Natalie Hope O’Donnell, Exhibition Complex – from studio to gallery, and everything in between
+ One Work Only: Jon Benjamin Tallerås
at Khartoum Contemporary Art Center
Attempting to answer the question of “why exhibit?” this talk examines different approaches to presenting contemporary art, drawing on the offsite programme Munchmuseet on the Move in Oslo, as well as some of the arguments contained in the PhD thesis Space as Curatorial Practice – the Exhibition as a Spatial Construct (2016), which looked at exhibition at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter curated by Ole Henrik Moe, Harald Szeemann and Sverre Fehn. Aspects covered in the talk include the difference between the space of the studio and the space(s) of exhibiting; staging an exhibition as an act of hospitality; the idea of an on-going programme; mediatory materials, documentation and post-scripts.
Natalie Hope O’Donnell is Senior Curator at the Munch Museum in Oslo, where she curates Munchmuseet on the Move. Her educational background includes a BA in Modern History and Politics from the University of Oxford, an MA Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, and a PhD from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Recent publications include a catalogue text for the Catherine Opie exhibition at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter and reviews of the Istanbul and Gothenburg biennials and LIAF for Billedkunst. O’Donnell chairs the Norwegian Association of Curators, and retains an interest in curating as a spatial process, queer performative art practices and the exhibition as a cultural text.
Jon Benjamin Tallerås
One Work Only presenting Jon Benjamin Tallerås
Footnotes is an audio-guide through the urban landscape of eastern Oslo, leading listeners from the Munch Museum at Tøyen to Galleri Oslo in Schweigaards gate. Via his own commentary recorded on-site, Tallerås takes listeners on an intimate tour of some of his favoured spots in the area. Highlighting idiosyncrasies, anecdotes and places used in earlier works, this is a highly personal audio-guide, and one that can be seen as an ode to the city of Oslo.
Tallerås draws attention to the different languages that operate in the urban landscape, some acting as navigational tools for the blind, like the markings at pedestrian crossings and metal plates in the pavement, while others communicate to construction and maintenance workers where a job needs doing. Tallerås’s background from the graffiti scene also enables him to recognise different tags, translating some of the terms that are incomprehensible to most people moving through the city.
Footnotes is also a journey through a soundscape: school pupils singing, kids playing football, someone whistling, old men chatting, sirens wailing. The different cadences, accents and inflections heard on the soundtrack indicate that this is a culturally and linguistically diverse neighbourhood.
The sound piece also acts as a time capsule: a fleeting moment captured on tape. The audio-guide had to be re-recorded several times as the city changed over the summer: suddenly the Galleri GAD shipping containers were gone from outside the Munch Museum, the gate into one of the back gardens was abruptly locked after being open for years, and the local council refurbished the mural at Enerhaugen. The city is constantly being altered, particularly this area, which has been the site of recent gentrification, boosted by the so-called Tøyenløftet, an injection of state and municipal funds over five years in return for the Munch Museum moving from Tøyen. Instead of trying to keep up with the changes, together we decided that the soundtrack should exist as it was. That way, it became a celebration of details that had disappeared from the urban landscape. – Text by Natalie Hope O’Donnell
“For no one knows himself, if he is only himself.”
Yuki Okumura presenting his project on Gordon Matta-Clark
“The seat of the soul is where inner world and outer world touch each other. For nobody knows himself, if he is only himself and not also another one at the same time.” these are the words that American legendary writer Henry Miller borrows from the poet Novalis while talking about writing as a self-consciousness exercise in his seminal book Sexus.
The process of art making – just as that of writing – can be understood in many different ways, but a particularly interesting one is to perceive it as an exercise for the artist to get to a better understanding of himself. In this regards, if we keep in mind Miller’s words, it is impossible to follow the Socratic imperative “know thyself” if we perceive ourselves as isolated beings. To really understand ourselves, it is necessary to dig deep, gazing at our image mirrored in the lives and thoughts of others, whether they might be contemporaries or past figures.
Yuki Okumura’s (Aomori, 1978 – ) artistic practice can be a particularly stark example of this approach. Driven by an irresistible curiosity towards other artists with whom he finds certain particular links in terms of practice, life events and spiritual/ideal affinity, the artist creates pieces that are intimate conversations between him and his subject, taking months or even years to properly relate himself to the interlocutor. Recent works in this spirit include a series of projects in the forms of performance, film, and audio installation on the mysterious and relevant conceptual artist On Kawara presented in various countries and a 3-years-long quest to rediscover the elusive Hisachika Takahashi, a project that culminated in a collaborative exhibition in Hermes Le Forum, Tokyo in 2016. Through this practice, Okumura paints a portrait of the artist he talks about, while painting his autoportrait at the same time.
His latest film, “Welcome Back, Gordon Matta-Clark” (realised in the Summer of 2017) will be screened at Khartoum for the second date of Open Forum programme.
In the video, Okumura interviews the curator Flor Bex, who was deeply connected with American artist Gordon Matta-Clark (New York, 1943 – 1978), inviting him to Antwerp in 1977 to realize one of his most ambitious large-scale building-intervention: Office Baroque.
Okumura enquires the past by embodying the artist himself, now referring to the late artist not as “he” but as “I”. The artist is therefore present through Yuki’s body and mind, now able to pay a visit to his good friend and have a conversation for the first time after 50 years, share memories and reflect on key moments of their life. Through this mechanism, Okumura unveils his spiritual affinity with Matta-Clark’s legendary figure while dealing with his own past. At the same time, he is also reflecting on art history and the relationship that can occur between an artist and the figures that surround him, particularly that of the curator.
Yuki Okumura is a Japanese artist based in Brussels and Maastricht who is best known for translating artwork into another by cutting holes in it, slicing through time, foundations and facades. His work shuffles identities and names, raising questions over matters of subjectivity, authorship and memory within the social environment and the art industry. Okumura stated in a recent interview: “My initial decisions were based on the avoidance of making self-expressive projects and an abhorrence of self-flattery art. It is the rigid mentality that artists install their works and curators contextualize them that offends my sense of either profession.”
By experimenting with the renewal of historical pieces by artists he admires through his own vision and mind, Okumura alters the existing units of perception normally employed to discern the wholeness of a human being. His pieces are “an homage responding to what already has been well done.” yet being also a new and intimate work at the same time. His work has been shown in a long list of conventional and unconventional stages all over Asia, Europe and America.
One Work Only:
Vika Adutova is the selected One Work Only artist for this event, in dialogue with Yuki Okumura.
Grew up in Uzbekistan and previously based in New York, she is now a MFA candidate in KHiO, Oslo. She will present a work that was developed within a residency organised by Praksis (Oslo).
The work – a collaboration with the poet Gleb Simonov – is based on the poem “A Game in Hell” by Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh, published in 1914. 22 words were selected from the poem, processed and shuffled to give life to a new piece, in which research is represented by a video that complements an object that can look like and be used as a fortune telling book.