Frieze New Writers Pick the Best Shows to See in Norway

From Shikh Sabbir Alam's wild flora and fauna to Camille Norment's sonic feedback loops

BY Feliks Isaksen, Abirami Logendran, Neslihan Ramzi AND Carol Stampone in Critic's Guides , EU Reviews | 23 JUN 23

The first part of our Nordic Critic’s Guide has been written by four of the eight participants who took part in this year's Frieze New Writers programme in Bergen, Norway – a free-to-attend intensive three-day course for aspiring art writers in the Nordic region led by Frieze’s editorial team. This initiative is part of Frieze’s wider commitment to amplifying diverse voices within the art world and was produced in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall. 

Shikh Sabbir Alam


2 June – 1 July

Shikh Sabbir Alam image
Shikh Sabbir Alam, Jungle Map, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 1.2 × 3.7 m. Courtesy: the artist and STANDARD (OSLO), Oslo; photo: Vegard Kleven 

Wild animals roam the walls at Standard (Oslo) this summer – or, at least, Shikh Sabbir Alam’s visions of them, as filtered through memory and dream. In his solo show, ‘Sundarban’, the artist depicts mysterious encounters between the human and the wild in light, soft-spoken canvases that render flora and fauna in simple, glyph-like forms which resist concrete definition. In his mind map-like paintings, Alam hints that things may be other than they seem: the mangroves in the Bay of Bengal are more than merely untamed nature. Labouring at the threshold between the fantastical and the naïve, Alam’s airy acrylics present this wilderness as a magical place, ephemeral and ineffable. In works such as A Bunch of Thoughts Overlapping or Jadughor (Magic House) I – III (all works 2022), human, plant and animal co-exist without obvious interaction as floating motes of thought or memory. All of nature is haunted by the promise of an uncertain future but, rather than highlight humans as instrumental in its destruction, Alam reveals our interconnectedness. There is neither grief nor fear of loss in these works. –Feliks Isaksen

‘New Visions: The Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media’

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway

14 April – 17 September

Emilija Skarnulyte Rakhne
Emilja Škarnulytė, RAKHNE, 2023, film still. Courtesy: the artist 

Reflecting artists’ increasing interest in the ways visualization technologies shape and structure power, many of the most striking works in the second edition of ‘New Visions: The Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media’ offer critical perspectives on a range of topics – including data storage, digital networks and Big Tech – that are difficult to explore using traditional photographic techniques.

For instance, Emilija Škarnulytė’s immersive video installation RAKHNE (2023) – which uses CGI to imagine an enormous, deep-sea, data-storage unit – reflects how corporations conceal working practices with little regard to the environment. Elsewhere, Istvan Virag’s Pixel Pitch vol.4 (2023), a rapid montage on an LED display, shifts between hand gestures and numerical graphs to equate information with power, while Haig Aivazian’s video installation All of Your Stars are but Dust on My Shoes (2021) casts light on how our visual range is now dependent on the electricity grid.

By critically examining political urgencies caused by globalization, material extraction, war and surveillance, we are reminded of the networked nature of contemporary society and of how deeply technology is embedded in social constructs. Drawing on a range of media, the works in ‘New Visions’ shine a light on the obscure technological infrastructure that undergirds our world. –Abirami Logendran

Jelsen Lee Innocent and Robin Mientjes

House of Foundation, Moss, Norway

22 April – 22 July

Installation image Jelsen Lee Innocent Robin Mientjes
Jelsen Lee Innocent and Robin Mientjes, '(be)longing', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: House of Foundation, Moss 

Artists Jelsen Lee Innocent and Robin Mientjes take part in the third edition of ‘(be)longing’, Jessica Williams’s collaborative, six-part exhibition series running the course of a year. The goal of this ‘experiment’, as Williams describes on her website, is to encourage ‘openness and radical empathy as tools for understanding’ and to challenge the audience to see the line separating a social construct from the authentic self.

Mientjes’s The things I’m afraid to ask for (2023) is a triptych of large-format photographs installed in the entrance to the exhibition space. Hung from the ceiling, the images depict a woman in various poses: her back turned away in one frame, her arms reaching out in another. Her red curls offset the brilliant blue of her dress and the picture frame.

The vibrant colours of Mientjes’s work contrast starkly with Innocent’s towering black and grey sculptures in the main space. Å falle mellom to stoler (Falling Between Two Chairs, 2023) takes its title from a Norwegian idiom that describes the feeling of not fitting in anywhere; forms resembling chairs and ladders, lay scattered, awkwardly, around the room. Intrinsic to the installation, however, is an accompanying publication featuring essays and interviews that centre African Norwegian voices, contemplating new critical discourses on race and identity in the Scandinavian context. –Neslihan Ramzi

Camille Norment

Bergen Kunsthall, Norway

25 May – 13 August

Camille Norment Gyre
Camille Norment, 'Gyre', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Bergen Kunsthall

An homage to listening and an invitation to rethinking how sound and vibration impact interpersonal relationships, Camille Norment’s exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall, ‘Gyre’, comprises large-scale sculptural pieces installed throughout the institution’s four main galleries that invite visitors to become both listeners to and composers of her work. Untitled (Bellhorn) (2022), for instance, consists of a brass ‘ear’ that rises up towards a teardrop speaker to create a sonic feedback loop with microphones that pick up the sound of incoming visitors. This chaotic excess of noise introduces the audience to what the exhibition literature refers to as ‘cultural psychoacoustics’ – a method that uses music and sound to investigate cultural phenomena, which the artist explores further in other rooms.

In the second gallery, I took a moment of pause to ‘listen’ through my whole body and sat on one of three wooden benches emanating sound (Take a slow deep breath ..., 2023). Although the strange sensation of vibrations travelling up through my core was amusing, it slowly awakened memories of the uneasy silence of the churches of my childhood. The joy and terror of ‘Gyre’ rests in how it made me feel: small, yet infinite. –Carol Stampone

Main image: Camille Norment, Untitled (Bellhorn), 2022, brass, sine waves, autonomous feedback system, archival radio static recordings, dimensions variable. Courtesy: Dia Art Foundation, New York and Bergen Kunsthall; photo: Thor Brødreskift

Feliks Isaksen is an architect and writer based in Oslo, Norway

Abirami Logendran is a writer and graphic designer based in Oslo, Norway

Neslihan Ramzi is a writer and illustrator based in Oslo, Norway

Carol Stampone is a Brazilian writer, philosopher and artist based in Bergen, Norway.