2005 "Avgangsutstillingen 2005 / Kunstakademiet i Oslo" // Stenersenmuseet / Oslo / 23.05
Click the images to enlarge...
This collage is based on a fresco situated at the main public library in Oslo, Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek. The fresco was created by Axel Revold for the building which was built in 1933. He was a well-known fresco artist in Norway at that time and has several frescoes in public buildings from this period. (Among them the stockmarket building in Bergen and the National Library in Norway, university etc.) See more details below. His frescoes are characteristic of a socially-committed and modernistic style, which stylistically was heavily influenced by Matisse as well as Munch in the use of vivid colors. Subjects are most often progress and modernistic "semi-utopia", but also nationalistic history, and so takes part of a larger tale of the building of Norway and the welfare state, which were well under way in the thirties. This specific fresco is called "Technics, Science, Poetry", and tried to visualize these three fields in the context of the accumulated knowledge embodied in the library. See the image of the original fresco further down the page.
I tried to visualize a paraphrase of that fresco, based on the assumptions of postmodernism instead of modernism, including political and social problems of the present. My work is called "[000/999]" in reference to the Dewey Decimal Classification system, which is currently the most common classification system in libraries across the world. The title would in the deweys system literally mean everything, since the classification system starts at 000 and ends at 999. The deweys system has in the last years seen a series of revisions following criticism especially from religious groups outside christianity. The system was made in the late 1800s and based on the knowledge and beliefs then available to western society. As a result categories like christianity and european-specific knowledge is vastly overrepresented in the categories:
schedule contains marked geographical biases derived from its 19th century
origins: Northern Africa for instance occupies all of 961–965, the
rest of the continent only 966–969. It is still more biased towards
Christianity against other religions, the former covering all of 220–289,
while all others get only 292–299 to share. Recent versions permit
another religion to be placed in 220–289, with Christianity relegated
to 298, but this is mainly used by libraries operated by non-Christian religious
groups, especially Jewish ones. The DDC has also been criticized for its
treatment of literature (800). Because primacy is given to language, national
literatures get scattered. For example, Canadian literature in English is
classed under English & Old English (820) literatures while Canadian
literature in French is classed under French literatures (840). The only
exception is for American literature (810); a reflection of the Anglo-American
bias inherent in the system.[quote from Wikipedia
entry on the DCC system]
Thereby the system itself manifests the belief in a modernistic unified theory of knowledge, and the belief in non-subjective knowledge, which now falls under criticism. Lately the system has some places been exchanged for the Universal Decimal Classification system, which is based on the Dewys system, but more complex and less biased.
As such, my work focuses on criticism of western modernism, but also on problems arising from modernism and problems posed by postmodern society.
The original fresco:
"Mot nord flankerer galleriene Aksel Revolds freske "Teknik, Vitenskap, Diktning". Man kan si at fresken symboliserer ideen om et bibliotek. Bakgrunnen er delt mellom den moderne skyskraperbyen og den norske barskogen. I midten ligger et arkaisk landskap med et dorisk tempel kronende på en høyde. "Helt til venstre ser man den moderne teknikk symbolisert i de veldige, rytmiske stigende masser og de små arbeidere. Ved siden av dette motiv Videnskaben fremstillet i skikkelse av en gruppe av dens fornemste tjenere i Norge på tidlig 1800-tallet: P.A. Munch, Sophus Lie og Niels Henrik Abel. Ved deres føtter ligger to lesende og lyttende studenter. Helt til høyre er diktningen fremstillet i Henrik Wergelands skikkelse. I rammen av et tungt, kraftig norsk skoglandskap ser man den inspirerte dikter med løftet hode og nesten ekstatisk kroppreisning, og over hans hode omgitt av en nordlysstrålende glorie, svever en geniusgruppe" (Fresko-epoken, J. Askeland)"
the north the galleries flank the fresco "Technics, Science, Poetry"
by Aksel Revold. You could say the fresco symbolizes the idea of a library.
The background is split between the modern skyscraper-city and the norwegian
forest. In the middle lies an archaic landscape with a doric temple high
up on hill. "To the left you can see the modern technics symbolized
by the huge, rhytmically rising masses and the small workers. Next to this,
science is embodied by a group of its most famous servants in Norway in
the early 1800th century: P.A. Munch, Sophus Lie and Niels Henrik Abel.
Two pupils lie by their feet. Furthermost to the right, poetry is represented
by Henrik Wergeland. Framed by heavy norwegian forestry you see the inspired
poet with a lifted head and an almost ecstatic posure. Over his head floats
a geniusgroup surrounded by a corona of northern lights" (Fresko-epoken,
As a footnote, the librarys main hall, with a better overview over where the fresco is situated, was also photographed by Candida Höfer in 2000.
Images can be found here.