The Unbearable Richness of Gray The Unbearable Richness of Gray is a collaborative exhibition initiated by visual artists Roghieh Asgari Torvund and Elisabeth Medbøe. The show includes works by six Oslo-based artists, all women. Despite their different backgrounds and life experiences, they share a common ground, each contributing with their perspectives on and interpretations of different social and political aspects of the diverse world they are a part of. The title of the exhibition, The Unbearable Richness of Gray holds a contradiction between the negative implication of "intolerable" and the positive notion of "richness". The world is neither black nor white but a continuum of “in-between”. The exhibition highlights this continuum and advocates for the plenitude (richness) of gray, the innumerable ways of perceiving and experiencing the world we live in, revealing the undercurrents and hidden structures of power, as well as conveying different strategies for living and survival. When confronted with complexity, we as humans typically opt for the lesser effort, choosing the extremity of either “black” or “white”. We tend to dismiss the wealth that lies in all the nuances in-between, in the many gray areas. The "unbearable" in the title points to this reluctance to involve oneself in the polyphonic world we live in, causing us to consume simplified models of reality.
This year marks 100 years of universal suffrage in Norway where women gained the same democratic right as men. In the span of these hundred years, Norwegian women have taken very different political positions in society, representing different values and attitudes to social co-existence and change. But one thing is certain: the fruits of the struggle for universal rights in Norway are not given and must continuously be reappropriated. The Unbearable Richness of Gray addresses different realms of relevance and social engagement. The exhibition aims to encourage the viewer to take the long route rather than the shortcut and to prompt further involvement and questioning.
Whether this questioning leads you through the imaginary and aesthetic values that came with the blossoming years of narcotics trafficking in Colombian society in Yamile Calderon’s slide show Domestic at Large or lets you dive into the states of mind of individuals living in societies suffused with the fear of terrorism, natural disasters or social upheaval in Jingxin Geng’s installation work Ambient Shield; if it lets you contemplate the apprehension of loss of identity and territory imminent in Marit Justine Haugen's work Coal or guides you through the underlying structures of food production in Elisabeth Medbøe's installation What Can We Serve?; whether you are led to investigate notions of social inclusion and mechanisms of exclusion through Mariken Kramer’s video work Patterns of Inclusion or to explore the different situations in which women from Norway and Iran create a space for expression through Roghieh Asgari Torvund’s video installation A Room to Live, you will at least be given the opportunity to participate in a variety of discourses that these artists find indispensable.
Participating Artists and Works Presented YAMILE CALDERON – DOMESTIC AT LARGE Slide Show, 18 min. For the past 2 years, I have been working with spaces and sites in transformation. One of my projects takes place in Colombia; the place where I come from. The inspiration for this project is my own experience, growing up during the first narco-traffic boom in the early 80s and having to deal with this stereotype that every single Colombian encounters. This was my starting point for Domestic at Large, in which I approach the drug-trafficking problem from a domestic perspective. I took pictures of the properties of mafia bosses in Colombia that have been confiscated by the government. These images convey ambivalence: brilliance and luxury in contrast with the emptiness and decay of the houses. At the same time, there is a discrepancy between the way the media present this phenomenon and my approach from the perspective of the every day life of these people with their families, but with the absence of the individuals, telling stories through the traces they left behind.
JINGXIN GENG - AMBIENT SHIELD Installation
Ambient Shield is an installation consisting of ready-made boxes, text and images. The work seeks to find the state of mind of individuals living in a society with an ambient fear of terrorism, natural disasters, and social upheaval. It intends to unfold different perceptions of what “being safe” means to different individuals, as well as to expose the vulnerable state they are in during this era of intangible terrors. The ready-made boxes can be associated with jewelry boxes or similar products, mostly used by women to keep valuables safe. I use the boxes as a shield to preserve a piece of an individual’s mind. Together with the news clippings I’ve collected on the outside of the boxes, it is a comment on the way social conditions impact and envelope the individual.
MARIT JUSTINE HAUGEN - COAL Installation On July 7, 2010, the Asylum reception center in Lier outside Drammen burned to the ground. Three buildings at the reception center for rejected asylum applicants went up in flames simultaneously, and 23 people were arrested on suspicion of setting the fire. Coal dust and charred wood fragments extracted from these burned buildings are used in the installation COAL. The carpet consists of imprints of personal belongings found at the
site of the fire:coal dust is sifted over these metal parts that are subsequently removed. The carpet suggets a state of loss and addresses topics such as identity and having no territory. MARIKEN KRAMER - PATTERNS OF INCLUSION 2-channel Video Installation, 2013
Patterns of Inclusion consists of two films. The first film is shot from 25 m above and lasts for about 10 min. The second film (1:36 min loop) shows close-ups from the ground. The camera moves around the circle both on the outside and the inside. One sees close up faces, hands, feet, the bodies constituting the circle, the hands when they let go, the empty space, etc. Patterns of Inclusion investigates ideas of social inclusion and mechanisms of exclusion through the metaphor of the Norwegian children's ring game "Slå på ring". The work is produced by Tenthaus Oslo and Mariken Kramer in collaboration with students and teachers at Sofienberg Secondary School, a school with youth who have a minority background and short period of residency in Norway. The students' participation in the project can be seen as a reflection of their own social reality within the framework of Norwegian asylum and immigration policies.
ELISABETH MEDBØE – WHAT CAN WE SERVE Installation The installation What Can We Serve? consists of a round dinner table, 120 cm in diameter, set with six plates. Every dish “served” is a separate installation in its own right. What Can We Serve represents a flat social structure where the plates are not defined as places for particular individuals, but serve as a locus for reflection around today’s global food production and our shared future. The conversations will be among all the guests gathered at the table and the dishes on the plates; an intricate interplay. How do we live with this? Is there equal space for everyone? How do we develop strategies of survival? The chairs around the table are open to anyone who wishes to sit down and be served, to engage in dialogue and reflection. ROGHIEH ASGARI TORVUND – ROOM TO LIVE Video Installation The documentary videos are approx. 10 minutes in duration and are shown simultaneously on 2 adjacent walls using projectors. The recordings are made in Tehran (Iran) and Nittedal (Norway). In these videos, I wish to explore the different situations in which women from Norway and Iran create a space where they are able to express themselves. I aim to show the reality that I observe and examine its context based on my own references.
To turn around and look, to use the power of reality to force me to see and to remind others that individuals, even when functioning as individuals, are also functioning as organs of the larger group. My political consciousness, my commitment and my own life are the references and driving forces of my artistic expression. My background as a journalist has made me aware of the dynamics that arise in the interactions of the individual with the greater relational context and of how these contexts are active in forming the human character.