Kunsthall Trondheim is proud to inaugurate our new permanent space with the exhibition this is a political (painting), presenting work by Kajsa Dahlberg (Sweden), A K Dolven (Norway), VALIE EXPORT (Austria), Claire Fontaine (France) and Alexandra Pirici (Romania).
The exhibition takes its title from A K Dolven’s work this is a political painting (2013). The artist has filled the surface of the painting with her fingerprints in a long repetitive pattern – lines of red marks, as a text without language. The prints are fading out when the red ink wears off the finger, still the movement insistently continues, as if the body persists to remind of its existence. The trace of the hand’s work expresses endurance, tenderness and the sensibility of the fingertip. From another point of view, the finger print is also one of the main identifiers of personal and national identity, and as such it is found at the core of the current migration issues – it proves our rights as citizens, or not.
A K Dolven’s work speaks about the body – its place and conditions in society, the identity it carries, it’s relation to work and how language, or the lack of it, sets the boundaries for its potentials. The body is the place where the individual meets the society and has to negotiate its existence – therefore the body is political as is A K Dolven’s painting and the other works in the exhibition.
Claire Fontaine presents their largest instalment so far of their neon work series Foreigners Everywhere. While consisting of a seemingly simple sentence its connotations are ambiguous. It refers to all of us being foreigners in most places, with the exception of a very limited part of the world. With the mobility that comes with contemporary life this condition is increasingly a common part of everyday life. We float in and out of being foreign and we choose or are forced to be at home in the foreign. Close to this state are the more profound or existential feelings of foreignness and alienation in a society that for every day becomes more complicated and harder to appreciate. On a political level the sentence can be read as referring to the fact that a growing number of individuals today have to re-identify as migrants or refugees, and that there are in fact more foreigners present. Present as individuals, identities and bodies. For the exhibition Foreigners Everywhere has been translated into the fifteen most spoken languages in Trondheim – including the local minority language South Sami – one of the languages spoken by the indigenous people of Sápmi – the Sami territory that stretches over the northern parts of the Scandinavian countries and into Russia.
VALIE EXPORT‘s series Body Configurations (1972 – 82) and Body Sign Action (1970) are emblematic images of the female body’s relation to society. Since the 1960s VALIE EXPORT has formed one of the most consistent critical oeuvres within contemporary art, constantly scrutinizing the societal structures from a feminist and conceptual viewpoint. Her practice is often based in the use of her own body as in the series of performative photography Body Configurations, in which the body is inscribed into the architecture of the city or in the landscape. If the structure of our society can be read as a kind of language to which the body and the individual has to submit, the body in its turn also forms a kind of sign or language that shapes the structure into which it is inserted, thus VALIE EXPORT‘s work is never a mere description of subjugation – it always proposes negotiation or resistance. In Body Sign Actions she literally uses her own body as the field for political negotiation. The artist tattoos a suspender on her thigh, an image of female submission and seduction. Through appropriation and renegotiation of a generally accepted image of femininity and sexuality, Body Sign Action proposes a different and more active definition.
In the film Reach, Grasp, Move, Position, Apply Force (2015) Kajsa Dahlberg revisits the early history of film and film’s appliance in experiments and research on the systemized movement of the working human body. The quest for the most efficient use of the hand and the body forms its own scientific system, Methods -Time Measurement (MTM). It aims to find the standard time in which a certain task should be completed by the worker. The method which was developed during the 1940s are constantly being refined and excels in today’s time controlled labour – in Amazon warehouses, Apple manufacturers in China, and smaller-scale service industries such as freelance translating and parcel delivery – all commercial operations which the art world and art production heavily rely on, with no exception for the production of Kajsa Dahlberg’s film. In times when the notion of work are in flux and new ways of working, which we maybe cannot imagine yet, are being developed, it might be important to remember how much of highly developed human achievements still depend on the human body’s capacity to reach, grasp, move, position, and apply force. Interesting enough, the only kind of work that is not measurable, in MTM’s terms, is that which is based on creativity. The efficiency of art practice cannot be measured.
The changed condition of work within our post industrial society forms the ground for Alexandra Pirici’s Monument to Work. The work builds on interviews and research on movements performed by industrial workers through their working life. These movements, choreographed by the artist, will be enacted by a group of people, forming a living monument, in the exhibition space. The first edition of Monument to Work took place in Gothenburg, Sweden, a coastal town which – like Trondheim – has seen the traditional industry, shipbuilding industry and ports falling into disuse and docksides being transformed into living areas. Today, Trondheim is one of Norway’s most important sites for technological development and as such at the centre of the transformation of work and working life. Monument to Work reminds us of this transition and of the work that was a fundamental condition for the evolvement of modernity, and the building of welfare states such as Norway. The working body in Pirici’s monument is however not being glorified, what we encounter is the human body in movement, a movement which is constant, ongoing and without narrative. Neither is the monument nostalgic – as much as being a reminder of the past it can be seen as a reminder of the fact that regardless of whether work in the future will be physical or immaterial, we will still rely on the body. The ongoing action lifts the movements of work, in their normal and every day quality, into a new context.
Curated by: Helena Holmberg.
Alexandra Pirici’s work is produced in collaboration with DansiT, Trondheim. It will be enacted throughout the exhibition period on selected days.
A K Dolven’s work Skrapa komager (2016) was done in collaboration with Rune Johansen.
Thanks to Oberösterreichische Landesmuseum, Kontakt. Die Kunstsammlung der Erste Group und ERSTE Stiftung, Gallery Air de Paris, Wilkinson gallery London, OSL Contemporary Oslo, Austrian embassy Oslo, Norwegian embassy Paris, SpareBank 1 SMN, NTNU, NHP, REMA 1000 and to all the translators for Foreigners Everywhere.