Pink Shoelaces and Expanded Cinema

It has been a busy couple of weeks, this early April. First I was in Kabelvåg, Lofoten, to hold a course on Expanded Cinema and Video Installation at Nordlands Kunst og Filmskole, then in Trondheim for Pink Shoelaces, an exhibition in public space that I co-curated with David Breida, and that was produced by the group PUNKTET Visningsrom. 15 artists (students & graduates) from Trondheim Academy of Fine Art took part in the exhibition, which also featured lectures and guided tours. The project took place in the area of Trondheim known as Skansen, a public space skirted by the railway and harbour, with a new pedestrian walkway along the edge of the fjord.

Dolphin performance at the harbour edge by Guri Simone Øveraas

Party tent, custom wine labels and 1970's atmosphere by Andreas Wallroth

Light and video installation by Johanna Edgren

Lighthouse: film & video projection in window by Nazare Soares

Sculptures by Per Ellef Eltvedt

Video screening in Skansen Station House by Anders Solberg

Light installation in Skansen Lighthouse by Thea Meinert

Hanging textile work in Skansen Lighthouse by Thea Meinert

Two columns under the railway bridge: sculpture by William Bentsen
Sculpture in the harbour by Sigrid Bøyum

Guided tour and lecture by Simon Harvey

Hanging textile work on the harbour wall by Ida Westberg

Stateless Passport: sculpture by Mujahed Khallaf

Textile landscape image by the fjord: Øyunn Hustveit

Sculpture beside the pedestrian walkway: Per Stian Monsås

The shoes that inspired the exhibition title! Katja Van Etten Jaren

My curator talk (and pink shoelaces!) for the finnissage.

Simon Harvey and  PUNKTET leader Ella Jahr Nygaard at Skansen Station.


VP3 at Kunstgarasjen, Bergen

Today I installed a video projection for a window at Kunstgarasjen, Bergen's new space for contemporary art. It's a back projection onto a three-paned window, set in a concrete wall in the parking area of the building. The imagery is re-edited material from a commissioned work I made in 2014 for St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim. The screening is part of a new show at Kunstgarasjen that opens on Friday 1. April. The work is entitled "VP3" (Video Painting nr. 3)


MWB (Music Without Borders) in Finnmark

The artistic research project Music Without Borders, based at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, is now in its second year. In mid-March, Bjørn Ole Rasch, project leader, and myself travelled to Kautokeino in Finnmark to record two Sami vocalists at Arctic Studios, together with musician/producer Roger Ludvigsen. The core of the project is series of recordings of traditional folk music from Setersdal in the south of Norway, and each new iteration is a response to these recordings. So far, musicians from Asia and from the Middle East have responded to the recordings, in many different ways. This time we were working with musicians representing a very different tradition in Norwegian music, coming from the far north, in the county of Finnmark. Kautokeino is a small town on the Finnmark Plateau, a centre of cultural activity for the Sami population and it lies in the midst of a spectacular landscape. Both musicians we recorded on this occasion are highly accomplished exponents of the Sami vocal tradition known as "Joik" - deeply immersed in the tradition of this music, but equally able to improvise and to respond directly to the recordings that were played to them. It was a privilege and an inspiring experience to work with Roger Ludvigsen,  Per Tor Turi and Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska!

Arctic Studios, Kautokeino

Overview of Kautokeino from the top of the old ski jumping structure


A + R (again)

Having spent the last few days reviewing applications for a professorship focussed on artistic research, I'm once again reflecting upon this issue and my own position with regards to it. By now, artistic research within higher arts education has become a standard and prominent feature of the academic programmes of arts universities and art academies, and a number of orthodoxies have started to feature. One of these is the tendency toward Phd programmes that are not radically different from standard academic/scientific Phd's, where art practice is often a lesser component of the research undertaken, and another, the so-called Norwegian Model, places artistic practice at the centre with (theoretical) reflection as a support and a contextualising methodology.

I look at my own current practice which occurs both within and outside of academia, and consider to what extent it can be described as artistic research, while it still remains art practice framed within a professional art environment. My long-standing and ongoing collaboration with sound artist & composer Trond Lossius bears many of the characteristics that have become hallmarks of artistic research projects within institutions; it is collaborative, experimental, investigative, focussed upon elaboration of specific themes or questions, and it generates reflection through the process of developing, producing and exhibiting trans-disciplinary artworks.

Our current project "The Atmospherics" is now entering its fifth phase, leading toward an exhibition at Sogn og Fjordane Museum of Art in Førde (Norway) in June 2016. This will be our largest installation to date and will be entitled "The Atmospherics part 5: Stop, Hey, Watch That Sound". It will comprise multiple video projections and a surround sound installation, featuring material recorded on field trips through Western Norway since 2014. Completion of this new installation will represent a nodal point in the project, where a thorough documentation of the whole project to date will become a priority, and it will provide vantage point from which to reflect over the processes, problems, investigations and aesthetic solutions that have characterised the project so far. I feel we have now developed a set of methods that are robust and ultimately transferable, so that they can be exported to future projects, and can also form the basis of academic work, both in terms of teaching and research. The crucial factor is that this potentiality arises from the extended period of creative work which the project represents. For us, the research is deeply embedded within practice and reflection is enabled by the experience of working.

