For her first solo show in the UK, Norwegian artist Ane Hjort Guttu presents two film works, each one set within a different educational setting: a primary school and an art school.
Time Passes, from which the exhibition takes its name, is a new work, co-commissioned by the SLG with Bergen Kunsthall where Hjort Guttu is the 2015 Bergen International Festival artist. It continues her investigation into issues of power, freedom and the role of art and artists within political systems, through the story of a student who chooses to sit next to a beggar on the streets of Bergen as part of an art project. This action soon develops into an existential crisis for the student, who struggles to justify to herself how she can continue to make art in the face of the social inequality and injustice that she encounters each day outside the privileged and controlled environment of the art school. Eventually, the question of whether or not this action is ‘art’ becomes meaningless for her, and the ‘project’ is absorbed into her everyday life.
Time Passes takes up a challenging position amidst the current debate on the prohibition of begging in Norway. It also gathers together a number of themes to which Hjort Guttu constantly returns in her works: the use of and access to public space; the scope of action for art and artists in the face of a politically sensitive situation; how we can or should position ourselves in relation to poverty and inequality; and whether effective political action is best achieved outside of the frame of art.
Like Time Passes, the second film in the exhibition, Freedom Requires Free People, 2011, assumes a documentary format but is quite obviously scripted, staged and performed. In this way both works embody from the outset a tension between art practice and creativity on one hand, and ‘real life’ on the other. In Freedom Requires Free People, however, Hjort Guttu looks at issues of freedom and ownership of public space from a very different perspective, being that of a primary school child who considers primary school to be a form of imprisonment and an infringement of his liberty.
Ane Hjort Guttu is the 2015 Bergen International Festival artist, her major solo exhibition eating or opening a window or just walking dully along, is open at Bergen Kunsthall until 16 Aug 2015, curated by Martin Clark and Steinar Sekkingstad. Accompanying the exhibition in Norway is a new book co-published by Bergen Kunsthall and Sternberg Press.
Time Passes is commissioned by Bergen Kunsthall with the South London Gallery.
The exhibition at the SLG is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London.