAL EDITION GUEST EDITORSruth barker &Pรกdraic E. Moore
/editor/ A small table seats the artist; he makes notes in a journal. After a while, the artist stops writing, he leans against the wall of the gallery, puts the pen without cover, into the left breast pocket of his shirt. At once, the ink starts to leak into the textile of the fabric and after an hour, a large patch of blue ink has made a permanent stain. Eg treng… (I need) is an hour-long performance by the Norwegian artist Sigmund Skard and features on the cover of this issue of måg. Skard’s work is humorous and intelligent. Conceptually it carries a message, a comment on how we take things for granted or how we organise ourselves politically. Skard says, “Art gives the freedom to be banal and allows you to come down, or back to a basic experience.” There is something unique about this artist, especially his persona as a performance artist - his presence carries a quiet natural statement, which has an effect on the work itself. In a sense the work is not him although he uses himself; the work is something more, which often emphasises the intention of the concept. We also introduce an artist whose drawings captivates so that one wants to see more. Seeing the work makes you wish you had access to the artist’s sketchbooks. Margrete Abelsen writes about Nirmal Singh Dhunsi’s work in ‘Between Munch and Ganesha’, “he is an artist who has created a visual language that mixes cultural expressions
and personal experiences on the one hand with references to religious rituals and Western art history on the other”. Another of our features is an essay by Paul Carey-Kent who writes about the recent exhibition ‘Echo Chamber’ at Beers.Lambert Contemporary with the artist duo LELLO// ARNELL. He ends the essay by saying “Lello and Arnell show us how we’ve burnt back the fields, for sure, but they themselves are part of the coming growth.” We meet the initiators of MOLAF (The Museum of Longing and Failure) Lewis & Taggart. The artist duo tell us that for them, longing and failure comprise a broad poetic space that embodies the human condition at large, and MOLAF grew from a desire to explore this space in a way that was generative and could develop slowly over time. Stein Nerland talks to us about Benken (2012) (The Bench), a public artwork in Slemmestad in Norway, a village whose main industry was built around a cement factory which is now no more, and how he engaged with the local community in its creation. “Fifty cubic metres of concrete over five hundred square metres, of which a hundred square metres is the bench, or ‘benken’.” Azar Alsharif dwells on the relationship she has with found objects and new additions made in her studio; “Confidence and trust in the work is a very precise observation, and a crucial part of it. It is all an exercise of trusting the different participants in the game: the material, the actions and
myself. It is an attempt at communicating. Alongside with keeping an open eye to the unexpected and giving everything the same - or just no particular - worth; a found object, a paint stroke, a gesture, an idea, an accident, and so on.” These artists do not connect directly, however they have a presence within their work, and they constantly strive to understand what their work is or could be about through experimentation and communication with those around them. These are the ingredients that makes contemporary art compelling. The next issue of måg magazine issue 10 will be a special issue guest edited by Ruth Barker and Pádraic E. Moore. Ruth Barker is an artist based in Glasgow, who works with writing and performance. Her practice explores questions of selfhood, language, gender and mortality through the re-voicing of ancient myths. Pádraic E. Moore is an art historian, curator, writer and public speaker. Moore’s practice combines curatorial projects, the production of texts, public presentations and events all of which are unified by a subjective approach to art/historical material. We look forward to it.
AUDHILD DAHLSTRØM is editor of måg and director of NABROAD www.nabroad.org
9 COVER SIGMUND SKARD
MAGAZINE DESIGN by Rodney Point © 2011 www.rodneypoint.com PUBLISHER: NABROAD www.nabroad.org
EDITOR: AUDHILD DAHLSTRØM CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: LYNDON RILEY PAVLA ALCHIN MARIANNE MORILD RUTH BARKER LISA STÅLSPETS SUB EDITOR: LILLIAN UTNE SKJŒVELAND ADVERTISING: firstname.lastname@example.org LONDON
Copyright of all editorial content is held by måg. Reproduction in whole or part is forbidden. måg © 2011 www.maagmag.com
FEATURES 18 SIGMUND SKARD / måg 30 NIRMAL SINGH DHUNSI / Margrete Abelsen 42 LEWIS&TAGGART / måg 56 STEIN NERLAND / måg 70 AZAR ALSHARIF / måg
text 3 Editor / Audhild Dahlstrøm 8 ECHO CHAMBER / Paul Carey-Kent 86 When you said to me I was dead in Acholi /Amina Bech
ÂŁ7 AFTER MUNCH/ is a limited edition catalogue featuring Unni Askeland, Crispin Gurholt and Markus Brendmoe. Essays and texts by Charles Danby, Helga-Marie Nordby, Tommy Olsson and Allis Helleland. www.nabroad.org/editions
ECHo CHAMBER by Paul Carey-Kent LELLO//ARNELL 5th July 2012 - 12th August Beers.Lambert Contemporary London http://beerslambert.com
put it, ‘civilization is hideously fragile... there’s not much between us and the horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish’.(3)
Lello // Arnell’s ‘Echo Chamber’ looks like – indeed, at one level it really is – an elegant set of modernist-styled works, tuned to monochrome tastefulness: a controlled display reflecting, one might think, a positive and progressive mindset. But what will we hear in this ‘room with walls that reflect sound, used to make acoustic measurements and as a source of reverberant sound to be mixed with direct sound’?(1) And will we be reminded of how an unanticipated echo can reveal what the speaker had meant to keep quiet?
Small wonder, then, that atavistic instincts come to the fore when Lello and Arnell collaborate on what could have been a classically minimalist canvas: an exemplar of partnership working and cool abstractionism in the form of a grey mirror-like circle made by their respective contributions of white and black. If that’s the theory to which ‘Yin and Yang’ points through its title, however, the practice is different. We see evidence not of collaborative harmony, but of the black and white painters doing battle, out of which the grey is a grubby compromise which satisfies neither ideal. That suggests the outcome of many negotiations: the parties settling on the middle way may envisage a smooth mutual acceptance, but their separate world views are always ready to reassert themselves.
