A question of select and delete?

After visiting the plastic bag gallery I can only wish the participant photographers picked the bags up and got rid of it afterward. Some are to the point but in most cases I would have hoped they did it already before making the image. In general I would call a plastic bag in a street a piece of rubbish to be dumped in a litter box. Does anybody agree? We can all start a discussion about this. Just that Duchamp redefined art a hundred years ago does not mean to follow him as sheep or copy him in a brainless way. How permanent should a ready made be to be ready to be a sculpture in urban surroundings, for instance. And what in the case of time based art or performance?

I would like to show a relatively permanent and temporary example of sculptures i encountered in Bergen which both fit the title according to my (yes, negotiable) rules. The blue fence which is the outside wall of a car park does not get this definition if it would have had another color than this blue though. The pile of snow is in front of Bergenhallen in Sletten. It is more permanent than one might think: this photo is made on a warm September day. Actually last summer young artist Sveinung R Unneland remade a similar piece of snow in public space for Tempo Skien 08. (go to site, click artist – unneland – top photo). It was the first (or only?) object to be destroyed by passersby.

Plastic bags

I have just recently (belatedly) discovered this on the website of The Photographers' Gallery, London - a whole series of images of plastic bags in all kinds of locations. Plastic bags are an interesting combination of instability and semi-permanence; they are flimsy, unstable, usually unsuited to their primary purpose, and yet made of a material that persists and accumulates. And we encounter them everywhere, they almost become a kind of architectural language.  Here are two from my own collection, seen in the streets of Bergen.


RUB (readymade urban banquet)

"tis the season to be merry, eating and drinking too much, falling over in the street, office party drunken antics as the real instability of urban Christmas. Here's a "RUB" (readymade urban banquet) as observed in the street today....


Post-literary urban research

A recent post on the blog "Ballardian" is recommended reading. The author was interested in determining the location of JG Ballard's concrete island, from the novel of the same name. Using descriptions from the novel as a guide, he makes a convincing argument for the location being an area of waste ground under the Westway intersection, between Latimer Road and White City in West London. The article also brings together maps old and new, archive images, news stories and historical accounts of the neighbourhood that was erased to make way for the Westway, the elevated motorway that cuts through the Notting Hill/ Ladbroke Grove area and that had a special significance during the punk era, especially in songs by The Clash. In 2000, dj & film director Don Letts made the documentary "Westway to The World", a retrospective appraisal of  The Clash.

Spatial tension and silent dialogue

Saturday morning, walking from home in Møhlenpris across the centre of town towards the railway station I noticed a whole series of lost/rejected articles in strange and somehow significant configurations. Here are two "found" installations that seem to activate the space they occupy and suggest a kind of dialogue between the objects.

semiotic arousel and lost sound


Piksel 2008

It's Piksel time again in Bergen - the annual festival for open-source software-based art and related activities. There were several openings on Thursday evening at various venues including USF and Lydgalleriet.  At the latter venue, the group Loud Objects gave a short performance that involved "live soldering" of circuits, oscillators and small loudspeakers placed on an overhead projector. I am fairly sure that this is the first time that I have witnessed "performative soldering"....  Afterwards at Landmark, The Icelandic Love Corporation presented a programme of short videos by artists from Iceland. A very mixed bag quality wise, but it was a nice event anyway.


After all In the beginning there was emotion.

It is December again, the days are cold and short but also dry, and I have been wandering the streets of Bergen today with my girl and youngest son collecting empty plastic bottles, our contribution to a better planet, which made us 23 NOK! While we were walking we were talking the baby sleeping and Hilde asked me: Look at those green overgrown stairs up to the house for elderly people and nobody seems to have taken the path for ages, would you call that an urban readymade, Ronnie? Uncertain I quickly answered: Definitely not! But are not all objects readymades the moment I classify them as such in all consious subjectivity? And that again made me think if these disposed street bottles with 1 NOK refund are maybe temporary readymades in the sense that they are especially thrown away for us to be found and noticed and cashed to consider them as ... or buy a...

Did it not all start for Marcel Duchamp with the fact that he fixed a wheel upside down on a chair in his atelier out of boredom? To give it a push once in a while to see and hear the optical illusions by looking through the turning spokes while he was stuck creating a painting? I do not think his first intention was to put it into an exhibition for the sake of it anyway but eventually more a punk statement after the discussion (confusion?) he provoked with his actual paintings at that time not being clearly futurist or cubist but instead a mixture of both. After all purism and fundamentalism are of all human sorts and seasons.

