Exhibition at Lydgalleriet, Bergen 6th December-12th January
Coal and iron, modernity’s most important ingredients. Taken from the earth’s pits and potholes, they are transformed into the most marvellous things. Coal is used for casting iron that goes into the railways where the coal-fueled trains carry coal and iron to the most remote corners of the world. The world is shrinking. Poland, Brazil and Bosnia, exotic places on each side of the globe, nevertheless common destinations, places that provide the world with raw materials. The railway lines bring with them a new phenomenon, mass tourism, which transforms the landscape into something beautiful and exotic, placing one outside it; making it an object to contemplate. Nothing to do here, one can only look. And the world becomes a reservoir of things and experiences: look, how strange everything is. Unfamiliar cultures, unfamiliar landscapes. The homes accumulate souvenirs, memories, stories from journeys one would endlessly bother relatives and friends with, slide shows proving one was actually out there, in the foreign land. Safely at home in the intimate zones and cavities of culture, the impressions from outside are sorted, processed and inscribed with meaning.
Culture was once called man’s metabolism with nature. Nature offers raw materials, exquisitely shaped by the ablest of hands; from this civilisations are made. Hence a distance is introduced, making nature an object of contemplation or exploitation, something beautiful or useful. The brutal materiality of nature becomes painfully present in the landscapes of the mining districts, an ugly and open wound which no tourist would come near. It offers nothing to look at, almost shameful in its exposure of subterranean secrets. The mine is neither nature nor culture, only potential. The extracted matter goes into culture, and the remains return to nature. Ore is nothing in itself, only the possibility of becoming something, a promise of future value. But today coal and iron are relics from a time long gone, the heavy, slow and outdated 19th century modes of production, so remote from our own digital, disembodied hyper-reality. Or maybe that is just the way our culture wants to look at itself, suppressing its own dependence on materiality, which is thereby displaced to the distant nooks of culture.
And then, this place: a small cave, a staged environment. Scent, sound. One is taken inside and introduced to impressions from these places. Representations, imitations, recordings and photographs from the sites, processes reproduced, fixed potential. Like a slice of the infinite timespan of geology, but also of the persistent work of industry and extraction, fixed in one condensed instant.
Signe Liden, Cecilia Jonsson
Bytom, Minas Gerais, Kakanj
Text by Roar Sletteland
The exhibition is supported by: Bergen Kommune and Norsk Kulturråd
Thanks to: BEK, Tolga Balci, Roar Sletteland, James Jackson Griffith, Sabine Popp,
Thomas Edler Paulsen and Re:place