Jørgen Craig Lello and Tobias Arnell’s work has typically related to how we might be deceived by what we see. A thematic example is their use of a reversed world map to exploit our tendency to read into the objective truth what we suspect to be there – it’s curiously easy not to grasp the reversal – and to emphasise that there are different ways of projecting the map: the standard presentation has a notorious western bias. Indeed, they have said that if they had to condense their conceptual baseline into one expression, it would be ‘world view’.(2) One aspect of a world view which reverberates strongly in this Echo Chamber is how we understand – or misunderstand - the past, and how those versions of the past live on in the present. We see that particularly in our tendency to revert to underlying instincts, emphasising that, as CP Snow
‘civilization is hideously fragile... there’s not much between us and the horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish’
‘Yin & Yang’ also pokes fun in passing at the simplicity with which exotic philosophies are pressed into distorted service as an intellectual fashion. ‘The Chief Executive Meditation Piece’ also comments on our weakness for crude simplifications. It’s a photo-collage which makes some kind of a reality out of the Desmond Morris painting which was used for the cover of Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’. Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling probably got little further than the cover before turning it into his own reality: assuming that Dawkins’ title referred to the passing on of competitive traits rather than
the way in which traits of all types are transmitted, he cited the book as his inspiration for the system of annually sacking the lowest-performing 15% of employees. That’s quite an echo distortion, but one which might stand in for the crass misinterpretations which have attached to evolutionary theory ever since it emerged. That finds its own reverberation in the ‘Primate Prophesies’, which play on the evolutionary cliché that our ancestors were monkeys and the hoary insult that, in the case of aperson with whom we’re displeased, that may have been rather recent. The prophesies are held to emerge from diagrams of the paintings of Congo, a chimpanzee sometimes taken as the proof that ‘anyone can do’ modern art, and a challenge to Lord Raglan’s 19th century definition of culture as ‘anything we do and the monkeys don’t’. Victorian alarm at the idea that we are just monkeys underneath is subjected to the reductio ad absurdum of a primate being set up as our latter-day oracle. That sardonic humour is also present in the title ‘Those Eyes - They Follow Me’. An oblong of carpet – humble, dirty and, of course, grey – has risen from the floor. That classic evolutionary step gives it grandeur of bearing, made ghostly as the stains become eyes. What does it tell us if the eyes follow us round the room? Maybe that the past, represented by what Lello and Arnell half-jestingly suggest is a ‘primitive divinity or carpet golem’,(4) is not so easy to escape. The duo also hang a classic Eames
design upside-down and turn it into a finger-painted, hole-eyed ‘Chair-Mask’ with roughly scratched facial marks. Beneath the forward-moving rationale of modernist design, they discern a shamanistic understanding of the world which they call ‘a journey into abandonment of rationale, logic and history’. There’s an echo here of the recent Turner Prize winner Martin Boyce, who fragments and reuses modernist designs to point to how their ideals have taken on a melancholy in the practical application. Indeed, Boyce has said of the 1949 Eames plywood chair that ‘its measured simplicity and its patina of age gets close to the aesthetic of primitivism’ and spoken of ‘a desire to collect more than the object… to transport the ethos or politics of that object – its aura’.(5) Lello and Arnell’s take is more directly dark, but the distorted transmission of an ethos is very much to the point. ‘Turn Illness into a Weapon (Monument to Wolfgang Huber & Patty Hearst)’ uncovers the case of Wolfgang Huber, who moved from respected psychiatric doctor to founder of German terrorist group SPK. As such, he claimed that all illness was caused by capitalism, the only cure being through armed resistance to the guilty society. Patty Hearst, who made a parallel journey from moderate to extreme position under very different circumstances, is also invoked: the sculpture takes the violently charged form of seven scorched baseball bats, an approximation of the logo of the Symbionese Liberation Army, which kidnapped Hearst. The SLA’s logo misused the ancient Hindu protective
/LELLO//ARNELL/ symbol of the seven-headed cobra – a distortion which relates to the misuse of Dawkins by Skilling, and is also likely to remind us of the Nazi misappropriation of the swastika. Here the snakes become baseball bats suggestive of the SPK’s ideology. Thus, both capitalism and its discontents are condemned for the crude distortions used to justify their attitudes. That in turn yields a troubling perspective on the ‘Contorted Social Settings’, which look like designer chairs – that Eames classic of 1949 must come to mind again - burnt to within a charred inch of losing their form. Have they been recovered in this state from long ago, or is this a more recent act of vandalism, perhaps the revenge through boardroom arson of a worker dismissed? I’ve simplified the show, of course, a victim of its critique: for this is a rich combination of objects, and they and their inter-relationships could be approached from quite different angles. One could start from the role of scientific truth in constructing our perceptions; the ways we relate to fiction, and the problems of deciding what – if anything – is ‘real’; the ideologies built into even such objective-sounding matters as the compilation of evidence and the uses of logic. I’ve also, I would think, made the recrudescence of the past’s ‘uncivilised’ urges sound a straightforwardly negative matter. In some ways, of course, it is. But, as demonstrated most clearly
in ‘Yin/Yang’, the coherence and intellectual energy of the show has its own built-in upswing. It takes me back to how Picasso tapped primitive dynamism, or to the Goncourts’ observation that ‘Barbarism is needed every four or five hundred years to bring the world back to life. Otherwise it would die of civilization’.(6) Sooner, perhaps, a conflicted grey than a dull one. Lello and Arnell show us how we’ve burnt back the fields, for sure, but they themselves are part of the coming growth.
Lello and Arnell show us how we’ve burnt back the fields, for sure, but they themselves are part of the coming growth.
NOTES: Paul Carey-Kent was Editor at Large for Art World magazine 2007-09, and has subsequently written regular articles for the Saatchi Online magazine, ARTnews and The Art Newspaper, and written catalogue essays for various galleries. His latest choices of shows in London can be seen at paulsartworld.blogspot.com. Paul lives in Southampton and works as Strategic Finance Manager for Surrey County Council. He has a BA in Politics, Philosophy & Economics and an M Phil in Creative Writing. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the International Association of Art Critics. All Photos: LELLO//ARNELL Beers.Lambert Contemporary
(1) Definition of ‘Echo Chamber’ in Collins English Dictionary (2) Interview with måg magazine, 2011 (3) ‘A Coat of Varnish’, 1979 (4)This and other Lello / Arnell quotes are from correspondence with the author (5) Martin Boyce in conversation with Douglas Coupland in ‘Martin Boyce: This Place is Dreaming’, 2003 (6) Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal, 1855
SIGmund SKARD by m책g
1) måg: You’re interested in everyday environments and challenging our perception of them through video, performance and sculpture. Often, for me, your work comes across as humorous and intelligent, but conceptually it also carries a message - a comment on how we take things for granted or how we organise ourselves politically. Is there a strategy to how you develop your work and how you try and help us to understand it? SK: One strategy is to try to discover obvious things again. (As the philosopher Arne Ness says, I experience the concept of time when I, for example, consider this fjord. What is it? I maintain the naive sense of wonder you have so much as a child.) Out of this, I think and feel, a new fascination can arise. Art also gives the freedom to be banal and allows you to come down, or back, to a basic experience. The early experimental works of Gary Hill, with feedback loops, and sound and loudspeaker experiments, were, in the beginning, a key to opening this up. Teacher and performanceartist Agnes Btffn showed me these videos at Kunstskolen in Rogaland in 2001. They allowed me to explore new, concrete research with materials and I discovered possibilities I could create situations out of. Later a lot of other experimental and performing artists have inspired me to develop my own work further: Kari Caven from Finland. Skogsdynge at Umedalen skulpturpark. Bob Budd fom the UK. See uber Luft