The Atmospherics part 4: And Sometimes The Light Hurts Our Eyes. Heimdal Kunstforening, January 2016.


Time track photos

Travelling on a train recently I experimented with using the panorama function on my mobile phone cameras to capture a sequence of the landscape we were passing through. Interesting effects occur, some things get stretched and others compressed. It's a technique I intend to explore further. I'll have to travel by train more often in order to do it!


Flytestein, exhibition by Kaia Hugin, RAKE visningsrom, Trondheim

Flytestein, Kaia Hugin
RAKE Visningsrom, 19 - 28 february.

Sometimes the first idea that pops into your head is the best. No need to spend time thinking any further, no need to create unnecessary problems. Just go with it!  When RAKE asked me if I was interested in proposing an artist for the Collaborative Curating Project (a great idea!) my immediate response was - I want to make an exhibition with Kaia Hugin. No doubts in my mind. Happily, Kaia agreed, and even better, decided to make a new work for the exhibition. Here it is, Flytestein, a four minute, fifty second digital film, completed two days before the opening.

So why was my immediate response to invite Kaia Hugin? I have followed her work over several years, since she was a master student at Bergen Academy of Art and Design, and my admiration for her art has grown. I think she is one of the most interesting artists active in Norway today, her work is compelling and is also quite difficult.

Until very recently (this week!), all of her film/video works shared a common title, “Motholic Mobble”, a title that is a challenge in itself. It says “Don’t put me in a box”. It says “I have established my own category”. It says “This is my world”. Not that I am suggesting that Kaia’s work is cut off from the broader currents of art and visual culture, not at all. One sees echoes of 1960’s body art, the early video art of the 1970’s, the cinematic languages of directors such as David Cronenberg and David Lynch, and now, in Flytestein, direct references to the Hungarian photographer André Kertész, specifically his series “Distortions” created in 1933. More of Kertész later.

Good artists take their life experiences with them into their practice and thereby develop a language that creates a shared space with the viewer. Kaia Hugin has been a dancer, a mountain climber, a photographer and since 2009, a film/video maker, and most often, a performer in her own works. Add to this that she is a mother - her son was performer in the 2015 video Angry Boy/Happy Boy (Motholic Mobble part 10) - and now, in Flytestein, she is also a mother-to-be. Her pregnant body, reflected in distorting mirrors, is all we see in her new film. The transformation happening to her body from the inside is amplified on the outside by the effects of the concave and convex mirrors through which the images are filmed.

A striking characteristic of Kaia Hugin’s films is their production quality. For some artists this is not an issue, and there is an aesthetic attraction in low-resolution, one-shot video art. But Kaia’s work is conscious of the language of cinema and demands rigour. Her cinematographer husband Tor Willy Ingebrigtsen is an important partner in the realisation of her films, as cameraman. The use of sound in her work is also a significant factor and is treated with precision and sensitivity.

But so far I have been circling the real issue, which is, what is Kaia Hugin’s work, what are Motholic Mobbles? As I have mentioned above, the title is almost a provocation, a denial of easy categorisation. Her works combine and balance oppositions, elegantly. They are attractive, but there is also a trace of repulsion, as viewers we are drawn in, but also held at a distance. The bodies in her works are often restless, challenged, awkward, uneasy, haunted, driven by seemingly involuntary inner forces, in control and beyond control, fragmented or reconfigured. Did I mention surrealism also? It can’t be ignored. Andre Bréton once stated “Beauty shall be convulsive, or not at all”. Almost a century later, she nails it, precisely.

And so to the inspiration for Flytestein, André Kertész, a master of modernist photography. I first encountered his work in an exhibition at The Photographers Gallery, London, in the early 1970’s when I was an art student. I remember being struck by the atmosphere and the implied dramas and narratives of his images. They seemed to be more than photographs, they seemed to be more like films, condensed into a single image, a single moment. One image has always stayed with me - it is an image of a street in Paris, taken in 1928. Damaged houses on both sides of the street converge on a patch of open, rubble-strewn ground, and in the background, a massive stone viaduct over which a steam locomotive passes. In the foreground, a man in a dark coat and hat crosses the street, carrying a large package. Whole novels could be written with this image as a central narrative device. In another image, from many years later, two large birds, probably sea birds, are seen flying in front of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, New York. With hindsight the image is unsettling, but even at the time, it must have been a haunting photograph, there is a desolate quality within it like an advance echo of what was to come.

Distortions, the direct source for Kaia Hugin’s new film, is a very different photographic series. Experimental, playful, sensuous, and perhaps it has been a reference for other artists too. I think of Carolee Schneeman’s film Meat Joy, for instance. Kaia follows the methods Kertész used for these images and introduces movement. In her movements - choreographed or improvised - she creates a sequence of new bodies, each one melting into fresh forms as the film progresses. 

Flytestein is an experimental film, belonging to and building upon a tradition of artist’s cinema that has existed as long as the cinema itself. For those who are not yet familiar with the work of Kaia Hugin, I hope that this is an introduction that will draw you further into the work of one of our most challenging and engaging artists. For those who know her work already, I hope that this exhibition will meet expectations.

My thanks to Kaia, Tor Willy, Charlotte and Trygve.

Jeremy Welsh