pühapäev, mai 22, 2011

Affirmation of gravity

Kristiina Hansen & Ånond Versto
“So Long, Fat Chance”/10-15.05.2011, März project space

For only five days a poetical and playful exhibition “So Long, Fat Chance” by Kristiina Hansen & Ånond Versto was shown in März project space. A combination of aviation, gravity and circus was cramped into two small rooms conveying an atmosphere of a dream-like state.

A man dangerously caught in a noose that is pulled by a model helicopter, a woman almost raised in the air by an over-sized balloon and then there’s the piece of blue – that’s the sky presumably. All accompanied by a dead bird set in concrete, a pair of cement shoes with the owner having just miraculously escaped, an escape ladder that is waiting its turn and a staircase turned upside down that most likely has become dysfunctional – a presumption not been proven yet. All in all it’s beautiful, it’s charming and a bit absurd.

Follows an interview with the artists – Estonian photographer Kristiina Hansen (KH) and Norwegian installation artist Ånond Versto (AV).

How would you describe the exhibition – what is it about?
KH/AV: It’s about the dream of flying. It started as a simple wish to fly in a free way, but turned out more as an affirmation of gravity. It simply affirms, in somewhat playful ways, the feeling of being grounded with a wish to take off. What goes up must come down, and that’s all there is to it. Or rather that’s the point of departure for the creation of the sculptures and photographs. They were all made quite spontaneously in a very short period of time. Everything in the show was conceived and produced in ten days, in the end of April.

How does it connect to the notion of failure or fear of it?
KH/AV: There is no fear in the exhibition and no failure either. It is not about fear or failure. It is about simple, basic things like lightness and weight, up and down. But maybe the works carry a certain futility. Something slightly tragicomic, hopefully in a way that is charged with wonder rather than irony.

You two met in Bergen, Norway when Kristiina was an exchange student at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. How would you describe the difference between the kind of art practices taught in Norway and the ones in Estonia?
KH: I don’t see such big difference between the art practices taught here and there, but the approach is certainly different when it comes to implementation, experience and self-criticism. In Estonia, the main problem is the fear of failing, the shame to show and talk about your work. It disturbs the students from developing and accomplishing their ideas. The school system in Bergen's academy is rather encouraging - criticism comes after the work is produced. Here its often the other way round.

Kristiina, you were talking about photographs as temporary sculptures, what did you mean by it?
KH: I meant that my approach to photography is not very different from my approach to sculpture, which is also a medium that I often use in my work. I don’t think of photography as an independent art form, but rather as an instrument or tool.
I build up a scene with the purpose of capturing it. After its accomplished, I take it down again. The scene is not destroyed though, it stays in the photograph. I see the staged situations as some sort of visual poems. Of course I could use other mediums to give a presentable form to these so called temporary sculptures, but photography is a logical choice for me. I know this medium better than others.

Kristiina, it's you first personal exhibition (although working in a team), how do you see it in the continuum of your previous works and in what direction do you want to continue?
KH: The current exhibition is dealing with the same main subjects that I've been always interested in, but they are articulated in a wholly different way, due to my collaboration with Ånond. They are shown in a visual style that diverges from what I usually do. The works still touch very strongly on the subject of poetry - the poetry of dream and the literature that derives from the dream-state. We are using clean and carefully processed forms. The kind of uncompromising flawlessness we tried to achieve in this exhibition is clearly more inherent to Ånonds working methods. The importance of apprehending an artwork as a product of labor, as much as a product of idea or concept, is maybe the most important thing I learned while making this show.
I’m hoping to take this collaboration a bit further in my final MA project next spring.

I get the feeling that photos are the highlight of the exhibition – they create the tension necessary to interpret rest of the show. How do the photos connect with the installations?
KH/AV: Yes, the photos are perhaps the more narrative pieces. They also display the two protagonists that imagined the stuff you see in the show, so they function as narrative links between the other objects. They are also the visual windows to the outer world and in that sense they become essential in establishing the other objects as the dreams or ideas contained within the space. And the colour of the blue sky photograph is very important in the composition of the room it is exhibited in. It gives a lightness and atmosphere that the other works in the room gain from.

Ånond, you have been mostly concentrated on installation art. How would you describe the collaboration and how did it impact your line of thought?
AV: It was great to work so quickly and I also got to play around with photography, something that I haven’t done a lot. Apart from that, the process was not so different from how I usually work.
Collaboration is something I have done quite a lot. I enjoy getting out of the immense and sometimes ridiculous pressure of having my personal identity so closely tied up in works of art. It is not one subject expressing a personal thing, but rather a common landscape or mindscape where ideas exist and take form. It is also the advantage of collaborations that they tend to accumulate enthusiasm instead of doubt. It is a lot harder to make things alone. A totally different thing.

There's also a small artist book that goes with the exhibition holding a selection of more or less poetical texts. They can help to interpret the visual works but at the same time they're really unintrusive – you can go through the exhibition without being aware of them. What's the idea behind the booklet and why create this second (autonomous) level of interpretation?
KH/AV: The book is perhaps part of the show more than a way of interpreting it. But in a sense it gives a bit of a literary approach to the themes that all the works deal with. It also contains drawings of all the sculptures as well as miniatures of the three photographs, and in that sense it functions as a traditional exhibition catalogue as well. It was put together in an open way, the texts are not there to describe or illustrate but rather to add something to the totality.

The exhibition was shown in März project space. I was impressed how well you had worked with the room. Previous exhibitions I had seen there had not always managed to create such a coherent spatial experience. How did you find working with the space and also with März as an independent structure?
We had only two days to work in the gallery, so it was a bit of a challenge to make it good. First of all we decided not to use the big room with the windows, as we found it to be very distractive and disturbing to the pieces. This allowed the other rooms to become more closed off, controllable spaces where the works could communicate somehow. Then it was the lights in the big, vaulted room that had to be moved. And it’s always fun to put things high up on the walls. This activates a different and more dynamic viewing. It was essential to this show specifically, since the up/down dichotomy was central to the theme we worked with. But the works themselves were made without really considering the properties of the März space. They would perhaps fit better in cleaner environments. We hope to exhibit the works elsewhere sometime.

Interviewed by Martin Rünk

Kristiina Hansen (1986) is an artist based in Tallinn, currently studying at the Estonian Academy of the Arts.

Ånond Versto (1984) lives and works in Bergen, Norway. He has an MA in Fine Arts from the Bergen Art Academy. He is also part of the artist trio Katla.

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