does anybody know
which direction it is,
how far is left,
or where we have been?*
Vestlandsutstillingen is committed to the representation of artists
and artworks specific to the Western region of Norway. However, the
concerns and critiques presented within this exhibition are
universal. Although each artwork included here is unique in its
conceptual creation and subtleties, themes of ecology and human
behavior run throughout the works. The current anthropocene period
is an aged marked primarily by human activity and its subsequent
effect on the planet - climate change, weather extremes, ozone
depletion, steadily decreasing polar ice caps, and an exponential
decline in flora and fauna species. In the midst of the ongoing
environmental crisis, the artworks included in Where have we been?
offer reflections on human interactions with our environment; past,
present, and possible future.
The title, taken (directly) from an artwork by Aud Marit
Skarrebo Holmen, serves as an entry point to the exhibition by
simply posing the question, where have humans been in recent years,
both physically and psychologically? Has humanity's short-sighted
thinking and denial led to the present crisis? Is the absence of
humanity a future scenario? Where are we going from here? And
perhaps more importantly, what are we leaving behind? With over six
nationalities represented in the 95th version of VU, the offered
perspectives are many.
Artworks by Per Tore Barmen and Petra Dalström poetically
portray both the fragility and resilience of nature through deftly
sculpted wood and porcelain. Though cut and charred, the organic
materials retain their sense of integrity. In critical and
mesmerizing installations Else Karin Tysse Bysheim and Vania Cunha,
tools of industry and capitalism such as rubber tubing and plastic
typing keys are shown rendered useless in piles and knots, refuse
and waste unfit for any future function.
Though slightly humorous, Susanne Christensen's photos are a sad
homage to endangered species, ironically both destroyed and
preserved by humans. Meanwhile, dreamlike animations by Simone
Hooymans offer lush, pristine environments where time passes
untouched by human intervention. A witty collage by Simon Kjær
suggests the petrification of human forms, human relationships,
even human emotion.
Abandoned, forgotten buildings and abodes take the center stage
in artworks by Kristina Kvalvik, Rune Werner Molnes and Anne Helen
Robberstad, still echoing with the memories of past habitation, and
leaving viewers to wonder when they have been left, and why, and
where the people have gone.
Karen Helga Maurstig's handmade book records words for snow and
ice in various Norwegian dialects, interspersed with the artist's
own drawings and imagery, serving as a meditation on a landscape of
snow and ice that is rapidly disappearing. In a work by Kirsti
Prøis, tangled strands of neon plastic and straw become one,
inseparable mass. Sculptures by David A. Rios present sound waves
milled into wood, echoing the use of sound waves as an indication
of the presence or absence of human activity. And a new work by
Ingrid Toogood presents an abstracted representation of reality
through a mirroring and enlargement of painted images.
There are hopeful notes as well. In a work by Daniel Persson, a
dragon fruit vine determinably creeps up and over a crumbling
concrete and barbed-wire wall. The sculpture Next Nature by Nina
Skarsbø suggests a complete departure from nature on the part of
humans, and a creation of human kind's own version of nature, one
that springs from genetic engineering, computer viruses, and other
Where has the human gone? And what have we left behind us?
Jury for VU17: Terese Longva, Joakim Lund, Heather Jones, Astrid
*Aud Marit Skarrebo Holmen