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winter in Oslo

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Farhad Kalantary „Trails of Water Behind an Passing Boat“ at Stiftfelsen 3.17 gallery //// Review

Three works are shown in the Exhibition „Trails of Water behind a Passing Boat“ by the Azerbaijani Iranian-American artist Farhad Kalantary, who is based in Oslo.

The classical description which fits the Presentation of the works is video installation. Even if it is perhaps intended to experience the three parts as a kind of oneness, the piece “Migrations”gets out of the line. But to understand this I have to introduce the other two works, which are called “Massive Waves of Independence” and “The Day of Removal”. The latter is the first work the visitor of the exhibition gets to see. It´s a LCD-monitor laid on the ground of the staircase of the gallery. The screen shows scenes of workers on an building site from the bird´s eye view. The video is edited in a kind of cut-up technique. Loops of short movements are often repeated, reversed, slowed down or speeded up. Thereby the video gets a rhythmical character which is supported by the sound which is also cutted up. By using this technique the video reminds a bit of a music video clip. This held me off to search for a deeper sense in the video and I stopped at the point of consuming a rhythmical pattern arrangement. As that it worked quite well, for example in the seconds where a worker digging with a spate enters a kind of dialog with a dredger. The most confusing part of the video was the digitally created picture frame in the style of the 19th century or older, which framed the video. On this virtual frame also the title of the work is written and could be read by the visitor.

This Frame is one of a lot of things the second work, with the name “Massive Waves of Independence”, has formally in common with the first one. The difference is that the title of this piece is unreadable because of the bad resolution of the video. I don´t think that this is a problem what was impossible to solve. It´s a pity that this wasn´t done. The screen is also laid down on the floor, which underlined the bird´s eye view, which is used in this videowork too. The video works with smoother movements which are edited more floating compared to “The Day of Removal” . A cutout of a kind of pavement or pedestrian zone is shown. Groups of people are entering and leaving the picture all the time. They are moving forward but often they are pushed back by reversing the video picture. The cutout the camera makes is too small to get a feeling of great masses of people but it´s possible to abstract group building and splitting. It´s an often seen picture used when it get´s to deal with the individual and the crowd. Added with the title(if you are able to decipher it) and the more or less to the picture synchronized sound of natural waves in the water coming out of some speakers, the work becomes just an illustration. An illustration seen many times before.

Now we are at the third work. As announced in the beginning, it also deals with movements and yes it also uses the bird´s eye view but there are differences. Just the size of room, the four projections claim on the wall, makes this video installation dominating the exhibition mere physical. Contrary to the former two works the four video pictures are projected on the wall, although of the use of the perspective from above. The video picture shows vehicles of different kinds, moving from right to left. So the vehicle comes into the picture on the right side of the right projection passes the two projections in the middle and leaves through the left side of the left projection. This makes the four single projections becoming one picture, like a great screen in the cinema just interrupted by three slender columns standing in front of the screen. The vehicles are changing. Sometimes they are cars on a road and sometimes ships on the sea but the movement and direction seems to be always the same. These movements blown up in these huge projections are attracting the eye quite well and by watching a bit something seems curious an you are trying to get behind the technical way this all is realized. The problem is that you will get behind this very fast. And when you got it the work is abruptly quite uninteresting. Not because it would not be made well in an aesthetic and formal way but because of the fact that the whole work is based on a technical effect. So after first being impressed and then getting the technical secret of the work, it has nothing important to say.

At the end there are three videoworks dealing with movement, speed and rhythm, optically as well as acoustically. But for me they don´t become more than researches in abstract movements and the concrete scenes and motives, like workers, crowds,vehicles and the streets, places and seas, stay without a voice in these works. And this is a pity because if you read the handout, which gives you some information about the artist, his background and the background of the shown works it is clear that he has something to say. But the works have to speak not the handouts.

The exhibition is opened till 27. 02. 2009. So visit it in Stiftfelsn 3.14 gallery in Bergen to get your own impression.


After the War – review

After the War (parts one and two)
A review of Anja Carr’s installation at Fincken, Bergen

By Emily Ward, 29th September 2008.

Anja Carr’s After the War (parts one and two) completely dominates the upstairs space in the Fincken pub, showing the aesthetic strength and presence the work has. The series is solely wall mounted and occupies very little three-dimensional space. There is a clear separation between parts one and two provided physically by a dividing wall and the contrasting use of media.

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Part one is an initial impressions; the more dominate half of the installation. On display are a series of grotesque, malformed heads; mounted in line on two walls of the room, well above reachable height, I might add! This is also a reference to the decorated deer head displayed above the bar downstairs. In the corner, interrupting the series of heads halfway is a full sized sculpture constructed in a similar style. The room is reminiscent of medieval chauvinistic grandeur; trophies and a suit of Armour as perhaps would be expected in a stately home. The falcon was also a symbol of status in the medieval male hierarchy, nobles were only allowed specific birds dependent on status.

Discovering the title of the piece enhanced this impression for me, the human race has an ongoing and eternal desire to show its dominance over both the animal world and ‘lesser men’. The filmed atrocities allegedly committed by both sides in ‘The War on Terror’ are contemporary examples of this. The fact that the heads are mounted like trophies implies the losers of this war were not perceived to be sentient beings but mere animals. Or perhaps we are merely returning to previous habits when the decapitated bodies of traitors were publicly displayed as a deterrent and show of power.

The full size dimension of the heads and use of organic materials create a distorted, warped sense of reality. Personally, I find the use of multi-tonal human hair has a similar effect on my senses as fingernails being scraped down a blackboard. If the heads were not so cartoon-like in their horror, this room would be a truly terrifying place to be! The sculptures retain elements of humour and western pop culture, I cannot help but be reminded of aliens from the Mos Eisley Cantina bar in Star Wars. The tears, however, do not sit right with me. They feel awfully twee, but perhaps this is the intention? Obviously it is hard to judge the success of this room when viewing it empty, with no bands, dancers and in stark daylight with no blacklights….

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Part Two is a more subtle installation yet has more power than Part One. The large heavily framed photograph draws the viewers’ attention, I found it very absorbing, the gaze of the figure is almost hypnotic. It is a very feminist, strong piece with inescapable religious connotations (as was discussed on Thursday). The small side table beneath the main photograph leads the imagination to an altar to the dead. The series is much more serene than part one, it is more melancholic; a memorial rather than a monument. The figure is, to me, a martyr, with the baby pink dress suggesting innocence lost.

Although After the War is not strictly site specific (it does not rely on the space to exist) it relates well to the club and its surrounding culture. The sculptures are flamboyant and grotesque; aesthetic comparisons to Leigh Bowery costumes are unavoidable. There are also more obvious references to contemporary artists, the Chapman Brothers and Sara Lucas. It is very disappointing to hear that members of the lesbian cliental feel so strongly against the piece, especially as the work has such a powerful feminist concept behind it. But, to paraphrase Romunde, a strong message tends to provoke a strong response against it. At least Anja can be confident in the knowledge that her work has provoked fierce debate, which is perhaps the most important purpose/effect of art.

Group meeting – group outing!

25th September 2008
Meet up in Karen’s office, 10.00 am.


The Injury, Anja Carr.

We will then walk out together to visit Anja Carr’s installation at Fincken, before moving on to Galleri Fisk to see work by Karen Skog and Anja Ulset.