Cold Current

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Norway

Imago Norvegiae
I am writing this short introduction after one year of intense work. I stare at my computer screen – where I have stored, among other things, around one hundred biographies and photos of extraordinary artists. Only a few months ago I wondered if I would really make it, if Imago Mundi would manage to grind its way into Norway. Because Norwegian artists are those who more than any other have put me to the test, those who asked the most, trying to understand, who needed to dialogue, who wanted to know – as my co-curator Lars Norby writes – which were the “dangers” inherent in participating in this project. Which were the limitations and the enormous potential of a project that brings down borders by actually creating them (after all, each country collection is exhibited and catalogued individually). Amidst the questions, emails, phone calls, discussions in person, enthusiastic comments, and skeptical “decliners”,  this catalog started to take shape.

Knut Bry - Untitled (2016)

I wish to thank all the artists who did participate and those who did not as well, for contributing new ideas to reflect on, for sharing their passion but also their fears, for providing a new point of view – or perhaps dozens – to my work.

Signe Solberg - The Spike (2016)

Frido Evers - But the World is Just a Place to Live (2016)

I returned to Italy with the awareness that the eyes of the art world should definitely be pointed north, to this country that teems with ideas, politically engaged art, representational and romantic nostalgia, Scandinavian minimalism, environmental interest, and a thousand other impulses that you will discover as you go through this catalog. I have a feeling that today Oslo could deservedly be nominated “European capital of contemporary art”, because in this country artists are still treated with respect and supported by the institutions; it is a country where saying that you are an artist is not met with the question, “Right. But what is your real job?” as is often the case elsewhere

Tom Eidsvold Larsen - VW Bus (2016)

Markus Vikran - Snow on the Sahara#1 (2016)


In the busy days I spent working in Norway I managed to devote one day to exploring an intriguing art project in the town of Fredrikstad. The facility is called Hydrogenfarikken and it covers an area of around 2,500 sqm where edible fat of animal origin was produced from 1912 to 2005. In 2005, due to the high price of animal oil, production stopped for good. But in 2012 this imposing complex became home to the Hydrogenfabrikken Kunsthall, a multi-functional center that comprises exhibition spaces, art and artisanal workshops, architecture and design studios, classroom space for courses and projects. In 2016 this space also hosts Norway’s Annual Exhibition of Arts and Crafts.

Marthe Karen Kampen - As if the Light Is Seeping out of all Things (2016)

Johannes Vemren Rygh - Lights Of (2016)

It is a constantly evolving center, one that is ever changing, unfortunately the only one that I was able to experience first- hand. I wish to thank in particular Hege Liseth, who organized the perfect tour of those spaces and of the town, as well as Laila, Stefan, Jens, Davood, Tor-Magnus, and Kristin for their welcome, and most of all Bibbi Børresen for sharing precious information – that she had collected herself - concerning this facility*.

Marthe Karen Kampen - As if the Light Is Seeping out of all Things (2016)

Stefan Christiansen - Black Friday (2016)


A special mention goes to the Oslo National Academy of the Arts for acting as a fundamental logistic support hub, and to Lars Nordby, with whom I shared joys, burdens, and doubts.
See you in Norway, where really everything can still happen.

Guja Mabellini
— curator

Dag Hol - Moon (2016)

The Return of Romantic Nationalism
One of the most profound paradoxes in our globalized era is the intensified relation between coexistence and diversity. A paradox that tends to unfold into antagonistic forms such as nationalism. The upsurge of these conservative and fundamentalist forms we witness today reveals a clear abolishment of the abstract frontline of identity. The contradiction is that the closer we get, the bigger the gap. In other words, after a time of postmodern search for community and identity and a sensational globalization of the world, we have returned to a romantic need for orientation and substantial conformity. We can see this tendency in art as well. Its abstract form has a way of being constantly categorized and labeled. The antagonistic effect here reveals a moderation of abstraction in art, even in humanity.

Jon Løvøen - Just Because You Feel It, Doesn’t Mean It Exists (2016)

Beatrice Guttormsen - The Walrus (2016)


Art travels as never before and platforms for artistic production, reception and distribution are vastly increasing in various forms. On these platforms we see that art and its artisans are labeled, occasionally even positioned, according to their national identity, be it at biennials, art fairs, art contests, exhibitions, in catalogues, magazines etc. Thus art has borders. Despite the argument that art is a universal form of abstract and individual expression, one should not ignore the fact that there is a broad super-stratum of truth in the habitual existence of these boarders. Art and life collide once again and we are faced with a perplexed state of identity in the twenty first century.

Nils Erichsen Martin - Lava Glacier (2016)

Mia Øquist - A Well Dressed Woman With Invoices in the Bosspail (2016)


The Imago Mundi project is fundamentally a part of this paradoxical collision between an abstract frontline of identity and a romantic nationalistic approach of identity due to how it is designed. It actively and intentionally categorizes art and its artisans by nation and then curates environments between them in the form of exhibitions and catalogues that aim to yield a token of peace, togetherness and cultural exchange. And this is what fascinates me about this project, implosion. It is as if it is designed to deal head-on with its very own ideological veil that may be the point of departure to uncover new thoughts, ideas and conversations when dealing with the paradox of coexistence and diversity today. In this sense, the scale and ambition of this project ironically keeps the gap open for art to move beyond borders by magnificently showcasing them.

Marihøne5 – Sara - Untitled#3 (2016)

Jim Darbu - Inside Out (2016)


Many of the artists I have invited to participate in this project have expressed their concerns about the potential dangers of how Imago Mundi is designed economically and ideologically, even addressing the mechanisms of exploitation involved. Many have turned down my invitations and many who initially accepted later changed their minds. After many challenging conversations and concerns, one crucial question still remains: to what extent is art bound to geography, culture, economy, and sociopolitical realities? It seems that when experiencing an Imago Mundi exhibition, a potential point of contemplation may lie in questioning the conditions that govern the way in which the selected artists represent themselves, their cultural identity and their unconditional art. The way I see it, this catalogue contains work of artists who have agreed to plunge into this complexity, and I admire that.


Lars Nordby
— co-curator

Kjersti Vetterstad - Nothing is Sacred (2016)

Johannes Engelsen Espedal - Ashore (2016)

Credits: Story

Art Direction, Photography and Production
Fabrica

Curator
Guja Mabellini

Co-Curator
Lars Nordby

Project Coordinator
Oriano Mabellini

Organization
Barbara Liverotti
Giorgia De Luca

Editorial Coordination
Enrico Bossan

Texts
Luciano Benetton
Guja Mabellini
Grete Marstein
Lars Nordby

Editing and Translation
Emma Cole
Sarah Cuminetti
Valentina Granzotto
Camilla Mozzato
Pietro Valdatta

Art Direction
Daniele Tonon

Photography
Marco Zanin (artworks)
Knut Bry
Terje Langaas
Guja Mabellini
N.J. Maudal
J.P. Willumsen
(index)

Production
Marco Pavan

Cover
Louise Nippierd - Only 30+. Save Norway’s Wolves.

Special Thanks
Fondazione Sarenco Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo
Oslo National Academy of the Arts
Bibbi Børresen
Oksana Ignatush
Grete Marstein
Lars Nordby

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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