(Lake on Air) from 2004. I am also fascinated by contradictions, both personal and political. I try to be universal and general in my statements, although now and then I ‘come across’ Coca Cola and use the label, the colour, the fluid and the readymade in some works. I think I try to question the companies’ dominance. I try not to make too obvious a political statement. The choice of brand also has to do with aesthetics. A twelve-metre high track of red Coke boxes in a grey road cutting is a quite nice view. For people in passing cars, it possibly worked almost like the old subliminal advertising trick, with one hidden picture coming up now and then during a movie. I have no plan regarding how others should understand my work. 2) måg: From one time to another Holes in Clothes/ The Peasant Student (2009) is a work made just as we saw the world change financially into what we now know was the start of the recession and financial troubles within the Eurozone. In the work we see two projections: your father reading a poem in one of them, and you cutting holes in your clothing in the other. The poem, Bondestudenten by Knut Øygard, is a story about poverty and hunger. Tell us about this work and how you feel it refers to our world today. SK: I once tried (but didn’t succeed) to present the second part, of me alone cutting my clothes, with the title Still protected. There were always at least two layers of cloth protecting the skin (apart
from my cap) but I concluded that the two videos belong together. My father’s comment on the piece, when he saw it afterwards at home, was: ‘Destroying good clothes!’ That was his statement after a hard life running a small farm and as someone who still, aged 102, grows his own potatoes on the lawn outside his care home. Hard work and frugality are critical. I have heard that some people in Greece now are leaving the cities to find land where they can grow their own food. In Moscow it has for long time been a tradition to grow vegetables and fruit in or close to the city. Even some people here grow their own food as a last resort. Urban agriculture is an upcoming phenomenon in Oslo. At Alnabru in Oslo the owners of a new shopping centre in 2012 have made vegetable gardens on the roof. In Detroit, urban agriculture has had a positive effect in depressed and dilapidated areas. But the motives in Oslo and Detroit are different. In the one place it’s done for trendy, aesthetic, architectual reasons and in the other out of a simple need for food and a meaningful life. I think it’s important for people and cultures to have the possibility to connect to natural processes, like how to grow food. The student from the countryside always tries to hide the wear and tear of his clothes. 3) måg: Can you tell us about One Step Back (2004)? SK: I used plaster to fill up a worn
/skard/ out step in an old government building from the 1870s, in Oslo. It had many steps and after almost 150 years in use, some of them were quite worn out. In the beginning I wanted to show it off-site as a sculpture. It looked like flying object with wings. Of course, I had to end up showing it onsite. Since it was just made of plaster I asked the public, at the opening, to step over it. But the next day it turned into an interactive piece and became ‘used up’ a few weeks later by my student colleagues and myself. 4) måg: You started your career as a teacher - what made you change direction? SK: One reason was that I found myself in a dyslexic grey area. Now, in retrospect, I feel that my situation as a teacher could be reminiscent of the poem Bondestudenten. As a teacher I had to cover up the ‘holes’ in my writing. In short, I found that using pictures and body language was liberating, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to prove that I had something to offer in that field. Although my art education also included a lot of work with words, it was a liberation from the slightly strained and anxious relationship I had with text. 5) måg: Have any of the revelations or experiences of being a teacher inspired your work?
SK: It’s taught me to ask questions. Given me a desire to create something meaningful, a desire to create concrete situations. And it taught me something about failure. 6) måg: There is something unique about you as an artist, especially about your persona as a performance artist - your presence itself carries a quiet natural statement, which has an effect on the work itself. In a sense the work is not you; the work is something beyond you, which emphasises the intention of the concept. SK: A friend of mine described me once as sober. I didn’t really like that – it made me sound boring, especially coming from someone bubbly like him. But I am calm and objective, so it’s about right. Saumfaring (‘scrutiny’), for instance, is a performance work in which I analyze and explain an everyday garment, a pair of jeans, in detail. It flips over and becomes comical because I stretch objectivity to the limit. 7) måg: Much of your work is poetic in its visual presentation. Two examples are the works Mandarin in a bottle (2008) and Eg treng (I Need) (2008). Do you have, like your father, a relationship to poetry? SK: A poem is often, for me, a concentration of ‘story’ and wisdom, and has often many visual elements. As a teacher I tried on occasion to present poetry in public. I had problems learning the poems by heart. My father was and
still is a great entertainer, even now that he’s a hundred and one. And what’s fantastic is that he still learns stories and poems by heart. A couple of years ago I had to prove that I could do the same, so I’ve finally learned a couple, at least. My goal is to learn one poem a year till I’m a hundred. 8) måg: What conceptual framework do you use in order to outline a feasible action for your work? SK: I work a lot with exploration of different materials. One example is Gaffawalk, or as I also call it, Soundtrack. In this performance I let the combination of gaffa tape and the dirt on the floor regulate and amplify the sound of footsteps. The starting point was that I wanted to exaggerate the sound of shoes squeaking. By chance I discovered that the gaffa tape could be wound with the glue side out, around the shoes. When you walk, the glue sticks to the floor. The lifting of the foot makes a tearing sound. So, as you see, I sometimes like to take something annoying as my starting point (sounds, behaviour, etc.) One of my works started in our neighbourhood, while I and my wife were out bicycling - I had the idea of picking up garbage along the road; empty cans and bottles. Not because I wanted to clean up, more because I was fascinated by the materials. I remember my wife feeling embarrassed by it on this occation. A bit later I discovered holes bored in the rock wall along the same road, and that these holes
/skard/ were almost exactly the same diameter as coke cans. I ended up using these in a work called Cola line - hanging from a rope, I put cans into the holes. For the exhibition this August at Fitjar, Norway, I’m preparing a work that is the result of an accident where I hurt my right thumb, putting my right hand out of action for weeks. The title of this work is Rowing in circles. So no, I don’t have a conceptual framework to begin with - everything starts from things happening as I go about from day to day, and the framework grows from there. 10) måg: Where can we expect to see you next and what can we look forward to experiencing? SK: On 11th August 2012 at Five thousand generations of birds, an exhibition in Fitjar, on the West coast of Norway. I’ll be performing Rowing in circles. And on 1st September 2012, at the MOMBI festival in Fall, Norway I’ll be performing Tandemballon in cooperation with my colleague and friend Mattias Cantzler.
