TEMPO TEMPO TEMPO
Ragna Bley, Marthe Ramm Fortun, Ane Graff, Yngve Holen,
Sandra Mujinga, Urd J. Pedersen, Eirik Sæther, Fredrik Værslev
Curated by Rhea Dall
27 May – 17 November 2019, Kistefos
The group exhibition TEMPO TEMPO TEMPO focuses on eight contemporary artists based in Norway: Ragna Bley, Marthe Ramm Fortun, Ane Graff, Yngve Holen, Sandra Mujinga, Urd J. Pedersen, Eirik Sæther, and Fredrik Værslev.
The exhibition borrows its name from a serial work by artist Urd J. Pedersen which is reproduced in the exhibition catalogue. Used in sports coaching, parental advising, or telling-off, “tempo tempo tempo” said by pretty much any Norwegian means that someone should go faster, keep up with the group. In her print and painting series, Pedersen playfully repeats these words again and again, ridding the phrase of its meaning. Questioning the flat remark, she gives its reprimand tonality a new rhythmic tempo of her own, almost like the words in a pop chorus getting stuck in your head.
While the artistic practices in this exhibition span sculpture, print, performance, and painting, and in many ways differ more than they share, a mutual concern is the pace and specificities of Norwegian and Scandinavian communal culture. Scratching the surface of these at least ideally benevolent welfare systems—where everyone should stick to the tempo tempo tempo—(egalitarian) fears of anyone alien standing out from (hetero)normativity are exposed, the (overtly) wealthy oil fund, or wrecked family issues, alluded to. You encounter no-control psychedelic mushrooming matter right where you expected ordered, composed beauty; you see suburban decay and meet post-human chemical and technoid bodies in the wake of contemporaneity’s accelerated tempo tempo tempo.
The exhibition is cued by mostly new, large-scale works created specifically for the occasion of TEMPO TEMPO TEMPO and the site of Nybruket, a former wood pulp factory. For the show, the previously installed white cube drywall in the old factory building Nybruket has been removed and daylight let in. Highlighted in Nybruket’s novel changing (light) conditions—shifting with the seasons, weather, and time of day—the artworks in TEMPO TEMPO TEMPO propose multiple temporalities, beating out of time, diverging from, or commenting on the metronomic standards of their cultivated surroundings. Not fixed museal objects, but alive entities, each of the works in TEMPO TEMPO TEMPO are fading, shifting, and glowing, connecting the inside of the exhibition space to the surrounding Norwegian society and landscape, reflecting on its—both benevolent and violent—bedrock.
In the hanging plexiglass sculptures by Ragna Bley the often-invisible yet continuous changes of contemporary artworks are pushed to the fore. Eco-punk in its ethos, she highlights the material’s agency, whether by letting the painterly acrylic pigment move or the glittery plexiglass turn, on its own.
The industrial, new “tempo” generated from, among other industries, timber and watermills, such as those at Kistefos, is addressed in Marthe Ramm Fortun’s (b. 1978, NO) guided performance which leads audiences out to the humming sound of the still-active hydraulic power plant right next to the exhibition space.
An enormous tent-like sculpture, a UFO or otherworldly body, by Sandra Mujinga hovers in the industrial space, visually insinuating both DIY refugee shelters and the relentless outdoor leisure pursued in this country.
A set of bloated, oversized, and slightly imploded ceramic piggy banks by Eirik Sæther hint at naïve economic thinking and (Norway’s) large savings.
Fredrik Værslev presents a triptych of paintings resembling awnings of city outskirts which literally function as architecture, monumental window blinds domesticizing the industrial space.
Against the backdrop of the previously pounding factory hall, Yngve Holen’s industrial headlights—commercial forms from the dealership, cannibalized and majestically mounted on the wall—angrily blind any visitor who try to stare them down.
A key work in the exhibition is the already-existing piece Bedrock Imagery (2017) by Ane Graff (b. 1974, NO) —an outdoor summer chair covered by a multicolored clay matter. This new Norwegian “bedrock” is made up by base materials of (privileged) Scandinavian living, such as espresso-powder, vitamin B12 capsules, plastic, cotton pads, and chia seeds, reminding us that contemporary lives are filled with equal dozes of hipster hysteria and invisible pesticides and that contemporary art (in response, it seems) is hardly ever a finite, stable entity.