Mixed Emotions

Kristian Vistrup Madsen at Momentum 10

Attendees gathered for Ina Hagen’s performance. All photos: Kristian Madsen Vistrup.

FOR TEENAGERS, there is no such thing as too much angst, too much pain, too much love. No emotion is ever enough. This is what made the Norwegian web series Skam (2015–17) such a sensation: It illustrated perfectly the simultaneous intensity and mundanity of adolescence. Most of the time, you’re torrenting Romeo + Juliet in bed and shedding a single tear. At some point, life stops being (as) boring, emotions become burdens, and we cordon them off somewhere. I met Isak from Skam, in real life known as Tarjei Sandvik Moe, at Kunstnernes Hus and momentarily returned to a pubescent state of elation. But alas, fictions crack—teenagers turn twenty, grow beards, and offer not tears but their opinions on method acting. Oslo was in an art buzz last week, when Pedro Gómez-Egaña presented a new installation at the Opera House as part of the Edvard Munch Museum’s “On the Move” initiative, and Jana Winderen and Morten Andenæs showed at Kunstnernes Hus. But moths drew to the flame of Moss, some forty minutes south of the city, where, on Friday afternoon, a tote bag caught fire. The drama seemed appropriate: The tenth edition of the Momentum Biennial is titled “The Emotional Exhibition.” Preview guests were huddled around two bonfires on a cold beach trying to catch an elusive Wi-Fi signal when the incident took place. We were part of a site-specific digital text performance by Ina Hagen, which unfortunately crashed due to overstimulation (relatable). The work’s declared aim of “revealing feelings of anger and apathy through collective experience” wasn’t entirely thwarted, however, as smoke pulsed temperamentally in all directions.

Momentum director Dag Aak Sveinar, with artistic director of the Gothenburg Biennial (GIBCA) Ioana Leca.

How exactly curator Marti Manen understands the emotional was difficult to gauge from the text and the exhibition, but my best guess is that it has to do with excision: isolating the element that trembles by cutting out everything that doesn’t. One example of this was work by André Alves, who paints over pages from novels to leave only a sliver legible. “Who cares about politics when there are flames licking your insides” was the resonant line spared from an excerpt by Karl Ove Knausgård. Saskia Holmkvist named her approach as a type of self-censorship. She killed the sound on her Momentum contribution from 2009 and replaced it with a flagellating deconstruction of the original script. Politics change; being down on your own work is forever. Francesc Ruiz’s vast collection of underground fetish-themed comics presented in his work House of Fun  (2019) provided another apt term, “visual bondage”: copping a thrill from the strict disallowance of the most obvious visual pleasure. This strikes me as a very Nordic predilection. “Let’s talk a little bit more about Scandinavian pain,” said Manen, and though I do that every day, I thought, Count me in! A character in Gabriel Lester’s film The Blank Stare (2013) continued this conversation: “I’ve been feeling very incoherent, very small, easily exhausted.”

Marking Momentum’s twentieth anniversary, the exhibition was dotted with works from previous editions. A sufficiently aged Bang & Olufsen screen showed a dark-haired Karl Holmqvist mounting the stage in front of a sparse audience of participants at the biennial’s second installment in 2000. “Last night a DJ saved my life from a broken heart,” he said, solemnly, before vacating the podium. “It was a small affair back then,” artist Johanna Billing explained. “We had to just do it for ourselves.”

Artist Erik Öberg.

Also highly poetic was a new piece by Pauline Fondevila. In The Promise by the Sea (2019), a group of ten-year-olds in Oakleys brave the ocean in twenty small boats, sails painted with slogans. “Let’s hide,” “The world is burning,” “Never work,” they read, some sourced from protests, others from songs or poems. The kids form a picket line in the ocean, fierce and tiny against the wind. Fondevila’s work might have been too sweet were it not balanced by the sadness of a child proclaiming he’d “never come back.” Likewise, Erik Öberg’s swan-like sculptures undercut their dark, romantic allure by eliciting the least attractive emotions of all: anguish and pity. If there’s one lesson to take from Momentum 10, it’s that feelings are never an easy sell. 

Dinner was served at 5 PM. But when the sky looks like it’s 5 PM until midnight, what’s time anyway? The opening of Momentum coincided with the Lyse Netter (Bright Nights) music festival. The light becomes a kind of trap, a day that refuses to end and dares you to succumb to it. The singer Nils Bech, also of Skam fame, wrapped his male muse in a sheet and stuck a lily in his crotch. A Swedish producer could clean up this art pop. The later techno act was a better match for the grapefruit blob of sun, and there was a lot of dancing in the mud with flames licking at our tote bags, us feeling seventeen and just so emotional.


Curator Marti Manen and Lena Malm of IASPIS.


Writers Alia Lübben and Chloe Stead.


The Oslo Biennial's Håkon Lillegraven, Fotogalleriet's Una Gjerde, and actor Tarjei Sandvik Moe.


Oslo Biennial's Håkon Lillegraven and Victoria Trunova from Artpress.


Nils Bech and muse.


Munch Museum Director Stein Olav Henrichsen with On the Move-curator Nathalie Hope O'Donnell, and artist Pedro Gomez-Egana.


Gathered for Ina Hagen's performance.


Anna Russ and Monica Salazar from Berlin Art Link.


ArtReview's Louise Darblay.


Artists Yngve Holen and Maria Pasenau.


Artists Fanny Ollas, Saskia Holmkvist, Johanna Billing, and Åsa Cederqvist.


Artist Francesc Ruiz.


Artist and birthday lady Carole Douillard.