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Visions du nord

Umělec magazine 1998/3

01.03.1998

Luděk Rádl | paris | en cs

Curators of the Visions du nord exhibition in Paris headed by Suzanne Pagé focused on the entire Nordic region from Island to Finland, presenting French audience with a vast collection of works divided into three parts and accompanied by concerts, lectures, films and discussions.
The Light of the World, the Light of Heaven

I was shocked by work of Akselli Gallen-Kallela. I’ve never heard of this Finnish painter (1865-1931), a fact which is as sad as good because it gives one that unforgettable fresh discovery feeling mixed with admiration and excitement. Paintings of this great traveler are very juicy and non-descriptive paintings of Finnish snow, lakes, pines and clouds juxtaposed with sunny Savannah’s and virgin forests of Kenya. Gallen-Kallela works with light in beautiful relaxed manner, particularly on snow, his colors and shapes become more clear, simple, radiating very strong atmosphere. No wonder he was invited to show with Kandinski, with Die Brücke group and Eduard Munch.
Following Gallen-Kallela was Helene Schjerfbeck’s (1862-1946) Self-portraits series in which she used various ways of expression. They were made between 1912 and 1945(!). Since her four years, she was on a wheel chair and in her work she focused on recording changes resulting from the process of aging and depressions.
Another hall offers yet another delight: peculiar drawings made by Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911). Mostly they consist of black crayon pictures with occasional color in them, breathing out dark atmosphere, with fairy-tale landscapes and abstract elements or twisted figures. Also shown here are two of his oil paintings on paper. It is a pity that in 1880, his sister came to France to pick up the mentally ill brother and systematically destroyed all his canvases of erotic visions which he made in his 28-year-long isolation.
Strindberg’s and Munch’s fotoexperiments are interesting and amazing. Strindberg’s canvases deal with contrast and appear chaotic and turbulent, almost plastic in their influence by impressionism. Still for me, he is more of a playwright. Just as Strindberg, Munch too lingers in all possibilities of photograph. His work is a grand finale of this part of the exhibition.
Crystallization

Per Kirkeby is the only representative of his generation at this large exhibition, making up the middle part of the Nordic show. Entering the space before a staircase, one stumbles upon a brick wall. Kirkeby’s paintings were placed in a mezzanine. Part of his exhibition is a collection of texts on art and architecture entitled Manuel.
White Night

Electric Installation by T. Grönlund and P. Nisusen consists of red-hot wires radiating heat. Truly Nordic piece of work. Another installation is, as fashion requires, black and white. Sophie Tottie show her video, the ceiling is decorated with sign reading Emotion (which is actually the title of this work) and at about waist level a few black strips encircle the space.
A black and white striped construction takes up most of the space of another room. Three of the walls are decorated with bright orange rectangles and the remaining one bears a black sign Protect Identity. It all looks a bit like Jenny Holzer yet it is interesting and literally makes your eyes roll.
Half way through the exhibition are installations by Henrik Plenge Jacobsen who put mirrors around the entire dark room with a blinking strobe light and a strange purple display case sticking out of one of the corners. Jacobsen, a Danish artist, also shows a video entitled The Best of Denmark. This 28-minute-long video is a loop of three short scenes, perhaps homemade porn. It is nondescriptive and it is group sex.
Cecilia Edelfalk is represented by four identical rectangular gray and white paintings of an intercourse (very descriptive!) entitled In the Painting the Painting. Each of the painting is rotated by 90° to the preceding piece. It is interesting that this part of the entire exhibition only shows two painters, both of them are women. The second painter, Simone Aaberg Kaern, shows a series of 14 portraits of female-pilots with a sound of jets (Bang & Olufsen) entitled Sisters in the Sky/Military Pilots 1914-1996.
Out of all seven installations at the show, I was most impressed by work of Henrik Hakansson - plants upside down with an irrigation system called After Forever/Ever All. His video compilation of the Finnish Huujat male choir is also excellent. Their composed cheering makes up for both musical experience and a performance.
Aki Kaurismäki and The Leningrad Cowboys Production show four short films. In Rocky IV (8 min.) they show a very distinctive approach to a clearly defined topic. Thru the Wire (6 min.), Those Were the Days (5 min.) and These Boots (4 min.) are basically music videos for the Cowboy’s greatest hits. All the black and white shorts share Kaurismäki’s typical features: a lot of vodka, humor, hopelessness, nostalgia, absurdity and awkwardness. Marja-Leena Hukkanen shows photographs of scenes from Kaurismäki’s films called Eldorado of Nostalgia. Obviously, the White Night was mostly consisting of film, video and, of course, photograph.
Esko Männikkö presents his cycle of photographs entitled 48 Photographs (1989-1995) recording life of people living far up north. Interestingly, the technically perfect pictures with excellent composition were place one right next to the other making one large piece that combines still-lives, portraits and landscapes/architecture. People portrayed in the pictures have expressionless, as if flattened faces suffering from monotony of life in tundra. Their homes look just as neglected and uninteresting, consisting of just the basic things with vodka in the front.
Except for Kaurismäki’s films, most attention is attracted by Björk videos. The viewers may watch them on screens with a pair of headphones attached to them. Björk also looks down from four black and white photographs by Noboyushi Araki accompanied with posters, texts by Jeremy Deller based on E. Swedenborg and a sound installation by Mika Vainio.
Next to this installation, a long, low pool sits on the ground, filled with blocks of ice. It is the work of Olafur Eliasson called The Very Large Icestep Experienced. For Unknown Artist is an installation by Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson consisting of a flower stand with fresh plants.
This part of the exhibitions ends as well as starts with glass display filled with a number of bad drawings, black and white and color collages and signs reading “drawing is masturbation“, “what are drawings about anyway? Guess.“ Penises are spurting and fucking everywhere, pasted over with heads of dogs cut out from magazines. On the floor is a laughing octopus made of plaster. All of this is united by a title Octo Is Also the French Alps as Camels Breath Sugar...
The entire exhibition is also connected with a video installation Day’s Inn by Ann-Sofi Sidén of Sweden who placed a black and white monitor high up at the ceiling. A camera slowly zooms through an interior of folded towels and toilet paper.
White nights are quite a peculiar phenomenon. They lack clear limitations, they last long and are confusing for a foreigner just like this exhibition.





01.03.1998

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