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The World Is A Knot in Motion

Degree show MFA Medium- and Material Based art and Art and Public Space Oslo National Academy for the Arts (KHIO) May 31 - June 9, 2024 Curator: Håkon Lillegraven

Anastasya Kizilova, Art and Witchcraft Department: Shawl Meditation. Installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

The outside premises of KHIO are currently marked by an encampment in support of Palestine and Gaza, seemingly as peaceful as the adjacent "a river run's through it" park views I crossed to get there. Had I not been told before I would have assumed it a plausible part of a grad exhibition or an art installation. It stands in stark contrast to any other lens into recently ongoing encampments around universitites where protestors have been seen wrestled down and dragged across the ground per the atrocious brute force of police forces as though evidencing the end of Western civilization as we have known it. You can't walk far around the city center here without seeing walls tagged with inscriptions like "Leve Gaza, fria Palestina" (Long live Gaza, free Palestine). And what's more is you get the impression that no one, neither locals nor city officials are at any rush to remove it. The Irish and Norwegians lead a moral compass, from a certain view. As Swedes we've been made more than just a little aware in recent months.

Encampment outside KHIO. Photo: C-print

This is a sidestep in the context of reviewing an art school grad exhibition - I know - but Oslo is very inviting for it, and you can use your agency as a writer for what you believe in, even if it means that occasional hijack. The last time I headed out to Oslo specifically to author a review was two springs ago for a multiple-venue review of the lens-based art publication Camera Austria. I've touched base at KHIO over time, mostly for studio visits and have also worked with the art of grads of this school, but this is my first time catching a degree exhibition on site. That means, given how every square inch of school premises tend to be creatively utilized to the brim for them in general, that confusion in the navigation could possibly await a novice of the multiple-venue-school, like me. It turns out KHIO is currently in parallel conjunction housing as well 58 of its graduating artists in another degree exhibition, that falls outside of the scope of this text; the Design Graduation Show.

The World Is A Knot in Motion, installation view, curated by Håkon Lillegraven, KHIO, 2024. Photo: Julie Hrnčířová 

The curator Håkon Lillegraven who has recently joined Nasjonalmuseet as a curator of education and public programmes , following a number of years at the city's Fotogalleriet, has been assigned to curate the crafts-based and public space art degree exhibition, which is the one I'm here for. A Swedish artist, and evidently an artist of the school herself, attending the reception kindly and patiently extends me "the ins and outs" of how to find my way around the eight spaces of this exhibition alone. It turns out that she is in fact the granddaughter of an artist couple whose work I'm very interested in. Actually artists who any curator or artist's artist back home mostly likely have a great appreciation for. Oslo is the gift that keeps giving, and I make a mind note to survey the artist's work once back at the hotel. I contain the urge to start fantasizing about curating a "It runs in the family" kind of an exhibition with all three, and remind myself to focus instead on the task at hand.

Lillegraven and the artists have titled the exhibition The World Is A Knot in Motion as quote from Donna Haraway. People like Haraway, Sara Ahmed or even still Judith Butler are so frequently referenced in today's contemporary art that they have become part of the artworld's DNA; which is exactly how ArtReview motivated Haraway's number 31 spot on its annual Power100 List last year, which would have been total bogus had it failed to recognize just that. "The phrase, as we are applying it, encourages a break with deterministic definitions of 'nature' and 'culture', and the distinction between these.", shares Lillegraven in the text. Claims of the artists serving the audience with simply either novel ideas, or even more precised; "novel ideas around how we as humans affect our surroundings, and each other" are made. As a curator I know the risks of making claims that come super easy in the creative writing process of a text. Everything, or a lot just slides, until a critic decides that it doesn't and applies an amped up Herculean scrutiny. I'm sure there's different "schools" behind how to assess the weight of an exhibition text; either as supplementary amendment and yet also its own "fact", or something that more intimately and ideally should correlate with the exhibition context, if visitor service is its main raison d'être. I learnt a while back never to make for instance the claim that art "challenges the architecture of the space", if a degree of transformation or imposition beyond usual disposition actually isn't evident. In terms of novelty in crafts-based art, it’s interesting to note that novelty to the extent it is an end in itself, is subject to relativity. Crafts-based art has a strong tradition in Sweden. What’s ”novel” when I'm in NYC in terms of textile-based art, or other material-based that is passed as such at American art schools when I visit them sometimes will strike me as derivative or more commonplace when echoes of ”back home” are allowed into my head.

School premises, KHIO, Oslo. Photo: C-print

KHIO with its sleek imposing architecture is not an easy space to work with. That's very and most true of the spaces that do not directly constitute gallery spaces and are designed to hold exhibitions. Outer and inner gardens and an aerial passage space called Katedralen are all such examples where if you make it look easy, you will as a curator have been very perceptive and manifested a great command over the inherent possibilities and limitations. Lillegraven does make it look easy and as such let this come through as a genuine compliment. If it this far appears back-handed, let me clarify: The curator with his group of artists has done a fine job creating an exhibition that is elegant and easy on the eye, through and through. Chosen solutions in presentation form are never gaudy and never ring the tune of form over substance to overcompensate. The exhibition does in my view lack some tension and friction, it's quite "inoffensive" altogether, and much seamlessly joins together in visual colour-coordinated harmony in one of the two main rooms where several artists house together, Seilduken 1 (a building stone's throw across the main buidling). Less so in the second of these rooms, two floors up from there; Seilduken 2, but the opposites there are not enough to change the feeling given rise to by then already. But you can't have everything in one exhibition. Ever. And if you are able to present a beautiful exhibition, which this is, that honors the crafts-based traditions and creates "visual space" and in turn headspace to survey the art, I think that's already a win. From the outset, curating degree exhibitions are always an "impossibility" and this is a succesful instance of disproving that.

