The unique and unyielding landscape, the feeling of isolation, the merciless weather; Norway’s conditions have affected artists living there, often producing work whose meaning is obfuscated from outsiders. The nation’s underground is housing an uncompromising group of artists and gallerists, with an extreme abstract approach; secretive and mysterious, their sentiment recalls the early days of Norway’s rebellious and avant-garde black metal scene.
With the help of organisations such as NABROAD, an independent organisation active for three years, publishing the internationally distributed Måg magazine, this abstruse movement has begun to have international impact. Gallery D.O.R, established by the Norwegian artist collective of the same name, was franchised and sold at last year’s Armory New York. ‘Evolving according to an expanded chorographical principle’ their mission is ‘to perform an ambiance so close to a gallery situation that it will transcend the Ibsenian social realistic problem drama’.
In Oslo, the energy is particularly derisive of the commercialisation and commodification of art. NOPLACE, a gallery run by a collective of artists, pretty much told me to fuck off when I asked them a few polite questions about the part they have played in the developments of this anti-commercial scene. They work with some of the Norway’s most hardcore minimalists, including Are Blytt and Sebastian Helling, who have won international acclaim, but remain a fundamental and loyal part of the experimental young Oslo group. Pink Cube, whose pink walls contain body fluids from a private ritual, is another space that calls the mystical spiritualism of Norway’s black metal scene to mind. Run by artist Anja Carr, Pink Cube is also unfettered by commercial concerns. Carr considers the gallery a living organism, an artwork in itself. Within this ‘low threshold space’, artists are encouraged to get closer to one another – every exhibition held a Pink Cube is piped as a ‘battle’ between two artists or artist groups, working in media that are notoriously difficult to bring to the market, abstract video, installation and performance which push the limits of minimalism to an audacious, even at times, preposterous, extreme.
Yet unlike most rebellious young art movements, Norway’s government is the propagator, not the antagonist, of this high experimental and anti-commercial art. Untouched by financial concerns affecting other artists in Europe, Norwegian artists are cushioned by reserve of state funding that even stretches to provide stipends and housing for artists.