Lessons in the Art of Falling – Photographs of Norwegian Performance and Process Art 1966–2009

Lessons in the Art of Falling – Photographs of Norwegian Performance and Process Art 1966–2009

Preus museum

Kjartan Slettemark, Lessons in the Art of Falling, 1969. Photo: Brita Olsson, 1969/2009. Collection of Preus museum.

September 10, 2009

12 September 2009–3 January 2010

Kulturparken Karljohansvern
Kommandørkaptein Klincks vei 7
3183 Horten, Norway


Preus Museum 12 September 2009 – 3 January 2010
Seminar 11 September at the Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, in collaboration with the National Academy of Fine Art

Curators: Jonas Ekeberg and Elisabeth Byre

Preus museum presents an exhibition that explores the reciprocal influences between photography and non-object-based art forms. The exhibition “Lessons in the Art of Falling – Photographs of Norwegian Performance and Process Art 1966–2009″ will present the history of these art forms as mediated in photography.

Writing in 1989, Craig Owens framed an approach to photographic documentation of non-object-based art within his discourse on the allegorical impulse, describing the medium as texts read through other texts. Later, in the 1990s, the concept of photographic documentation as a conceptually and discursively integral aspect of non-object-based art was further developed by among others Philip Auslander, who wrote about “the performativity of performance documentation”. But such views were also contested, not least by the writer Peggy Phelan, who in 1993 famously stated that “performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance.” It is the potentially productive role of this other that is explored in this exhibition.


“Lessons in the Art of Falling” also marks the first attempt to write a history of the Norwegian avant-garde. The Norwegian avant-garde of the 1960s consisted of artists and projects such as Group 66, Kjartan Slettemark and Willibald Storn. They were all connected to the anti-consumerism and anti-imperialism of 1968. The photographs of their various performances have the character of reportage, with Kjartan Slettemark being a special case. He falls into the category of charismatic artists with what can only be described as a following among photographers. As with Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol, his photographer followers entered into a symbiotic relationship with the artist.

The 1970s were a decade of relative isolationism in Norwegian art, but around 1980 a new generation of avant-garde artists emerged. They rejected many of the political tendencies of the 1960s and embarked either on more philosophical/aesthetic projects (Hilmar Fredriksen, Marianne Heske, Inghild Karlsen) or on projects which took their inspiration from the punk movement (Lambretta). Generally, these artists had a higher level of sophistication in their photographic documentation, putting together carefully edited photographic sequences to represent their projects and actions. They were also the first to show aspects of the postmodern, media-conscious artist. Marianne Heske was the leading artist in this regard, integrating documentation as well as live and recorded video feeds of her notorious “Gjerdeløa” project into a presentation at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1980.

In the 1990s a third generation of avant-garde artists returned to the political concerns of the 1960s, and this time the revolt against the traditional art object and the bourgeois art institution had a real impact, thus helping to establish a new hegemony in Norwegian art. This “expanded” field of contemporary art is now firmly established, and over the past 10-20 years, the Norwegian art scene has seen numerous performance-based and participatory projects. Most often, these projects have photographic and video documentation as an integrated element, sometimes playing with the nonchalant manner of snapshot photography, sometimes making new, sizeable artworks or even whole installations based on documentation of the art that was initially non-object-based. Significantly, several projects have also turned this relationship on its head, constructing photographic representations of projects that have never taken place (such as Lene Berg’s Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of Woman with Moustache (2008)), which was stopped as a project but nevertheless made the front pages of the newspapers as a photographic representation), or projects that first existed as photographs, only later to be realized as live events (such as the project Migrating Birds (2005) by Ane Lan).

Artists in the exhibition: Baktruppen, Per Barclay, Lene Berg, Jeannette Christensen, Det poetiske teater III/Dag Alveng, D.O.R., John Øivind Eggesbø, Ina Eriksen, Eriksen/Fremme/Færøy/Jørgensen, Matias Faldbakken/Gardar Eide Einarsson, Hilmar Fredriksen, Ivan Galuzin, Gruppe 66, Marianne Heier, Andreas Heuch, Marianne Heske, Marius Heyerdahl, Goksøyr & Martens, Geir Tore Holm, Kurt Johannessen, Inghild Karlsen, Konkret analyse/Elsebet Rahlff, Lambretta, Ane Lan, Victor Lind, Elisabeth Mathisen, New Meaning, Wencke Mühleisen, Tommy Olsson, Samliv, Kjetil Skøien, Kjartan Slettemark, Bente Stokke, Willibald Storn, Sørfinnset skole/the nord land, Monica Winther, Tori Wrånes.

A catalogue in Norwegian and English will be printed to accompany the exhibition, containing texts by Jonas Ekeberg (NO), Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk (NO), Camilla Jalving (DK), Philip Auslander (US), Henry M. Sayre (US).

With support from the Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo.

Press contact: Hilde Herming, hilde.herming@preusmuseum.no

RSVP for Lessons in the Art of Falling – Photographs of Norwegian…
Preus museum
September 10, 2009

Thank you for your RSVP.

Preus museum will be in touch.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.