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Eg treng.. (I need..) 2008 Documentation of performance, foto 21x29cm Photo: Sigmund Skard Colaline 2008 Installation/skulpture/performance 100 Cola cans, 12 meter high Photo: Vik Lai ’From one time to another’ Video 1 ’Hole in Clothes’. Performance Sigmund Skard. Video 2 ’The Student from the Contryside’. Poet: Knut Øygard. Resited by Hans Skard. 2009 Videoperformance DVD 3min (loop) Photo: Sigmund Skard One Step Back 2004 Sculpture 100 x 12 x 2,5 cm Photo: Sigmund Skard Mandarin in a bottle 2008 Documentation of performance 17 min Photo: Sigmund Skard Jording (Grounding) 2008 Skulpture 02,50 x 01,40 x 02,00 m Photo: Sigmund Skard LINK: www.sigmundskard.com
NIRMAL SINGH DHUNSI Between Munch and Ganesha by Margrete Abelsen
Between Munch and Ganesha
Illness and the bed make up the starting point for a series of expressive gouache drawings by Nirmal Singh Dhunsi. The series was commenced in 2010 and has continued to this day, also serving as a way of coming to terms with a stressful situation. Bedridden because of back problems, Singh Dhunsi continued to draw, turning the bed, man and divinities into central elements. By means of sweeping pencil lines, the characters seem to be literally tied to their beds. From the point of view of the bedridden, Singh Dhunsi started to reflect on the symbolism of the bed and the different connotations in the West and in the East of other everyday objects. A hint of humour is never absent, in spite of the dismal situation. Having grown up and lived part of his life as poster and miniature painter in rural Punjab, India, and part of his life as artist in Trondheim, Norway, Singh Dhunsi belongs to and has intimate knowledge of two rather different cultures. His unique position gives him the possibility of juggling and balancing between the knowledge ”inside” and the distance “outside” both cultures. He has created a characteristic visual language that mixes cultural expressions and personal experiences on the one hand with references to religious rituals and Western art history on the other. As spectators we are invited into a playful, active and expressive universe where surprising constellations take shape. As the constellation Munch and Ganesha. In Edvard Munch’s Selvportrett mellom klokken og sengen (1944)( Selfportrait between the clock and the bed), painted the year before he died, Munch has portrayed himself standing between a grandfather clock without hands and a bedspread with a distinct geometrical pattern in white, red and black. Both the clock and the bed symbolize death and function as a memento mori. This painting, Munch’s last major work, constitutes an introduction for Singh Dhunsi’s own reflections on human transitoriness in general (and maybe his own in particular). But whereas Munch is preoccupied with inescapable death, Singh Dhunsi seems to focus on the will to live. As a consequence of the continuingly changing illness, the mood and the balance
between the anguished and the humorous alters: in bad periods a chaos which includes mice and vultures appears to have taken over. The bed grows larger and the characters smaller. In good periods the characters have gotten rid of their chains to the bed; they stand up and start taking over the space. In Jasper Johns’ triptycon Tantric Detail (1981) we also find a reference to Munch’s bedspread. Here the pattern of the carpet is cut loose from its surroundings and made abstract through meditative repetition. At present one might say that Singh Dhunsi expresses himself in the field of tension between Munch and Jasper Johns. In partly abstract, vibrating and energetic drawings, the depicted main character alternates between being divinity and man. Several images show a bearded Sikh, wearing a turban, in a meditation pose, and here and there we see the elephant God Ganesha, who in some of the drawings is depicted as being frightened by a flock of mice. Hindu writings tell us about Ganesha who is riding mice as a sign of humility. In this way, the original sign of humility in Eastern religion meets western Disney myths about elephants being afraid of mice, and new meanings arise. In the series the bed also appears in the shape of oriental rugs. The bed, which in the West is perceived as our most private furniture, is often used in social contexts in India, for instance as the place where one shares a meal – in this way the bed becomes a picture of western individualism and Eastern collectivism. In his visual language Singh Dhunsi approaches the comic strip and he makes bold use of some of its elements, like conventionalizing, pure, bright colours, vibrating lines and, not least, humour. Superfluous details have been stripped away and each and every element has a symbolic significance. The individual drawing is independent and meaningful in its own right, but when put together they make up the panels of a complete story. From earlier on, Singh Dhunsi is known for his colourful, pearl-covered Masala paintings and for his Tandoori drawings where Hindu deities, Disney characters and art historical references make up a universe of Western abstraction and Eastern mysticism, high and low culture. Actions that have become automatic or which are the results of indoctrination, are questioned, for instance the religious covering of deities or the tradition of the caste system, which is still
alive in todayâ€™s India. The tension between Western abstraction and the Hindu covering up is studied where the oppositions and the ambiguities in the different cultures mutually illuminate each other and continually shape new meanings. Just like in the strips, one of the elements is texts: often notes and dates are scribbled on the drawings, as if they document the course of the illness or Singh Dhunsiâ€™s reflections during the process. We observe a process where gradually, through a great artistic output, the bed dissolves, the bedspread turns into something abstract, and they are both about to vanish. Luckily, the illness seems to have got a happy ending: the characters rise from their beds, come to life and become bright-eyed and bushy-tailed once again. Singh Dhunsi has apparently found his place, juggling between two cultures where the enigma of his own identity is a strength that continually generates new questions about human identity in general.
All images by Nirmal Singh Dhunsi ÂŠ 2012 LINK: www.dhunsi.com
The Atelier Nord project room in Kunstnernes Hus is available to artists free of charge on a weekly basis. The project room may be used for video and audio production, as well as screenings, presentations and exhibitions. For more information and on-line application form, please visit
LEWIS&TAGGART by m책g
1) måg: In 2010 you received a collaborative MFA from Bergen National Academy of the Arts. This is unique in itself, although more art academies are opening up for the possibility of collaborative groups completing a degree together. As more artists see the many possibilities of working together, this sounds as if it should be an option at any art academy, yet it is not. Tell us about how you experienced the process. L&T: It’s true that for many art institutions admitting a collaborative duo is difficult, if not impossible, perhaps for the simple reason that collaborative endeavours are difficult to assess. The paradigm of the individual scholar clearly persists, and Kunsthøgskolen in Bergen was exceptional in its willingness to take on our joint proposal. It’s difficult to sum up the experience of our MA studies – we encountered both support and skepticism from our advisors, peers, and guest teachers, and questions regarding the division of labour often overshadowed in-depth discussions of the work itself. But fundamentally we believe that it was a worthwhile experiment – both for ourselves and for the institution. 2) måg: How did you meet and how did you realise the potential of working together? L&T: We met over a glue stick in 2006, at an art supply shop in Vancouver, Canada, and began collaborating shortly thereafter. In many ways though, we feel that we’re only
just beginning to realize the potential of what it means to work together. We experienced something of a revelation about two years ago while visiting the hometown of the Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge. Over the course of our stay we had casually amassed a small collection of objects and ephemera – a paper doily, a public library card, a stick found at Hauge’s grave... the crudeness of the collection had a resonating effect on us, and marked a kind of turning point. 3) måg: Your current exhibition titled The Unfinished Reconstruction of Ujazdowski Castle at Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, is a result of a residency at the centre. Upon your arrival you discovered thousands of abandoned postcards, which took centre stage in the work you conducted during this residency and for the exhibition. Tell us how this came about and the results from this discovery. L&T: A few days into our stay in Warsaw, we came across several boxes of identical postcards depicting Ujazdowski Castle (where the Centre for Contemporary Art is located), produced in the late 1980s. In all likelihood, the postcards had been manufactured for promotional use – to circulate an image of the castle as a centre for culture within the city and possibly abroad – but had since become rather dated and were consequently discarded.
