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Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum presents

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The exhibition Gjenfortryllet (= re-enchantment in English) is based on the period of time when the museum was established (1893) and when Art Nouveau with its organic forms and references to nature was the modern style. In the exhibition, the concept of re-enchantment is used to create a dialogue between historical works from the collection and contemporary works of art.

The museum building in Munkegata is still closed for the audience, but we are very happy to again welcome you to a exhibition with works from the collection at TKM Gråmølna. 

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Opening hours and ticket information:

Gjenfortryllet

The exhibition title Reenchanted is inspired by the work of the feminist and activist Silvia Federici and her book Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (2018). Federici describes a reenchantment of the world as a process of creating connections to that from which capitalism has separated us: our relationships to nature, to each other, and to our bodies. 

 ‘Reenchantment’ as a concept points to texts by the German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920). He used the concept ‘disenchantment’ to describe something that had been lost in modern Western society. In The Vocation Lectures (1919), he describes how a scientific view of reality was valued more than a religious and magical understanding of humanity’s place in the world. Religious faith and traditions that had previously ensured a type of historical continuity were abandoned in favour of rational goals and economic growth as represented by capitalism and science. This situation of rational and forward-oriented development is often referred to as modernity. The disenchanted modernity fostered new cultural and artistic expressions in pictorial art and literature that were categorised under the more general term ‘modernism’. Art forms such as abstract painting and sculpture were then seen as cutting-edge cultural expressions.

The paired concepts ‘disenchantment / reenchantment’ relate to certain currents from around 1900 and in our own times, and these time-oriented axes are starting points for the exhibition. Here in Gråmølna’s small pavilion, we lack the ability to present extensive chronologies or the entire breadth of our collection. Our exhibition therefore shows a small selection of the stories the museum’s collection could tell. The art reflects currents in society at the same time as it can also influence those currents. In today’s art we once again see a wonderment over the ambiguous and the irrational: a kind of reenchantment of the world!

Magic, Witches and Fairy Tales

Magic is something we today associate with illusionist entertainment and children’s games, but we can also describe children’s play and certain experiences of nature and art as magical. In a world that emphasises rationality and efficiency, our relation to magic is ambiguous. We live in a society obsessed with measurement and quantification, but what about the things that cannot be counted or measured? The sociologist Arnaud Gaillard argues that with the concept of magic, we can describe something intangible about our own reality:

As human beings, the need to devise a rational explanation for everything in life is similar to the temptation to understand every trick of a magic show. Whereas, in both cases the true interest is more about the surprise caused by what is not controlled, that is the beauty of what remains mysterious.

 
The beauty in what we cannot explain, in what remains a mystery to us, is a theme we can find in many works in this exhibition, one example being Tom Kosmo’s Domestication, in which we encounter anthropomorphic presentations of animals in folded or draped human clothing. Another example is Bjørn Båsen’s Tchaikovsky Cabinet, which is a hybrid object: both a painting and a piece of furniture. Båsen himself calls it a ‘painting cabinet’ (maleriskap). Mystery is emphasised by the motif on the cabinet’s front. What is hiding in the dark depths under the waterlilies?

In the rift between the rational and the magical, the witch has become an important feminist symbol. The witch is antiauthoritarian and critical of society. She defies the boundaries of what society tolerates and has become a symbol for those who are marginalised and persecuted. In Ask Bjørlo’s Witch Compass (Heksekompass), witches fly in each their own direction and also symbolise the four elements earth (north), air (east), fire (south) and water (west). In the centre is a glittering moon, which Bjørlo sees as a fifth element representing the soul. The sculpture can bring to mind a weathercock or a church spire. This is the artist’s nod to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim and role the city played in witch trials in Norway (1500s–1600s).

The works in the exhibition Reenchanted are included precisely because they suggest something strange or uncanny, sensory, monstrous, lush and fantastic.
The starting points for Málfríður Aðalsteinsdóttir’s embroideries are geometric shapes in church cupolas in Rome. The works represent a view of architecture and a time period in which spatial forms and the use of numbers had religious and symbolic meaning. Kristine Fornes’s work Djevelen fra Oslo / The Devil from Oslo (2015) also enables the telling of stories hidden behind majestic church architecture.

People, Bodies and Nature

Wedding rings, relics and talismans are examples of jewellery used in rituals and religion. With the advent of modern jewellery in the 1970s and 1980s, new approaches also emerged. Brooches and necklaces were matters of more than adornment and status. They told stories reflecting deeper content on an individual level. Reinhold Ziegler (b. 1965), for example, links jewellery to talismans, arguing that they represent something more – something greater. For him, a talisman transcends the rational and the individual. It represents an antithesis to the work; it is something that leads the individual back to nature. Nature represents life, and for Ziegler, jewellery art is a means for working with life.

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The Value of Beauty

Almost half a century before Max Weber described the world as disenchanted (1917), the English designer and theorist William Morris argued that when faced with an ever-more industrialised society, people must cleave to the value of beauty. The handmade, beautiful and useful should define our homes: ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ The style movement called Art Nouveau also emphasised the handmade and the beautiful and was characterised by organic forms with clear references to nature.


In 1900, some years after Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum was established, the director Jens Thiis attended the World Exposition in Paris. There he purchased works of fine craft that represented ‘what we can as yet give no other name than the provisional ‘new style’. In the exhibition room, the works of contemporary craft engage in a dialogue with furniture, textiles and ceramics from 1880–1908. In the neighbouring room we present Frida Hansen’s transparent portières with white and pale pink peonies seen against a blue ground of open warp. Hansen was a pioneer in the development of Norwegian textile art and is considered one of Norway’s foremost representatives of Art Nouveau.

 
The First World War marked an end to the political and aesthetic ideals of Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement. New style currents emphasised rationality and productivity. Cubism, for example, marked distance from the 1890s through its geometrical forms and anti-naturalistic attitudes to art. Within architecture and design, Louis Sullivan’s (1856–1924) claim that ‘form follows function’ became one of the most important slogans of the 1900s, and the architect Le Courbusier (1887–1965) described a home as a machine in which to live.

Imagination and Dreams of the Future

The exhibition establishes a dialogue between contemporary craft and the time when Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum was established. But reenchantment is not primarily about looking backwards; it is about how we can imagine our future. What do we dream about in a time of climate change, war and rampant increases in the cost of living? How can art give us respite from such serious matters and at the same time tell us something important about who we want to be – both today and in the future?

Where to find TKM Gråmølna:

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