I am not sure if you know but at one of the readymade sites you can actually order by post little plastic signs with the following text: Urban Ready Made – Location – Artist – Date – the Bernini Foundation – website address. Idea is that you can hang it near the classified object and so take it of it's anonimity and loudly pronounce it is a piece of art. I have two of them at home and lying around waiting for my ego to choose sides.

It is December again for all of us and while walking through Sletten and Slettebakken, excuse me for my language but those names make Dutch people actually smile or some even laugh or upset (ha, first I wrote: blush!) any time of the year, I also begin again and can not escape to notice the expanding amount of decorations installed behind practically half of every home window. Repetitive endless Bethlehem stars and plastic candle stairs giving insufficient light to the cold slippery dark streets of the hottest town districts. I do not know about other passersby but they do not give me any extra warmth. I immediately picture in my head a special KIWI 1000 supermarket offer: Readymade Holy Coziness for only 49 NOK! Which means we are almost halfway in getting it ourselves soon, aren't we, my son.

And then look at the trees in their now half dead or sleepy front gardens... Not only the pine but any urban bush available is forced to participate by being cruelly electrified in chains of light. Suddenly those actually hardly ever looked upon sad bushes are uprated to real Manifests of seasonal Beauty. Could they be called, in the spirit of the bottles, December URM's ? Are they not temporary artworks and masterpieces? Or does this only occur when some person or me starts to collect them in an artistic series of photographs, giving it a sophisticated or unexplainable title and exhibiting it in a gallery for the selected few, preferably in an exotic other country? I guess the answer is 'no they are not either way' but how can I be sure. The first time I came upon the term urban readymades I liked it too, I do admit. It kind of suited the odd objects or circumstances I once in a while encounter in the streets. Those sometimes humorous city sculptures which seem to be left by time or neglect, stupidity and ignorance and make me stop for a while and (re) consider other things as important. My girl got me on an overgrown footpath and so I am more than willing to follow Jeremy's quest to search for another suitable term if a term is actually needed. So, what about VULFA? Very Urban Lost & Found Art! Or am I too unstable urban now?

I wanted to include an image I photographed of the timbered pinetree the landlord of the estate I live on so kindly forced into my view when I smoke my cigarette on the balcony while having a break from writing this contribution at the kitchen table of our still starless house but decided not to because i do not want to see a christmastree while i visit this site.


URM - urban readymades - again

I've looked through a lot of the images on the Urban Readymades site, and have thought about the notion of "Urban Readymades" quite a lot in recent days. Although there is something appealing about the notion, and it's a neat way of hijacking an art term to apply to things outside and beyond the art world, I'm not sure it really works, or that the things, events, situations portrayed in the images at the URM site can actually be thought of as readymades in a Duchampian sense. Duchamp did more than simply rename - he altered, subtly or not so subtly, the objects he chose and then deliberately recontextualised them. A photograph of a more or less random discovery or incident in an urban environment does not do the same thing. The artist or photographer is selecting, naming, giving attention to, indicating that something is of interest, is an object of curiosity, could be regarded as art; but the item is not being transplanted from its original location into the institutional framework of art in the same way as Duchamp's readymades. The act of "naming" urban readymades lies closer to Cage's  strategy of deflecting attention away from the performed musical act and towards the chance or random auditory event. The process of "discovering" and then documenting and representing situations encountered in the urban environment is also akin to the practice of the Situationist derivé, and the assembling of documentation into graphic representations with real or notional links to geographical point of origin is similar to the mapping activities of artists who base their practice on urban exploration or intervention.

So I am looking for another term to describe this activity. For my own part, I have for years consistently documented found, discarded, overlooked, disused, relocated, incongruous objects and situations in both urban and rural environments. And I know lots of others, artists and non artists alike do the same. The images somehow assemble themselves into archives of kinds, suggest narratives, behave like art or not, trigger moments of memory and recognition, appeal to a sense of the absurd or function as a subtle critique of the dominant values of a society. It could also be argued that they belong to a genre of photography with its own grammar, conventions, means of distribution, value systems. But an important characteristic from my viewpoint is that these images refer to things/events/situations that are not monumental, not spectacular, that are ephemeral, perhaps paradoxical and that can function as part of a discourse that is not dependent upon the imperatives of the art institution or the market.

I conclude therefore, that I don't want to use the term "Urban Readymades" despite its obvious appeal, but I do want to examine and engage with a photographic practice that is about "capturing", "exposing" and "framing" small incidents and overlooked objects in the urban environment. And further to this I see it as a perfect method for collaborative, non-heirarchical, open practices where individual images exist within a field of reference and signification that creates dialogue.