Ujazdowski castle itself has undergone countless transformations since it was first constructed in the twelfth century, and working with the postcards became a way to harness this energy of constant metamorphosis. At first, our only goal was to create a project in which each and every postcard was reconstructed, and we let the form take shape on its own. We spent three months dissecting the material, layering the postcards upon one another, and combining them with material gathered from the castle grounds and the city, and what emerged was a collection of sculptures, collages and assemblages that together portray an alternate vision of Warsaw’s topography. The collection is currently on view at the CCA, and an accompanying publication is going to be launched later this summer. 4) måg: This way of working, through discovery and ‘accidental’ findings – is it a conscious strategy? L&T: Yes – our tendency is to work with the objects in life that present themselves to us. We’re interested in the nuances held in found material, and its potential to reveal unpredictable insights into the context in which it was found. 5) måg: Despite being formal in its presentation, your work contains an undercurrent of the comic, the humorous as well as the serious and political. What is your main inspiration
/ LEWIS&TAGGART/ /PAWLIK/ /TORRISET/
within this work – scientific and historical – which are both challenging and humoristic. How did you develop the series practically and conceptually?
and where do you start your research?
L&T: We began the Black Holes project in 2008 when a twin pair of circular black wooden sculptures spontaneously materialized in our studio. We immediately felt compelled to take them travelling, and they’ve since become a permanent fixture in our luggage. We’re always discussing the possible meanings of this ongoing series. As physical manifestations of cosmic absence, the black holes could perhaps be seen as stand-ins for us, as sentient objects masquerading as voids, or simply as compositional elements within the photographs. There is a kind of ambiguity to the work that makes us both comfortable and uncomfortable, and we embrace that. The photographs are taken in situ – each work is fundamentally a reflection of or response to the place where it was made. It was fortuitous that we ended up travelling as much as we do, since the act of travelling is what gives shape to this project, and now that the archive has grown significantly we’re very dedicated to sustaining it.
L&T: We’re inspired by the condition of living in the year 2012, and next year we’ll most likely be inspired by the temperament of 2013. We’re particularly interested in contemporary notions of place, and our research often relies on immersion in foreign environments. Chance encounters and serendipitous findings mark the starting points in our process, and our projects generally unfold from there. 6) måg: The Museum of Longing and Failure (MOLAF) is an initiative you started in 2010 where the focus is upon small sculptural works. What made you start this initiative and how do you see it developing? L&T: For us, longing and failure comprise a broad poetic space that embodies the human condition at large, and the museum grew from a desire to explore this space in a way that was generative and could develop slowly over time. We share a passion for small, out-of-theway museums, and the idea really clicked after stumbling upon a few particularly quirky and inspiring spaces, such as the Theta Museum in Bergen and the Ramones Museum in Berlin. We began the project by creating a museum vitrine inside a street-level window
in Bergen, just off the beaten track, and invited four artists to each contribute a small sculpture created with the MOLAF’s thematic concern in mind. The museum now has an ever-growing collection of over thirty works, and has begun to follow us on our travels. We recently installed it in an empty storefront in Copenhagen, and in a Manhattan air conditioner window cage at the former site of Claes Oldenburg’s legendary 1961 project The Store. For its next installment, MOLAF will make an appearance in Dawson City, Yukon – a former gold rush town on the border of Alaska, and plans for future incarnations are under way. 7) måg: Narrative - is it important? L&T: Many of our works are generated through an investigation of the narrative of a given setting or environment. We’re interested in the material that brings form to context, and narrative can be seen as one of the agents that shape our understanding of context. Objects have a funny way of telling their own stories, and for the most part, we’re interested in letting them speak for themselves. 8) måg: Black Holes (2008-2012) is a fascinating work where you have either travelled a lot to complete the series or used digital manipulation. There are a vast amount of references
9) måg: How do you work together in order to maximise the potential of the work? L&T: By remembering to trust each other, and maybe more importantly, by trusting the world around us to offer up the
/LEWIS&TAGGART/ material we need and to act as a sculptural force. Working together works best when we keep our eyes open and look outward, instead of always looking inwardly to find solutions and control the outcome of the work. And we make sure not to work when weâ€™re hungry.
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE The Unfinished Reconstruction of Ujazdowski Castle (Detail) 2012 Found postcard and mixed media 18 x 15 x 5 cm Chasing a rainbow with the ghost of Pablo Picasso (Installation view: The Factory for Art and Design, Copenhagen) 2011 Mixed media Various dimensions The Unfinished Reconstruction of Ujazdowski Castle (Detail) 2012 Found postcards 9 x 9 x 9 cm Detail from: Night View from the Soap Factory and other works for Vaasa 2010 Artist book produced in Vaasa, Finland 21 x 15 cm, ed. of 150 Climax 2011 Found Icelandic flag, mineral-encrusted rocks and plastic cups from the Blue Lagoon spa, postcard 52 x 10 x 13 cm Two Black Holes in Bergen, Norway 2009 Photograph Variable dimensions Two Black Holes in Istanbul, Turkey 2009 Photograph Variable dimensions Bordeaux dans lâ€™espace 2011 Airsickness bag, wine bottles, plaster 39 x 12 x 9 cm LINK: www.lewisandtaggart.com
STEIN NERLAND by m책g
/ANE LAN/ /nerland/
“impersonate” or “be” another person or character; one can only, make one’s own true personality visible through the enactment of a character or a situation. It is only by trying to be another person that you can really be yourself – hence; the masquerade is the true nature of human interaction. This can sometimes be a little bit tricky, of course. Those of my friends who first volunteer to participate in my projects are those who have a narcissistic drive to be in front of a camera or to stand on a stage. That is also often the main symbolic value of their personality. How do you explain this to him/her? “I want you in this part because I see you as a great narcissist, and this piece is about narcissism”. And how do you persuade those of your friends and family who most of all hate being the center of attention to perform either in front of a camera or on stage? This is crucial if I want to speak of the true discomfort of being objectified before the media gaze. In order to succeed I try to create a transparent but solid contract of fiction and drama between the collaborators and me, which often implies costumes, and acted out clichés. I aim for an equal participation, but I guess what I am really looking for is a psychological projection (underneath the theatrical gesticulations) which my collaborators, or myself, are unaware of - the sides of our personality brought out by the play, contributing to the work in a way originally not intended. However, this has always been what makes the display of human interactions intriguing to watch, either on film or on stage. Where a camera is present, the participants are consequently also able to investigate
/nerland/ 1) måg: Your work has a strong voice; however it is the sculptures and the public art works that resonate with me - they express conceptual ideas on a very different level to the paintings. How do you feel the ‘language’ changes when working in different media? SN: I still think that each idea I try to express demands a specific medium. Oil on canvas was for many years my biggest struggle. Not that I couldn’t deal with the medium from a technical point of view, but I believe my doubt was due to the strong connotations the medium has regarding ideas of value, market, and aesthetics. Not to mention the fact of its historical connection to that thing called the Art Gallery. So lately I’ve returned to making site-specific work in different media. This involves less hallowed connotations, and since I work in the public space, it is possibly seen by a wider public. For several years I had a post at the Kunstnersenter in Buskerud, Norway, and was dismayed by the fact that only five or maybe seven people visited each day. Choice of media is decisive in making artwork accessible to the public. 2) måg: The sea is very often referenced in your work - what is your relationship with the sea?
