Bergen Assembly September Program

The second edition of the Bergen Assembly triennial is a year-long program that weaves together a net of both established and improvised cultural institutions, each of them presenting exhibitions over the course of 12 months. These all intersect in September for an outsize local and international audience—a coup in engaging the plurality of this city of less than 300,000. The assemblage of exhibitions comprises arrangements by three conveners. The collective of writers, curators, and thinkers known as Freethought presents a constellation of archives which examine the authority entrusted in infrastructure, the often invisible architecture which regularly governs the conditions of our lives. Artist and composer Tarek Atoui presents WITHIN, which encompasses a multisensory symphony performed primarily by and for the deaf community. And, nally, Praxes—a Berlin- based curatorial initiative which often compares, at length, two unassociated artistic practices through both material and in uence—devotes attention to Lynda Benglis and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. Benglis herself is the conceptual centerpiece of this entire year’s worth of programming: In “Adhesive Products,” a group show at Bergen Kunsthalle, her decomposing works sit next to decaying tributes by a younger generation—limp, amoebic matter molded by, among others, Olga Bolema (plastic bags lled with water and rusting nails, sealed shut), Nairy Baghramian (tactile pastel appendages arranged in a prismatic, icy vitrine), and Daiga Grantina (gutted, strung- up carcasses of stories-tall elastane shells).

WITHIN, an ongoing project informed by Atoui’s work with schools for deaf students, is a laboratory as much as a concert. Housed in Bergen’s Sentralbadet, a retired indoor public pool, the orchestra pit—here literally several stories below the entrance ground level—serves as a submerged stage for nine unique instruments, made to facilitate an understanding of sound through physical, rather than aural, sensation. 4 Iterations on Drums, a series of wooden planes holding various carvings and orices, are instruments of tactile percussion whose reverberations are felt in the negative spatial lines and textured surfaces of each tabletop. 33 Soft Cells is a oating quilt of touch-sensitive fabric squares, a collaboration with textile manufacturer Kvadrat. The playful, poetic Sub-Ink is comprised of a swirling, scraggly line drawing made with conductive ink on a single sheet of paper; tracing the line with one’s nger—backward, forward, intermittently—emits audible fuzz from a small cube subwoofer, clipped to the sheet of copy paper. Complementing Atoui’s concert is the sound massage parlor, offering stimulation through oscillating contraptions that hover above or below the skin, instead of on it.

Intuitive movement leads viewers through a maze of multimedia presentations with political consequence in Freethought’s takeover of one of the city’s old re stations. They give a historical account of the Festival of Arts in Shiraz, a now-defunct annual gathering of music and dance amid the ruins of Persepolis, Iran, in which, through debate, dance, theater, performance, and poetry, the global ascendancy of Western aesthetics was challenged as often as celebrated. (The event was deemed un-Islamic, and discontinued in 1978.) Down a narrow hallway, the segment dubbed “Shipping and the Shipped” follows a different path of urgency, pairing the political and economical consequences of our endemic dependency on oil and antiquated yet indispensable migration of shipping containers. If Freethought exposes the somber puppetry of our nancial, educational, and labor structures, it is the seemingly impossible music of WITHIN and the in uence of an artistic force like Benglis—whose riotous palette the artist once compared to a tank lled with electric- colored sh—that can relish in the contrary; infrastructure tells us the way things are, but we are not captive to that status quo.

Modern Painters, Winter 2016/2017


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