Trapped in Amber: Angst for a Reenacted Decade

21st February – 22nd March 2009


Welcome to the opening of the international group exhibition Trapped in Amber: Angst for a Reenacted Decade at UKS friday the 20th of February at 7pm

Special Performance by Magnus Monfeldt: Friday 20th February at 8pm

Trapped in Amber curators in conversation with the artists: Saturday 21st February at 3pm

Daniel Garcia Andujar (ESP)
Hamdi Attia (EGY/USA)
Bodil Furu (NO)
Assefa Gebrekidan (ETH)
Iman Issa (EGY/USA)
Mahmoud Khaled (EGY)
Magnus Monfeldt (SWE/NDL)
Harwood/Wright/Yokokoji (UK)

Curated by: Bassam El Baroni and Helga-Marie Nordby

Trapped in Amber: Angst for a Reenacted Decade is an exhibition that draws on Oslo’s art history, specifically the city’s tradition of northern European ‘Angst’ demonstrated in the oeuvres of such pivotal figures as Edvard Munch. The exhibition aims to test the limits of cultural industry stereotypes by creating a contemporary comparative to the phenomenon of Fin de siècle angst-ridden artistic production. Through the works of the invited artists, Trapped in Amber considers angst’s possible post-continental existence today in contemporary artistic formats. Of particular interest is the way angst can live on and express itself in a different world and age, experiencing different problems and in the midst of new cultural, socio-economic, and information dynamics.

Most narratives written by the cannon on the Fin de siècle symbolists and expressionists, point out that these artists aimed at capturing and portraying some sort of universal angst, a border-crossing scream of human emotional intensity; the metaphors are plentiful. Universality back then seems to have lacked a common cultural denominator, and to have been defined mostly in relation to nature, spirituality, and in some cases creative egotism. If the Fin de siècle artists reflected what was to them the ‘universal angst’ of their time, what kind of images, cultural processes, critical perspectives, or icons, if any, can reflect and be involved with a ‘universal angst’ in today’s world? How can one engage with terms such as “Universal” and “Angst” in a narrative of the here and now? Trapped in Amber aims to engineer a critical and spatial context where the works articulate different trajectories cutting through the main issues of angst and/or universality.

The global financial crisis is taking its toll on many, another ‘great depression’ but this time born of hyper-deregulation, the resurgence of political and social ideologies that were quite hastily labeled ‘dead’, and a decade marking the deterioration of the world’s intercultural relationships. Perhaps the world is currently trapped in an amber traffic light switched on by a past epoch, still not able to make substantial moves forward on the socio-cultural and political levels despite great technological advances. Perhaps, the cultural economy we function in is verging on the archaic because our ideologies are too old to develop potent discourses and our post-ideological frames of mind are nothing but the pretty and fresh looking amber resin that encases old and untouched problems.
In light of these metaphorical realizations, Trapped in Amber seeks to traverse between the very early modernist years, in which the art of Edvard Munch reached its peak, and the social, intellectual, and political conditions in which art has existed during the first decade of the 21st century.

One of the ways this traversing takes effect is through the introduction of a series of collectively rendered exhibition props that were co-created by the participating artists, the curators, and UKS staff. Visible throughout the exhibition, ‘the frieze of life’ is a collective amalgam of imagery that was created by gathering images found on the World Wide Web. The participating artists contributed a number of images that were considered relative to the idea of a present day ‘Frieze of Life’; the images were then reconfigured into digital collages that reference the abundant hanging style of grand salon exhibitions. Elsewhere, visitors can take a seat on the specially redesigned circular pouf sofa, reminiscent of the sofa used in Munch’s Berlin solo show at the Equitable Palast (1892-1893), but with fabrics created by each of the exhibition’s artists.

Trapped in Amber attempts to construct a contemporary parallel to the Fin de siècle’s output on art, the artist, society, and politics. This could be a relational equation that senses some of the possible links and separators between this and that era, or it could be a pseudo-parallel that stimulates schemas, tactics, and discussions. But ultimately, it is through setting up this spot where past and present are inseparable that latent frictions are activated.

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