SN: Growing up in Molde, a beautiful city in the north-western part of Norway, the sea was everywhere. It is hard to find a house without a panorama view of the ocean. Our family also enjoys sailing, and being on the sea is an important part of our life. But from a conceptual part of view, the sea strikes me as an important common visual ground. We contain water, we are made in water and water is our most primary basic need. Whatever water we use to sustain our existence, it eventually flows into a sewer, or a river, and then into the sea. Then it’s looped back into humans. It’s basic, but this existential fact makes the sea vital and interesting to refer to in my work. 3) måg: Wish you a nice journey (1998) is an installation or series of installations and objects, often site specific. Is this an evolving work, or work in progress whereby new pieces and parts are made to extend its narrative, or is it a closed chapter?
journey (1998)? Can it be seen as an evolution, a sequel? SN: Absolutely. Site specific again, the sea as a strong reference and angled in a humoristic, ironic way - it’s directly derived from Wish you a nice journey. Both works try to question our existence either as a dream or as so-called reality. 5) måg: You also work as an illustrator - how did you get into this and how has this influenced your overall practice? SN: I have done editorial illustration for several years. It started while I was studying economy at the University of Oslo. Through the years I have worked for several publications, and in contrast to the autonomy we normally like to believe art derives from, editorial illustration is always a product of compromises. There is an article - good or bad - that you have to deal with. Then you have editors with their own ideas of how the illustration should be. But there are also editors who give illustrators their required space and integrity. Billedkunst magazine is such an example. In those cases, illustration can eventually be more than plain decoration. In those situations, I believe I use the same visual and analytical tools as I do in preparing an installation.
SN: It cannot be a closed chapter. It means too much to me. It was perhaps the first time I managed to make art of a certain integrity that created a constructive dialogue between the public and myself. The work is an important milestone for me, and the fact that I’ve struggled to recreate such a vital visual Often it is about finding situation makes me a bit referable objects I can desolate! deconstruct and reassemble in order to find visuals suitable for 4) the content of the article. måg: From this point of view editorial Is the work Not Yet (1999) illustration is linked to the related to Wish you a nice process of making art.
6) måg: You studied for five years in Poland (1993-1998), both at the highly acclaimed National Academy of Fine Art in Poznan and the National Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw. Tell us about your time there – was there anything that made a particular impact on you?
local community in its potential.
SN: In general, what appeals to me in making public projects is the level of cooperation with different layers of participants: architects, owners, technicians and so on. In this situation one has to preserve the greatest possible degree of integrity. SN: Benken was established not Living in Warsaw at the start of only through cooperation with the 1990s was extremely everyone involved, but also exciting. I was witness to an within a very limited budget, Eastern Bloc city regaining its and mainly using one single former noble position. But the medium, concrete. Initially, National Academy of Fine Arts the base was supposed to be in Warsaw was primarily a very made of coloured concrete, good school for learning the but due to high costs we were craft. There I met limited to black, grey and light Jaroslaw Kozlowski, who grey. Fifty cubic metres of during this period was the concrete over five hundred curator for the Centre of square metres, of which a Contemporary Art at hundred square metres is the Ujazdowski Castle in Warszaw, bench, or ‘benken’. Initially this and was later invited to join the was a vibrant working-class National Academy in Poznan, area supported by the oldest where he still has a vital concrete production plant in position. The pedagogical Norway. When this closed in process and the environment the 1980s, the area became among students and somehow hostile and employees were extremely occupied by restless youths constructive. The teaching pursuing less than constructive artists that meant a lot to me activities in the area. Making were above all Kozlowski (who Benken was a step towards in the same period taught at revitalising the area, both the Academy of Fine Arts creating possibilities for the in Oslo and the Rijksakademie locals to get involved. The work van belldende kunsten in is still in progress, with a plan to Amsterdam), Hanna Luczak, let local students participate Magdalena by adding their own concrete Abakanowicz, Mariuz Kruk and art works. All in order to let the Dariusz Glowacki. younger generation reclaim Without doubt the years I spent the area through reference to in Poznan made the biggest history and local media. impact on me while living in Poland. 8) måg: 7) Fire Walk with Me (2010) uses måg: traditions and techniques Benken (2012) is a recent associated with painting as public artwork in Slemmestad well as sculpture. Four oil village in Norway, by the Oslo paintings form a cube and fjord. Tell us about this work may challenge our idea of and how you engaged the ‘room’. Tell us about this work
and its title. SN: The title obviously refers to the David Lynch film from 1992. Lynch’s ability to reveal several levels of meaning always appealed to me. But the title is also a comment on the human desire to tame nature. Fire is one of those elements in nature that we don’t always succeed in taming. My family and I experienced this in the winter of 2007, when we spent our holidays at a wooden cabin high up in the mountains north of Lillehammer. During the night, the cabin unexpectedly caught fire - luckily we got out just in time. Outside, the temperature was very low and the ground was covered with at least a metre of snow. We had no clothes on, and had to break into in a nearby empty cabin in order to survive. This experience and Lynch’s references formed the basis of the work. Each one of the four paintings depicts an interior composed from an unexpected viewpoint. They were all painted in a rather simple way, with vertical strokes cut by knife. So this, my most recent painting, is in fact an actual ‘room’ comprised of pictures of room fragments. 9) måg: What are you currently working on? SN: I’m continuing this somehow naive but primal search for new rooms. Shelter is a primary physical need for humans, and I believe my work always reflects this need, on a meta-level. In 2009 I started work on a glass well in the floor of a primary school, where several layers of transparent
two-dimensional pictures are perceived as three- dimensional. That led to another series of works called Rommer (derived from the word ‘space’ and meaning ‘to contain’) which dealt with ‘endless room’. Using light and one-way mirrors, I construct objects containing endless space, inspired by Einstein’s theory that claims the universe is endless but limited. This is somehow what we experience seeing Escher’s work: light is curved by gravity and makes a circle. An endless loop of space.
