UUMMANNARSUAQ at 1857

Artists: Tora Dalseng, Ane Graff, Anthea Hamilton, Deanna Havas & Shane Munro, Bedwyr Williams

Exhibition title: UUMMANNARSUAQ

Venue: 1857, Olso, Norway

Date: September 8 – October 15, 2017

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and 1857, Olso

Note: List of works can be found here

Dear Oslo and Internet users,

We used to be a beach. Think about that. The river mouth was just down the (not-yet-existing) block and a green field stretched from there to here. It’s temping to say it was lush (though trampling feet soon made it swampy). Hence the name (Grønland). In the opposite direction, where the road curves past the church, was the preferred area for pulling boats up on shore.

And here we come, or didn’t come, or came, anno 2010, with the plan to start a project space, and this crazy, pre-WWII modernist structure falls into our lap. We like to think it would have been great anyway, but sure, for obvious reasons it’s unreasonable to consider the shows without the space, the content without the frame. That damn frame. Work with it, work against it. Celebrate it, intimidate it. It remains the celebutante of every gathering. We get it. You dig the space. That’s cool.

And here you come, or you don’t come, and if a first-timer you will ask what this used to be, and we will say “Lumberyard.” And we are empathetic and we nod and say “Yes yes” when you go “Wow wow.” And then, fucking every time, you ask if the crane works. I’m sorry, but jeez, it’s like clockwork! Your gaze dances around the space, your eyes wander unprejudiced until they halt at the crane – rusty, antique, cobwebbed and disconnected – and, every time, you point and ask: “Does the crane work?” While we, in return, depending on what we think you can take, respond either “Unfortunately not” “Obviously not” or simply “No.” And you go “Oh.” But, hey, it’s fine. Not without comic potential, but still, it’s fine. It’s just a way of nourishing your own enthusiasm, politely keeping the conversation afloat while you freely look and dream away, just like we did first time we entered this cathedral. It’s totally understandable. Really. We get it.

And here we keep sending out these press releases that bug you, amuse you or confuse you, like XL oysters that you might be hesitant to gobble down. But how much resistance can you take? You might think that we want to be difficult, but we are just as confused as you. Well, maybe not just as confused, but we don’t know exactly what’s going on either. We might look smug on the opening, but let me assure you, most times we are pretty perplexed. But this one, this one right here, (yes t h i s one), this you should be able to deduce. Nothing can enter a fist, my grandma used to say. Now, pretend you are a detective. Where would a detective start?

And when the shows finally open our moms are always the first to arrive. If they happen to get here 20 minutes past seven they go, “What did I miss?!” And we laugh, we shake our heads and we secretly grit our teeth. At least in the beginning they did. Now they know better. Now they have been cultivated too. Like you. Like us.

Still it’s difficult not to ask ourselves: Who are we doing this for? When three souls walk through the door on a regular weekday and one of them is here to propose a project of his own that would be sooo perfect for the space. It’s like, fat chance! But hey, we get it. We might have done the same. We get it. We try to reassure ourselves that the true appreciation is online. Nonetheless, the question implicates you: Are we doing this for us or are we doing this for you? What’s your (real) agenda? Your attention seems so fleeting. Does this stay in your head after you leave? Will it evolve and grow? It only takes a quick spin to see everything on view. So maybe art is not slow, maybe it’s fast. Maybe you’re fast. Maybe simply seeing the images is enough. Proofs of work, proofs of commitment? Maybe it is. A confirmation that something (good) is going on. That something (good) is happening. Look here! This is proof and testament. Maybe that’s (good) enough? Maybe we have underestimated you. Or maybe not. What do you think?

We have seen this neighbourhood change. Slower than we might have feared, bitterly and paranoiacally realizing that our own hermetic presence is part of the plan. One morning we woke up to a Starbucks on the corner. “There goes the neighbourhood!” someone shouted across the street. The floor crumbles and the woodwork rots, right under our noses, while we plan or conduct repairs. The concrete is stained by efflorescence, and even the vinyl flooring is not as bright as it used to be. Things evolve, transmute, grow, even as they dissipate. Outgrow, shrink in or shed their skin. But enough said, this one, yes this very one, is for you.

Yours cordially,

Jenny, Steffen and Stian

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