Hold stenhårdt fast på greia di
Norwegian art and feminism 1968-89
March 9th-April 21st 2013
Exhibition opening Friday March 8th 7-10pm
With works by Synnøve Anker Aurdal, Siri Anker Aurdal, Anne Breivik, Ingegjerd Dillan, Jeannette Christensen, Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty, Brit Fuglevaag, Elisabeth Haarr, Morten Juvet, Per Kleiva, Berit Soot Kløvig, Sonja Krohn, Eva Lange, Wencke Mühleisen, Sidsel Paaske, Elsebet Rahlff, Terje Roalkvam, Zdenka Rusova, Willibald Storn and others.
Curated by Eline Mugaas, Elise Storsveen and Kunsthall Oslo
Kunsthall Oslo is pleased to present Hold stenhårdt fast på greia di, the first major exhibition to consider the connections between artistic practice and the feminist movement in Norway.
This exhibition presents, for the first time, an overview of the many ways in which second-wave feminist ideas contributed to a transformation of the accepted subjects and methods of contemporary art in Norway, as well as the creative contribution that artists made to the public representation of the women's movement. From the formal liberations of the 60s avant-garde, through the developing political awareness and organised struggles of the 70s, to the disenchantment of the 80s, the exhibition also aims to show some of the ways in which formal art production was influenced by a radical core of activist practice.
The exhibition sets some of the iconic works of Norwegian feminist art alongside previously unseen pieces in the context of a timeline of artworks, prints, posters and photographs. Brit Fuglevaag's textile work 'Mot Omskjæring' ('Against Female Circumcision') from 1970, video and photographic documentation of Wencke Mühleisen's Actionist-informed confrontational performances and a new edition of the newspaper published for the Samliv exhibition in Bergen Kunstforening in 1977 will be presented alongside previously unexhibited sculptures by Berit Soot Kløvig and drawings by Sidsel Paaske and Zdenka Rusova. Major installations by Siri Anker Aurdal and Elisabeth Haarr have been reconstructed; Aurdal's neo-constructivist sculptural/social space has not been seen since it was first presented in 1968.
The influence of second-wave feminist ideas, and the political struggles of the emergent women's movement, on art in Norway was manifest through two different processes. The first is the development of the methods of the international avant-garde in the Norwegian context. From the second half of the 1960s, the influence of neo-constructivism, post-minimalism, pop art and performance art opened art practice to both the critical use of mass-media imagery and the inclusion of social situations. The bohemian internationalism of these early works shows women artists claiming new identities and exploring what would later be seen as feminist concerns. Through the 1970s, the explicit influence of second-wave feminist ideas produces new themes and new formal approaches, particularly in sculpture and textile work.
The second is the post-68 turn towards activism, self-organisation, and the demand for political participation. New platforms were created for political and cultural action, including specifically feminist organisations like Nyfeministene, Brød og Roser and the revitalised Kvinnefronten, spaces such as Kvinnehuset and the print workshop Sfinx, and publications including Sirene. In these contexts, many artists contributed graphic and illustration work promoting feminist causes, though a division surely existed between full-time art-activists producing formally conservative work and full-time modernists producing occasional propaganda.
The story is not, of course, so simple. The exhibition Samliv, which opened at Bergen Kunstforening in 1977 and toured to Tromsø and to Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, offers a strong counter-example to this division between art and political life. A group of artists from Bergen, centred around former members of the Situationist-influenced Gruppe 66, initiated a grand collaborative project that aimed to ask, and answer, all of the taboo questions around sexuality, gender, sexual and reproductive health, pornography and sexual politics. Working with medical students, art students, and radical social theorists of all kinds, they produced an 'information exhibition' that was both highly controversial, and highly successful, with over 70,000 visitors. Samliv remains a unique art-activist project that deserves wider recognition.
This exhibition is the result of a great deal of research, collaboration, and also goodwill on the part of the participating artists and their families, but it is not, of course, a comprehensive document. This perspective on the period is under-represented in both national collections and critical histories in Norway and much remains to be done in order to correct the record. We hope that this project stands as a presentation on its own terms, but also that it can be seen as a platform for future work in this area.
The title of the exhibition, Hold stenhårdt fast på greia di, is the title of a drawing by Sidsel Paasche from 1973. It defies an easy English translation, so we have not attempted to offer one. A naive reading would be 'Hold on to your thing', but it contains more innuendo (employed by Paaske with gender roles reversed), more poetry, and a specific collision of formality and Oslo slang.
Thanks to the artists and their families, Anna-Karin Bratteli Aaserud, Kyrre Haugen Bakke, Ulf Carlsson, Wenche Gulbransen, Jon Gundersen, Mie Haarr, Gisle Harr, Hanne Heuch, Svein Hovde, Morten Krohg, Gunhild Leden, Steinar Lundstrøm, Tove Pedersen, Espen Rahlff, Sissel Ree Schjønsby, Elisabeth Seljelid, Eyolf Kløvig Soot, Eva Storsveen, Carl Størmer, Torstein Tvenge, Ingrid Wisløff, Nasjonal Biblioteket, Kunst på arbeidsplassen
Advisor: Jorunn Veiteberg
This exhibition is kindly supported by Fritt Ord, Bildende Kunstneres Hjelpefond and Vederlagsfondet