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Midtbygda skole 2009 - 2011 laminated construction glass each construction glass: 340x120 cm Photo: Stein Nerland The bench 2011- work in progress beton, mixed media 500m2 (size of the square) Photo: Stein Nerland Not yet 1999 mixed media 100 m2 (size of the gallery space) Photo: Stein Nerland Midtbygda skole 2009-2011: laminated construction glass each construction glass: 340x120 cm Photo: Stein Nerland Wish you a nice journey 1998 mixed media 120 m2 (size of the gallery space) Photo: Stein Nerland Wish you a nice journey 1998 mixed media 120 m2 (size of the gallery space) Photo: Stein Nerland Wish you a nice journey 1998 mixed media 120 m2 (size of the gallery space) Photo: Stein Nerland LINK: www.steinnerland.no
AZAR ALSHARIF by m책g
/alsharif/ 1) måg: Your work is neatly crafted, a meeting between the found object and new additions made in your studio. It is often unnoticeable which is which. Beautifully confident, it presents often-unexpected juxtapositions. How do you approach the work and establish these relationships? AA: Confidence and trust in the work is a very precise observation, and a crucial part of it. It is all an exercise of trusting the different participants in the game: the material, the actions and myself. It is an attempt at communicating. Alongside with keeping and open eye to the unexpected and giving everything the same - or just no particular - worth; a found object, a paint stroke, a gesture, an idea, an accident, and so on. The mystical impression of the neat craftiness also might be the result of a kind of carelessness. It would probably not turn out that way if it were important to me to craft and make everything fully skilled and flawless. It has often made people question which parts of what they see are ‘made’ and which are ‘found’. Nevertheless, sometimes I too spend time focusing on the details. The best points that a completed work imparts in
the end are usually those not directly intended by me, but those that materialize independently, by having a generous process and allowing the unlikely to occur. To me the best part of the artwork is the precise formulations that come out of the poetic grammar of parts put together. However, it often ends up being a question of the time element in the work itself as well: how much time was spent making this? How complex and time-consuming was the production? For me a certain quality can often be more of an unforeseen consequence than an intention. Still, people want to know what amount of time they are looking at. I like it if I can confuse that perception, and almost force the viewer to just look, and not know. I think your method as an artist lies within your personal concept of how to make time. How you create the notion of time in your practice and your pieces. To see is also time; it is both your personal and our collective time. And a lot of different tempos are at stake simultaneously. It can sometimes be nice to rush, and sometimes nice to wait. 2) måg: Forcefully Selected (2012) is a good example of this juxtaposition. Can you tell us more about this piece? AA: This is a case that demonstrates how it sometimes feels as if I am a receiver of the work myself. It feels as if my gaze did most of the work. But it was crucial to try out constellations and then trust the interaction of the objects. I spent more time
afterwards being amazed than I spent ‘making’ it. This particular work consists of a framed painting that I found at a second-hand shop combined with an old book and half of a magazine ad for jewellery. I liked the colours and shapes of the upper half of the painting, and decided that I could use it for collage. Later on it stayed on my studio for a long while. The gathering of materials is usually just based on current emotions, gut feeling and aesthetic evaluations. And always with an attempt at breaking some rules. That somehow makes me feel like I am playing an intricate and interesting game. 3) måg: To continue on this subject, many of your titles pose this contrasting relationship as well, such as Before You Can Read You Gotta Learn How To See. How important is the title to the work? AA: At one point I discovered the title of a work as a literary genre. It is something in itself, not quite a text, not quite a piece of art, but still something useful if you want it to be. It is a bit of the work that the work does not fully need in order to exist, but still chooses to coexist with - a volunteered friendliness from both sides. I have always been attracted to text. Fascinated and touched by it. I have tried to approach it in different ways, but the words and texts have often felt far too overwhelming and unmanageable. So trying to speak and write with anything but words has been a way to circle around my relationship to this. Lately I have fortunately been drawn to deal more
often with words. 4) måg: Are the titles of your work an extension of the work’s narrative or a starting point? AA: Definitely a starting point. It seems that we seek narration and contexts whatever we look at. But the more abstract something is, the more it triggers your own ability to connect and fill in the gaps. There is so much archived in your mind that you make use of when you have to. I have been interested in the gaps in between for a long while now. The gaps are all that you cannot see, and all that is not said. It is between the lines of a text, and in the fraction of a second that the screen is black between two scenes in a movie. The gap between the image and its title contains additional information that is not possible to describe with words. It is also simply verbal experimentation and sometimes pure poetry. It can be poetry made out of found and manipulated pieces of text, like a verbal collage. It can be memories of a phrase or just an excerpt from a song. 5) måg: Many of your works are framed. The frame seems to symbolise a separation between the work itself and the world outside of it, emphasizing that what is within the frame is not to be considered as part of us- but part of something outside of us, which in itself may seem like a contradiction. What are your thoughts on ‘the frame’ and its conceptual position within your
/torp/ /alsharif/ practise? AA: It is a given, natural shape. I feel so used to seeing images as something with four sides, very orderly, and beautifully simple. It feels as if my gaze is square. And the square frame refers to the image, the TV-screen, your laptop, a book, a CD, photography and much more. It is the shape of the general information unit. All these things that were so easily available intrigued me to approach it physically and aesthetically. I also like the way it reminds me that I can only see one fragment at one time. That what you see is just a bit of all that is, or might be, outside the frame. That there is more outside of it than inside, and that you cannot be certain of ever seeing all of it anyway. It could be scary. I would not mind evoking feelings of distrust and insecurity, but my purpose is optimistic, because I believe it is good to be pressured to think further through things. It also connects with the issue of ‘the gap’ I mentioned earlier. The frame has also been a starting point for working with series or building a complex of four collages interacting as separate units and a whole (as in the work Wicked Game). 6) måg: You are based in Bergen, a coastal city in the west of Norway. Do you feel the art scene expresses different
concerns to those in the capital’s (Oslo) art scene? AA: Maybe it does. I’d like to believe so. It can be inspiring to think that the place where you are living and working is quite unique. My experience tells me that the most important thing is that your everyday life and your situation with working with art have to function as you need them to. The art world is not everything, and at the same time it is just as big as the rest of the world. You will have to navigate and deal with being isolated anyway. It reminds of this quote from the book Sangen Om Den Røde Rubin (Song Of The Red Ruby) by Norwegian author Agnar Mykle, from 1956: The thing is nothing; the notion of the thing is everything. 7) måg: What living artists inspire you the most? AA: Many artists inspire me, just as do many other things. I really do not keep a list of favourites, and they’re not limited to visual artists either. Films, television, music, politics and experiences are equally important influences. Nevertheless I have of course learned from, and been inspired and touched by several living artists, either through their work, words or attitude; especially I would mention the great artists Stein Rønning and Marianne Hurum, both based in Oslo. 8) måg: Much seems to be about
seeing: you seeing the object and the work - their relationships and possibilities and then us seeing your work and its narrative. How do you relate to these different relationships and possibilities of seeing? AA: Seeing – as in perceiving – might be all that we actually have. It is as simple as that. Synonyms for seeing are comprehending and knowing. It is very much related to the concept of reality and truth. This is most likely a very basic issue for all visual artists, whatever media or technique they work within. For me I think this interest developed through a close relationship to media and popular culture, from my childhood, and it’s still ongoing. Just loving all kind of books, cartoons, TV programmes, movies and music - these have given me many emotional, educating and life-changing experiences. Sometimes I feel like honouring, for example, the great concept of TV. Later on when I became a student and got introduced to philosophy I discovered my long lasting interest in issues of the philosophy, of truth and subjective interpretation. This mix of admiration for pop culture and philosophy led me to deal a lot with the idea of a hierarchy of value. The question of value is close to the one of truth. And all of this made me wonder how much information we might be co-producing, and how your visual surroundings are informed by your gaze. 9) måg: You recently exhibited at a music festival in Norway,
as I always do and it ended up being a very positive and professional experience. I am very grateful to have had the chance to participate in such a cooperation.
