Critics’ Picks

View of “Nobody Can Tell the Why of It,” 2011.

Oslo

“Nobody Can Tell the Why of It”

1857
Tøyenbekken 12
May 27 - August 14

This remarkable artist-run space confronts all who curate here with a peculiar two-part challenge: a main space—a huge, outdoor-feeling concrete hall that was formerly a lumberyard—and a smaller area that sports a bright orange 1970s floor covering. The current group show, featuring Nicholas Byrne, Nick Mauss, Ken Okiishi, Josef Strau, and Timothy Furey, negotiates these constraints nicely. The smaller room is allotted to Byrne’s work; in the hall follow Furey’s four large canvases, Okiishi’s films and set pieces, Strau’s text posters and lamps, and Mauss’s drawings and wooden staircase.

Experiencing the concrete hall filled with precisely these works is partly like venturing into a church and partly like entering a theater or film set before any actors or audience members have assembled. But a set is meant for plays, with performances of which are governed by a preexisting script that ensures a certain order and outcome. In guest curator Esperanza Rosales’s setup, the opposite just might be the case: “Nobody Can Tell the Why of It” is hard to pin down and feels open-ended. Among its stated themes are male hysteria and mysticism, but with time it becomes apparent that what’s really at stake is the very process of exhibition-making, the long-lasting endeavor of collective creation. Language, social interaction, and communication are thus conspicuous topics. Rosales, a writer, has said, ”I build from the gut.” The same spirit of tentative, visceral ventures is expressed in the title of Franz Schubert’s “Wohin?” (”Where to?”), a song whose lyrics appear as Okiishi’s contribution to an accompanying publication. This printed bonus volume to the show references the participants’ ongoing correspondence as well as the converging and diverging references behind their work, revealing all the productive fumbling that takes place prior to what audiences normally access.