Art & Design

August 31, 2016

5 Must-See Artists at Norway’s Bergen Assembly

The pick of the mental, experimental Norwegian festival that makes biennales look bland

  • Written by Nadja Sayej

Bergen Assembly is the opposite of every art biennale and triennial you’ve ever been to. Experimental, strange and nonsensical to the core, there are no rules to break. That’s because there were no rules to begin with. The free-form event, which opens tomorrow in Bergen, a Norwegian city west of Oslo, is a romp through sound art, DIY creations and think pieces on our collective future with technology.

Co-curated by Lebanese artist Tarek Atoui, the public space collective freethought and PRAXES (a Berlin-based duo who used to run a non-profit art and research hub), the programming is all over the map. From exhibitions to performances, video art and concerts, these are the highlights from Norway’s most notorious art gathering.

Lynda Benglis
Santa Fe-based feminist icon and art provocateur artist Lynda Benglis (the badder, edgier Louise Bourgeois) is showing a stunning sculpture series that brings together ready-made pieces from the past and present. The 74-year-old artist is recognised for her edgy video art and saucy self-portraits – she’s best known for posing naked and holding a dildo to her crotch in a photo she placed as an ad in Artforum in the 1970s. Standing up against the male-dominated art world, Benglis has used gold-plated dildos and videos of people making out. Here, she shows her video works at gallery space Entrée, then sculptures at KODE 4, including Primary Structures (Paula’s Props), a series of pillars from 1975 and new sculptures in a series entitled Glacier Burger.


Lynda Benglis, Female Sensibility, 1973 Video; 14 minutes. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York.

WITHIN/Infinite Ear by Tarek Atoui and Council
The Paris-based musician and sound artist, who made a name for himself with his current show at the TATE Modern, is making a splash with a giant sound installation set inside an empty swimming pool. Starring amateur and expert musicians alike, it’s an orchestra for those who can hear and those who can’t. Many of the sounds made at his concerts, co-presented with the Council collective, will be vibrations felt through the floor and tiled walls. Set inside Bergen’s abandoned Sentralbadet pool, the artist has collaborated with deaf students from a Bergen high school who made their own electro-acoustic musical instruments to feel vibrations through. There are also sound massage workshops and instrument testing sessions. These experimental concerts are meant to transform hearing and perception.

Atoui_Sentralbadet_production 1

Tarek Atoui & Council, WITHIN/ Infinite Ear. Photo: Thor Brødreskift

Cocaine and Caviar by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd
The British artist formerly known as Spartacus, who now calls herself Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, is a true smorgasbord of pop culture. In counting everything from Michael Jackson to John Waters, she shows a broad range of work here at the triennial. It includes pasta necklace workshops in the Bergen Kunsthall, an exhibition entitled Cocaine and Caviar set in the Kunstgerasjen. Not to miss are her ongoing series of oil paintings of cartoonish bats. Chetwynd also presents a three-act performance, which has a plot that starts high in the Bergen mountains and muses on our future with technology. As she told Amuse, “I’m accepting that our planet is exciting and has a future, even if our race does not.”

Chetwynd_Bat Opera

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Bat Opera, 2014. Oil on paper; 15.5 x 20.5 centimeters. Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milano/London/Hong Kong. Photo: Alessandro Zambianchi

Shipping and the Shipped, Group Show
In line with the community-focused approach at this edition of Bergen Assembly, Indian artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar co-curated the Shipping and the Shipped group show with Stefano Harney, Arjuna Neuman, Wu Tsang and Denise Ferreira Da Silva. As they look into the history of shipping as a starting point for shore-based journeys and inter-continental trade, Kandalgaonkar (who has a history of investigating urban issues in his work) shows a sound installation that captures the sounds of Mumbai’s neighbouring Chittagong seaport city. The other works in the show are films, with Neuman and Da Silva and Tsang and Moten teaming up for journeys that take us from the shore to sea.


Home, In the wake of Shipping Infrastructure. Giclee prints on canvas: 1 of 4 (Set of 4) 2015 © Ranjit Kandalgaonkar

The Museum of Burning Questions by Nora Sternfeld and Isa Rosenberger
Co-curated by Austrian curator Nora Sternfeld and Austrian artist Isa Rosenberger, the Museum of Burning Questions digs into the history of Bergen’s old fire station—and the devoted retired firemen who are attempting to found the Fire Museum, a plan they’ve had since 1936. Although Rosenberger is presenting an archive of the potential museum in collaboration with the retired firemen, nobody is directly realising the museum. Instead, they’ve set up a cafe for drinks, debate and discussion. It’s modelled after London’s Partisan Coffee House, a hub for the New Left in the 1950s. The cafe is the starting point for the guided tours of the former fire station, which has its helmets-through-the-years on display and a place to pose questions, like what happened with the great Bergen fire of 1916.


The Museum of Burning Questions © Isa Rosenberger


Main image: Lynda Benglis, Primary Structures (Paula’s Props), 1975 Installation view (KODE 4), Bergen Assembly 2016. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York. Photo: Thor Brødreskift


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