with eyes closed, call me @ Bergen Kunsthall
Emoji summary: 📡🔶🇨🇱
lads, winter is here, degree show season has begun n my eyes are open wide. im ready to dig for art treasure and I’m ready to feel myself uplifted by people who still enjoy making art (cause they haven’t yet made it their profession, haven’t relied on it to keep them eating; aren’t tangled up in the broken Art World industry and competing to have a career on their own terms). I really enjoy that mood however short-lived it can ever really b ~ and it’s not easy to find that energy outside of degree shows tbh, which is why i still go to them. But as well as the good stuff, I am also ready to casually face and roast the bad art too; the drippy neon portrait of a student’s grandparent, painted with love and poster paint on sugar paper. Can’t wait to roll my eyes at the stuffed tight sculptures and cringe @ thick black emo words all over somebody’s space. i have to repeat myself whenever it’s coming up to these messy summers of art but as you know i am always in defence of criticism. I understand the degree show is often the first time someone’s art is exposed to a given public where it will inevitably be liked or disliked, instagrammed or just plain ignored. and i also know students are often terrified of hearing someone doesn’t think they deserve a turner prize for the wiggly ceramic sculptures they’ve arranged around a room, but u are all adults and not everyone’s gonna love what you do, so learn to get over it.
This week’s review isn’t the mad roast you prolly think I’m preparing you for but it’s a good opportunity to re-state my position and a perfect foil to write from, because the MFA degree show i visited in Bergen, Norway, wasn’t the shitshow I’d normally be expecting to walk into. The degree show bingo card I made last summer would be blank. The work here was so scaled up, profesh, and it kind of had to be because it was taking place in the city centre’s main gallery, Bergen Kunsthall, rather than a university building where there might have been much lower ceilings / n a better chance to hide. This just wasn’t visibly a student show and I think that’s partly credit to the exhibition having an actual curator attached to it and not just a stretched uni tutor trying to make things look and feel nice in a room. A curator on a degree show is p unusual from where i’m standing. It was Eva Rowson who took on the job and brought the art together in small clusters where it could hold hands, and offer smaller stories and something more digestible for the visitor rather than the big bitty competitive booths i’m used to facing. It was hard to tell which works were bad because the curation was good lol. The exhibition had a title ‘with eyes closed, call me,’ which was collectively thought of and it felt equal parts invocation, wishful thinking, and sadness (and again, just shifted things from generic MA exhibition to something that could stand on its own 2 feet).
Within it all, there were individual arts I enjoyed or appreciated and then a piece that stayed with me inside. B4 i get to that, I liked: Søren Krag’s big digitally woven rugs that hung together so stark and square, perfectly geometric and kind of Minecraft in the way they cut through gallery airspace nice n clean. I was v into the weird ceramic bird person by Tone Andersen that felt cute but haunted? and finally, there was a huge wooden outline of a house built rickety and haphazardly by Kim Hankyul. It had mechanics, and various objects and microphones attached along with a sound desk. Every so often it would kick into gear and start waving a whip around directly onto a mic, or something else would rotate and reciprocate against a contact mic. this agitated sound would fill the gallery and I honestly dont know how else to describe the effect of this except to say it was like the house had a fetish? Like it was shivering, burnt, hurting itself and noisy in its breakdown. really actually mad and impressive, i blushed.
but the piece that i want to hold in my hands longer and throw words at it with this review was Victor Guzman’s film ‘As We Recall Home.’ the film was about 20 mins and it took the viewer into his parents’ life after they moved to Norway from Chile to get away from the violence Pinochet brought on the country (he was a dictator, there were concentration camps etc just, like, check wikipedia). The pair describe how for the first few years in Norway they focused on assimilating and learning the language. but after visiting friends in the capital of Oslo, and seeing how they’d set up a satellite dish so they could get a Colombian channel on their tv, Victor’s dad got to work doing the same. it was so DIY tho that even after sourcing a satellite and attaching it to the side of the house, he really had to spend time repositioning it over and over again until it caught the signal - constantly shouting down to Victor’s mum who was in front of the thing waiting for something to finally appear on the screen. The film flips between crisp HD interviews with his mum and dad talking satellites and belonging, and then home videos and clips from Chilean TV too. It was a good material way of talking about time, place and identity through a single focus, these thoughts and images given to us in a neat package. And it kept my attention not just for its handling but bc my dad is Chilean and i have never beeeeeeen! he had to leave aged 3 because of Pinochet too and never went back as an adult because of military service, and then just hasn’t been back at all. I swear some people have cells inside em that make them want to go to places and others are homebodies (bores) who don’t. i’ve got the cells in my legs and i want to walk out my front door and go to Chile but jfc it is so far away, the flight time is ridiculous, and it’s too expensive anyway. ofc I was meant to have this life but i wonder what that other timeline would have looked like - different country, Spanish, the geography, politics and culture. i dont wanna now tap into it like it is this thing to mine, but i would like to go on a date and see if we get along. Hang out after school / stay up late messaging one another. I’ll never know it properly, we’re on other sides of the world, but imagine if I could find some long lost family, that would be nice. this video showed me a soft familiarity with Chile that i hadn’t seen before, because i don’t know any chilenxs and i feel awkward at this point talking about wanting to go because i don’t know if I have a right to? (i know i do but you know). But Guzman’s work is thinking and living between places like that, and I guess that’s just what is on my mind too, but quietly. so yes i blame this artwork for more fomo and i promise GDLP to Chile 2020, let’s manifest it /
(p.s. this review was also a commission from the university but there were terms or anything that said i had to be nice, n if you've read TWP long enough u know we aren't swayed - we just accept writing commissions because it's nice to be paid for what we would have written anyway, and obv nice to be compensated for time spent thinking. you can see our public accounts page for figures if u want)