Hovefestivalen. Can you tell us how it went and what feedback you received? AA: What was particularly exciting with this exhibition was the setting: it was surrounded by something different than I was used to. Camping youngsters, party mood and a whole lot of great music artists performing live. Yet it was not important for the production of the exhibition where it was displayed. All projects must necessarily start from the same place mentally, from a completely unattached and independent setting in the studio. So I would say it was a very interesting and different meeting. I think it is healthy to dare to let the art stand on its own and let anything come close. It was also nice to hear feedback that someone had heard a particular artist playing in the background while they checked out my show, and that it felt good. It is fun to think about the rare interaction of a random live performance of music and an exhibition. I also got to hear about the honest and spontaneous reactions such as giggling and expressions of confusion over why this was art. It was rare, liberating and fresh. Not least, I appreciate those who worked with the art. Their attitude was that the art scene should be presented on its own terms, and be an independent scene next to the music, literature and everything else that happens there. Thatâ€™s why I could work
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Delicate Slo-Mo 2012 Metal bin, plastic bag approx. 25 x 25 x 30cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Priceless Precision 2012 collage, concrete, playcards, books, dice, handmade print approx. 40 x 50cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Mountain View 2011 series of 14 collages 16 x 22cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Priceless Precision 2012 collage, concrete, playcards, books, dice, handmade print approx. 40 x 50cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Wicked Game 2011 series of 4 collages 42 x 52 cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Before You Can Read You Gotta Learn How To See 2010 magazine stack, acrylic paint approx. 25 x 50 x 60cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie Wicked Game 2011 series of 4 collages 42 x 52 cm Photo: Margit Selsjord Bratlie LINK: www.azaralsharif.com
NORDISK KUNSTNARSENTER DALSÅSEN | ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE CENTER DALE I SUNNFJORD | NORWAY | www.nkdale.no | www.facebook.com/nkdale
Artist Cabins at Dalsåsen (detail) photo Laura Vuoma
When you said to me by Amina Bech
I was dead in Acholi
/text/ The difference between the traveller and the migrant is slight. I like to think of myself as a migrant artist in the sense that I am constantly on the go between countries. I don’t have a place of my own, but I’m always thinking about places I want to be. I love finding those secret destinations that make me stay for longer than I planned. Earlier this year I stayed and worked in different parts of Uganda. This was my second visit, and the main reason was to continue a project I had started in 2011. The project emphasizes various aspects of delivery, and moves freely between art, pure humanitarian work and social entrepreneurship. In Aparanga in the Nwoya district of Northern Uganda, I found a unique environment that in different ways disclosed traces of the civil war that raged for about twenty years between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Government forces. Northern Uganda was once dubbed ‘the world’s worst forgotten humanitarian crisis’ by former UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Jan Egeland. Today in the north, the Acholi are slowly re-establishing themselves, but when you cross the Karume bridge between Kampala and Gulu town, you still get a strong feeling of crossing a political boundary. Remnants of a war I was walking around in Aparanga, the same region that witnessed one of the first battles between the Government forces and the rebels in 1986. An abandoned building drew my attention for various reasons. From the outside I saw the skeleton of the ceiling beautifully mirrored in rainwater on the floor. Upon entering, I was totally taken aback by a spectacle of words and drawings covering the concrete walls, together with bullet holes and other remnants of attacks. It was as if I had been dragged into the whole story of both the war and the postwar era by this single room. I was told that the building once contained a centre where tobacco growers used to sell their wares. After the war it was used as a camp for internally displaced persons, and later as a meeting place for local groups.
Historical context When Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) seized power, it was from regimes that had their power base among the Acholi people in the North. But instead of ending a period of regional division, Museveni’s rule has perpetuated it. The regime is accused, for several reasons, of having a vested interest in the continuation of the North-South conflict. The LRA originated in the early 1990s, partly as a growth from the remains from the Obote regime, and partly from Alice Auma’s Holy Spirit Movement (HSM). HSM had political goals and a type of rhetoric that mixed Christianity with the traditional Acholi faith, which had a broad appeal among unemployed Acholi youths. Alice claimed she was possessed by multiple spirits, and powers that strengthened the Acholi people in the fight against the NRM. She portrayed herself as a prophet who received messages from God, and took the name Lakwena (messenger) from what was supposed to be the spirit of an Italian doctor who lived in the area in around 1900. Lakwena achieved some unexpected victories over opposition forces, but was later decisively defeated. Another Acholi who saw himself as a spirit medium was Joseph Kony. ‘I will communicate with Museveni through the holy spirits and not through the telephone’, he once said. When Lakwena fled by bicycle into Kenya, Kony seized the opportunity to recruit remnants of the HSM, together with members of another northern rebel group and its founder Odong Latek. Latek taught Kony to use guerilla warfare tactics as a means of instilling fear, specifically the attacking of unarmed villages. After the Acholi rejected Kony, he turned on his own people. He uses Biblical references to explain why it is necessary for him to kill his own people - they have, in his view, failed to support the cause. Today Kony is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, child sex-slavery and forcing children to participate in hostilities. As part of their initiation, the children were often required to kill their own parents, so that they would have no homes to return to. Kony himself left Uganda in 2006, but is said to still be operating in southern Sudan, with the blessing of the Sudanese government.
War trauma and its aftermath I visited the North in the immediate aftermath of the Kony 2012 campaign, which has been accused of using colonial language and being out of step with recent developments in Uganda. The screening in Northern Uganda was met with anger. ‘The conflict is a mishmash of religious madness, ethnic divide and political power struggle, but our problem today is not Joseph Kony’, a young boy told me. ‘What we need is help to deal with the trauma that those now returning feel’. The war resulted in a systematic terrorising of the civilian population the like of which the world has rarely seen, but Acholi people have suffered ever since pre-colonial times. Their situation worsened under colonial rule, when the British employed a ‘divide and rule’ strategy that was largely responsible for laying the foundations on which post-independence politics developed. Colonial policy is perceived to be partly responsible for the turmoil that later engulfed the region. When you said to me I was dead in Acholi had its starting point in the abandoned building in Aparanga. The title is intended to point to the historical context of the ethnic cleansing of Acholi people from their land. Uganda still suffers from large differences between ethnic groups - their cultures, history, economy and geography. Kampala, the main capital, is a noisy, hectic and vibrant hub of life. Far away from the traffic jams and fumes, long after the roads have turned from tarmac to red dust, life is slower. Northern Uganda is a totally different planet compared to Kampala, but it is here one’s eyes are truly opened to the realities facing people in this country. This project moves between art and politics, staging and documentation.
Amina Bech: With a background in scenography & new media, I’ve frequently related to a scenographic approach -- using the means of set and stage production to create new bodies of work, including both prosessed and pure photography, performative and time based practises. Since 2010 my work has moved towards focusing on political and social issues, combining political engagement with art. All Photos: Amina Bech © 2012
Artists, curators gathered in Gallery Noorus for conversations Photo by: Ytter
10 mรฅg issue tenSPECIAL EDITION GUEST EDITORSruth barker &Pรกdraic E. Moore
Published on Aug 30, 2012
måg | issue nine Publishers: NABROAD Design: Rodney Point Editor: Audhild Dahlstrøm Featured: Nirmal Singh Dhunsi / Steinar Nerland / Azar...