r e v i e w s

Bergen Assembly

by Guillaume Lasserre

4th Bergen Assembly: Yasmin and the Seven Faces of the Heptahedron 
Curators: Saâdane Afif/ Yasmine d’O.
8th Sseptemberre toau 6th Nnovember

Every three years, the city of Bergen in Norway celebrates contemporary art at the Bergen Assembly. Each edition takes on a different format depending on who is invited to be the artistic director. The fourth edition was entrusted to the French artist Saâdane Afif for whom the exhibition is a ground for experimentation and evolving work. He has delegated the curatorship to the Berlin artist Yasmine d’O. who, in her quest for a strange seven-sided geometric shape, meets seven characters whom she tries to persuade to reveal the secret of the curious volume. The triennial is structured around these seven characters from “The Heptahedron”. Seven characters which form the seven exhibitions of the event, scattered around the city, the seven sides of the fourth opus of Bergen Assembly. 

aLifveForms, Transformella malor ikeae [], fed and cared for by JP Raether. Performative research trip, September 9, 2022 for An Acrobats. © Bergen Assembly 2022 convened by Saâdane Afif and curated by Yasmine d ́O. Photo: Sasha Azanova

The seven protagonists “look like a game – a tarot deck – and that’s handy because my curatorial work requires a certain level of divination,” says Yasmine d’O. “After meeting them one by one over the years, I have brought these seven characters together in Bergen in the form of seven exhibitions. Twenty-one artists have agreed to lend us their works to bring them to life,” she adds, thanking them warmly. The public is therefore invited to continue its quest for the Heptahedron, a pretext for wandering around Bergen to discover the various exhibitions. 

In order of appearance, the “Professor” is the first character Yasmine d’O meets. Naturally, we find him in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Music and Design at the University of Bergen (UiB), where he takes on the features of the famous German painter of the inter-war period, Georg Grosz, via a reproduction of his “Self-Portrait as Warner” (1927). Dressed in a blue smock, he raises his index finger to the sky, a sign of an uncertain future. Lars Korff Lofthus’ class of self-portraits is matched by a strange black box that looks like an American diner with a hint of a roadside restaurant, a unique setting for seasons 1 and 2 of Gruppo Petrolio, which are broadcast on screens on the wall between the tables. Transmission, reinterpretation and improvisation are at the heart of the approach of this “shifting and unstable collective”, all subversive strategies to counter the onslaught of neoliberalism.  

The Bonimenteur (smooth talker), that master of illusions, uses language as a tool. Whether he is a magician or a politician, he is the figure through which fiction becomes reality. Is art, in its close relationship to reality, not itself an illusion? The exhibition includes an immersive sculpture, ‘Bonfire‘ (2022), a work by GRAU that looks at how design can change behaviour and perceptions.

Premiere of the composition NOTHING MORE for voices and organ, by Augustin Maurs with Volve Vokal, at Domkirken Bergen, September 9, 2022. As part of Augustin Maurs’s exhibition for The Coalman, 2022 at Gyldenpris Kunsthall, Bergen
Courtesy the artist, Volve Vokal choir. © Bergen Assembly 2022 convened by Saâdane Afif and curated by Yasmine d’O. Photo: Nicolas Rösener

The Moped Rider follows the thread of his blue-sky thinking, weaving connections between his chance encounters, connections that give meaning to the stories he reports. The exhibition at the Bryggens Museum brings together installations by Shirin Sabahi, Denicolai & Provoost and Katia Kameli, whose ‘stream of stories’ takes the visitor on an odyssey to India, Iran and Morocco, in search of the extra-European origins of La Fontaine’s Fables, a wandering that perfectly illustrates the moped rider’s thinking. 

