From its own picturesque home, perched on a headland in a tony Oslo suburb, the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter has set out to take stock of contemporary photography. The museum opened a new triennial festival on Feb. 21 with the mission to showcase recent innovations in camera-based art practices. And among the 31 international artists selected for the inaugural edition rank two exciting homegrown talents.
The work of Calgary-born, Los Angeles-based artist Owen Kydd chisels at the categorical wall separating video from photograph. Sidling up to one of his screens, you could mistake his contributions to the triennial for simple snapshots. But what might initially appear like abstract photography, collage or Xerox art is complicated once you notice, for example, the small lawn sign in the corner of one work, flapping in the wind. Or, in another, the moving reflection of passing cars in the luxuriantly polished, deeply deconstructed auto body of a BMW.
He is interested, he says, “in the different ways cameras capture time”: frozen, slowed, elapsed. And how software allows us to reorganize these. Kydd calls the works “time collages.” His hybrids feel like an exceedingly contemporary form – the cousin of gifs, Boomerang videos and Live Photos. Meanwhile, triennial artworks by Vancouver-born Sara Cwynar consider the trade and saturation of images experienced everyday – both online and off. Red Film, a watershed work for the New York-based artist, makes a dazzling montage from scenes of dancers, flowers, consumer products and industrial manufacture, flexing the seductive powers of the ruby hue. Influenced by the film, the triptych photograph 96 Pictures of Sophie shows the eponymous Sophie, who models for a well-known Montreal-based online fashion retailer, recreating the three poses the website uses to display a garment. Over these are collaged dozens of the thousands of such photos of Sophie that exist online. It is an overwhelming mass of near identical images of one human being. And the reality, increasingly, of not just models, but anyone with a camera.
Cwynar’s art reveals a culture ever-more deeply, maddeningly in love with image. And for her outlook, Henie Onstad curator Susanne Ostby Saether calls Cwynar “one of the most interesting photographers of the millennial generation.”
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