Trondheim, Norway

Vibeke Tandberg, Candypool (detail), 2017, plaster, slate, wood, felt, dimensions variable. From Lorck Schive Kunstpris.

Vibeke Tandberg, Candypool (detail), 2017, plaster, slate, wood, felt, dimensions variable. From Lorck Schive Kunstpris.

Lorck Schive Kunstpris

Trondheim Kunstmuseum

Vibeke Tandberg, Candypool (detail), 2017, plaster, slate, wood, felt, dimensions variable. From Lorck Schive Kunstpris.

Each of the four artists nominated for the third edition of the Lorck Schive Kunstpris, Norway’s biggest art prize, produced installations for an exhibition that evinced their distinct stylistic sensibilities, coalescing into portrayals of personal and collective histories while imparting a sense of romanticism derailed. Mattias Härenstam’s Begrensning (Limitation; all works 2017) consisted of a birch tree being dragged around the perimeter of a strikingly antiseptic, even anesthetic modernist space, a trail of leaves tracing the path of its nearly imperceptible progress and inexorable deterioration. Noosed carelessly by a thin blue rope attached to a mechanized pulley like those that convey slaughterhouse carcasses, the bedraggled birch evoked the human condition. An unhealthy tree is a portentous sign, not least because in Norse lore the first two humans were fashioned from tree trunks, and the birch tree specifically embodies the threshold between heaven and earth. Here the skylit chamber felt like an anteroom, a place of entrance and exit—the lush exterior greenery glimpsed through its portals conjuring the conflict between the natural world and the structures of civilization.

Knut Henrik Henriksen’s installation, Gone with the Wind, was an ode to regional architect Erling Viksjø, who inscribed Brutalist architecture with organic, tactile textures. A towering totem in the center of the gallery, Bird in Space, referenced Constantin Brancusi in what was actually an architectural element extrapolated from a building designed by Viksjø—its concrete surface sandblasted to reveal the sensuous forms of natural river stones. A staircase disappearing into a wall, meanwhile, recalled an Escherian scenario. In the confrontation between modernist reason and the disorder of universal chaos, the latter always wins. Similarly, what at first looked like formally ascetic sculptures betrayed emotional underbellies: Once you took a step back, a geometric wall composition of traditional Norwegian house shingles, The Beauty in the Brutalist Beast—The Wall No One Mentions, Taken from the Point of View That Reveals Why the Building Was Named After a Letter (Y), came across as a dazzling sunset in the vivid colors of Edvard Munch, but without the human figure.

Lars Laumann’s Karma Blankets encapsulated his upbringing in the 1980s. Materials related to “Air Attack: A Danger to Our Cultural Heritage,” a 1989 exhibition in Trondheim about the effects of acid rain and the spread of airborne radioactivity after the Chernobyl disaster—erroneously blamed for destroying the facade of the city’s Nidaros Cathedral—were displayed in glass vitrines to reconstruct the indelible impression it made on the young artist. A pair of monstrous stone figures by Wilhelm Rasmussen—included in the original exhibition and titled Gargoyler, 1910–20—were set on the floor, their frightful expressions reflecting society’s hysterical reaction to victims of the contemporaneous AIDS outbreak. A multitude of E.T. figurines populating a set of shelves, as in a child’s room, recalled the symbiosis of boy and alien in the wildly popular 1982 film, in which their illicit friendship results in a mysterious illness.

Vibeke Tandberg’s installation, Candypool, which took the prize, engaged with Gustav Vigeland’s 1897 plaster relief Helvete (Hell), adorning a wall in the same gallery. More than a hundred pristine plaster casts of the doors of the artist’s own Candy-brand refrigerator were stacked smack in front of the frieze in orderly rows, suggesting a calculated, even irreverent confrontation between mass production and Vigeland’s tableau, painstakingly rendered by hand in the same material. The centerpiece of the room was a disassembled pool table transported from the artist’s studio. Eight plaster tablets bearing positive casts of pool balls arranged in various stages of a game hung on other walls. The compositions seemed either chance configurations or cryptic hieroglyphs from an ancient civilization. Vigeland’s own allegory mirrored his personal despair at the time of its creation, and in light of Tandberg’s longtime focus on self-portraiture, this collection of objects could likewise be seen as an expression of identity, understood as a mixture of accident and intention.

Cathryn Drake