Dariusz Wojdyga, SECTION 333,  Installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

In Katedralen, Dariusz Wojdyga roles out on the floor what is his project SECTION 333, which presents as an "archive" of salvaged objects stemming from the city's Akerselva River that are put on parade mode in alignments based on common denominators of material composition and visual identity. It's the longest display of its kind I've seen in a long time, and what's more is the white walls close to the floors grace art jewellery made by some of the findings, and are in turn inspired by marine life. Because of the extent of the project and the fact that the jewellery pieces between them show of a great formal breadth and exhibit the vast possibilities in these treasures from "the sea", the presentation works very well. It expands both on traditions of readymades and upcycling in art in a way that makes for an exciting watch.

Dariusz Wojdyga, SECTION 333, detail view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

Victor Kojo Aubyn, installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: Julie Hrnčířová  The neighboring position; Victor Kojo Aubyn's aerial cluster installation of units each displaying umbrella-like construction instantly makes me think of installations at Mama Shelter hotels I've stayed at over time. From there the stretch to Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not far, before ultimately as quickly arriving to more apt and appropriate connections. This is the closest I've come to the intricately executed material fragility of the work of Jacob Hashimoto. Even then I'm far off as Aubyn's work not only being a material study but a study of image-making and the the capacity of images to permeate, continue or transform historical narratives, through combinations of archival and weathered imagery and photography.

Nanna Amstrup, Lacking A Grand Narrative, We Carry Tiny Mythologies, installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

A showstopping moment occurs at the hands of Nanna Amstrup, erecting towering and textile sculptural installations in a black box space. This, while revisiting the myth of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon, forrest and hunting on the one hand and on the other, the notion of self-chosen exile from a heteronormative world order. It brings to mind whiffs and puffs of both Rebecca Ackroyd and Kris Lemsalu; the trajectories of whom propose possibilities for Amstrup's work provided the right exposure following school and in the future.

Linda Flø, Gestation of the sand, installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

Rajat Mondal, Echoes of Resilience: Nature's Unyielding Spirit, detail view. Back installation view: Andreas Hald. The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

In Seilduken 1, both Linda Flø's and Rajat Mondal's "equations" are factored by scale. Flø's Gestation of the sand is a large-scale ceramic wall relief composed of multiple from each other unattached parts that together spotlight the shape of a human uterus. The rise in scale is quite unprecedented (for me) and leaves a mark on my mind. Mondal's Echoes of Resilience: Nature's Unyielding Spirit is a hybrid between tech and kinetics and nature and ecology. A huge roll of paper boxing in a space within the space moves clockwise through motorised rollers. A huge tree branch interjects the base structure and I read it all as statement on human intervention of the perpetual motion and impermanence of time.

Rajat Mondal, Echoes of Resilience: Nature's Unyielding Spirit, detail view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: C-print

Anastasya Kizilova, Art and Witchcraft Department: Shawl Meditation. Installation view, The World Is A Knot in Motion, KHIO, 2024. Photo: Julie Hrnčířová 

For me another solo space, the Skylight gallery, makes for the exhibition's strongest takeaway; Antastasya Kizilova within the context of a larger project (Art and Witchcraft Department) presents The Shawl Meditaiton. I learn that the artist's mother in Russia has been engaged in this collaborative process where the shawls are handknitted of unravelled second-hand jumpers, and as such derive from recycled threads. We're told in a text these shawls that have been imbued with tranformative energy by her mother and now serve as mediators to the world of magic. This wonderland of thought might not grip me, but what does are how these unions of shawls are among the most beautiful displays I've seen all year. Could very well be the most beautiful, actually. No, decidedly the most beautiful. A siemetically mirroring pair manages to be touching. It feels tender and immediately arresting the way Felix Gonzalez Torres' wall clocks, also known as Untitled (Perfect Lovers) is and has been for me as an adult. And if I'm not mistaken from group dinner last night, that's an image found too on the own skin of the exhibition's curator. Things sometimes just interconnect and become personal when you least expect.

Ashik Zaman

Artists: Alice Davies, Almendra Baus Rusiñol, Anastasya Kizilova, Anders Hald, Belén Santillán, Carolina Vasquéz Gonzaléz, Dariusz Stefan Wojdyga, Kaia Weiss, Linda Flø, Magnus Håland Sunde, Nanna Amstrup, Rajat Mondal, Sara Skorgan Teigen, Sayo Ota, Silje Kjørholt, Sofia Nömm, Tamara Marbl Joka, Théotime Ritzenthaler, Victor Kojo Aubyn, Zeke Isendahl


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