Although the Fortune Teller helps to organise reality when in doubt, and the Tourist travels the world in pursuit of memories, memories that prove our existence, our otherness, our singularity, for the Coalman – who takes on a whole new dimension with the approaching energy crisis – the time has come to pay tribute to all the organisms that decomposed millions of years ago to form fossil fuels. To give a little grandeur to these obsequies, he uses the works of Claude Debussy and Augustin Maurs, whose sublime ‘Nothing More’, a work for voice and organ developed in collaboration with the Volve Vokal choir, explores the potential of the voice as a source of both sonic and political resilience. The world premiere at the Domkirkenwas definitely one of the most beautiful creations of the Triennial. An Acrobats, ‘who are two but together as one’ as Thomas Clerc is keen to point out, no doubt because they invite us to envisage the overthrow of the established order by appealing to our inner multiplicity, are wonderfully embodied in the performative works of Transformella malor, an anarchic androgynous creature that seems to emerge straight from space. His joyful invitation to a performed journey in the heart of a gigantic yellow and blue warehouse, a new space of normativity, is a foray into “repro-revolutionary” territory. With a good dose of often grating humour, the queer artist aims to denounce in his very temple the values of “Ikeality” which, far from being inclusive, conform on the contrary to the outdated model of the traditional family. All the products of the globalized company are designed to accommodate the nuclear family model, excluding any other constructs that do not conform to this schema. At a time when notions of body and gender are diverging, Transformella malor brings the neoliberal-conservative mechanisms of reproduction, control and consumption directly into the lair of the beast.

Installation view from Denicolai & Provoost’s exhibition Eyeliner (Bergen) for The Moped Rider, 2022 at
Bryggens Museum. Courtesy the artists. © Bergen Assembly 2022 convened by Saâdane Afif and curated by Yasmine d ́O. Photo: Thor Brødreskift

With a deep sense of narrative and a wealth of humour, Sadaâne Afif invites us on an artistic treasure hunt in an event on a human scale where the distinction between genres is erased, where the pleasure of exhibiting, showing, narrating and playing is exalted, and demonstrates that this is not irreconcilable with the development of critical and political thought. Rarely in this type of event has art been so entertaining and free, so coherent and intelligent. 

1 L’artiste interroge la notion d’auteur en invitant des artistes d’horizons divers à élaborer des scénarios, chansons et autres manières de formuler un récit.

2   https://2022.bergenassembly.no/en/yasmine Consulté le 11 septembre 2022.

3 Pièce de théâtre commandée en 2016 par Saâdane Afif à l’auteur Thomas Clerc.

4 Chacun fait l’objet d’un numéro spécifique de la revue Side Magazine, plate-forme éditoriale conçue comme un outil de prospection poétique accompagnant la conception de chacune des sept propositions, à commencer par le Professeur, suivi du bonimenteur, du motard, de la diseuse de bonne aventure, de l’acrobates, du charbonnier et de la touriste. Un huitième numéro, publié après l’inauguration, constituera avec les sept précédents le catalogue de Bergen Assembly 2022.

5 Fondé en avril 2020, en pleine première vague de covid et dont l’artiste Lili Reynaud-Dewar assure la continuité de l’activité.

6 Ensemble de musique chorale pour voix féminines basé à Bergen. Ainsi que Thea Meidell Sjule, Roar Sletteland et Sigurd Øgaard

7 La cathédrale de Bergen.

8 Reproduit dans « An acrobats », Yasmine and the seven faces of Heptahedron, Bergen Assembly 2022, https://2022.bergenassembly.no/en/characters/an-acrobats Consulté le 18 septembre 2022.

9 L’un des trois avatars (Selfsisters) de l’artiste allemand Johannes Paul Raether, formant la communauté mondiale des sorcières, qui répondent avec de nouveaux concepts de reproduction et de famille à une époque où la technologie, les notions sur le corps et le genre divergent.

Head Image : GRAU, Bonfire, 2022. Glass and aluminium, Dimensions variable. Exhibition view from The Bonimenteur, 2022 at Bergen Kunsthall © Bergen Assembly 2022 convened by Saâdane Afif and curated by Yasmine d ́O. Photo: Thor Brødreskift