Architecture is a key concept in Åsdam’s output. In his films and photographs, the architecture often consists of linguistic ‘signs’ and markers of themes like desire, struggle, lifestyle, politics and economics.
The architecture is not just a scenic ‘backdrop’ for the action, but an independent actor. Despite more dialogue-based action in some of Åsdam’s most recent films, they all break with the traditional structures associated with narrative and continuity. Rather, the characters are placed in a spatial relationship with their surroundings, where the people remain in undefined relations with one another, and where the physical surroundings are crucial to the dynamics of the various scenes.
The dissolution of traditional storytelling structures also reflects Åsdam’s interest in the breakdown of narrative structures in everyday reality more generally. This is inherent as a core experience for Åsdam, and influences both the form and content of the works. Urbanity can perhaps be called the overall theme of Åsdam’s art. But his investigations of how individuals shape their self-awareness in an interaction with urban surroundings provides scope for a compact network of narratives that touch on a wide range of intersecting themes. Youth culture, politics, linguistic psychology, music or everyday life as a category for philosophy and critical thinking, are some of the fragments of meaning that can lie latent in one and the same work.
The exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall will present three brand new film produc¬tions with their points of departure in three distinct geographical locations. Perhaps to an even greater extent than before, it is the places that are portrayed, not just as generic urban surroundings, but with their distinct histories, demographics and architecture. The film Abyss is a portrait of East London today with the rapid changes that are leaving their mark on the architecture, environment and social structures of the area.
The city of Tripoli in Lebanon is the point of departure for a film of the same name. Here one finds one of the world’s most distinctive building projects, created by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1966. Today the area is an architectural relic of a stranded vision – a modernist ruin and a forever-unfinished monument to a vanished optimism in the Middle East. The third new film deals with Groruddalen in Oslo. The Norwegian media often paint a picture of Groruddalen as the textbook example of the satellite town problem with anti-human surroundings, a high immigrant population percentage and youth crime. Åsdam’s film makes use of stories, situations and informa¬tion about the satellite town in a film that is documentary in its use of research, but does not draw on the documentary film tradition’s narrative devices.
In his work with film as artistic expression Åsdam is constantly engaging in close dialogue with both the conventions of the film medium as we know them from film history, and installation art’s use of video and film as both spatial and narrative media. At Bergen Kunsthall the films will be presented as part of larger spatial installations. Thus architecture becomes a central cue word, not only as a theme, but also physically and concretely in the exhibition space. In his exhibitions Åsdam creates his own hybrid architectural structures which erase the boundaries between the space of the film and the space of the viewer.
Knut Åsdam was born in Trondheim (1968). He lives and works in Oslo. Åsdam has exhibited at among other places Tate Britain, London; Manifesta; the Istanbul Biennial; the Venice Biennale; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; P.S.1, New York; and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. He has had solo exhibitions at among other venues Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2007); the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2006); and Kunsthalle Bern (2005). In addition his films have been shown at film festivals including Locarno, Oberhausen and Rotterdam.