Four projects by Elsebet Rahlff
A short word documentary of four projects that took place between 1966 and 2000. From the book:
NEVER ? NOW ? PERFORMANCE ART ! sharing actions and ideas in Bergen at the Never or Now Festival 2011.
Edited by Agnes Nedregaard, Benedicte Clrmentsen and Karen Kipphoff. 2011 Never or Now & Revolver Publishing Berlin. ISBN 978-3-86895-186-8
1. GROUP 66 and Co – Ritus Bergen 1966.
2. CONCRETE ANALYSIS Bergen 1970.
3. COMMON LIFE / SAMLIV 1977-78 Bergen. Tromsø. Oslo. Trondheim.
4. WORLD FLAGS – work in progress - Global Transit (1990-2000).
G R O U P 66 a n d C O - R I T U S
GROUP 66 Bergen Art society/ Bergen Kunsthall 11.03 – 3.04.1966.
8 Evening Events. Total amount of visitors 14.000 . Record for Bergen Art
Society/Kunsthall. GROUP 66 Bok and lyrics published by own publisher.
1966. GROUP 66, a group of young Norwegian artists, educated in Bergen, Paris, Copenhagen and London, wanted to make a significant change in Bergen on their return and was granted exhibition space in the Bergen Art Society/Bergen Kunsthall as the first group of young artists ever. In Bergen nobody listened to youngsters under fifty, but Group 66 demanded to be heard, wanting to open up for the new art scene and to diminish the space between art and audience. I came to join GROUP 66 fulfilling my part of a deal, buying Danish porn magazines in the underground shops of Copenhagen, strictly forbidden all over Scandinavia at that time. Arriving in Bergen, I walked through the green zone at customs control with ” nothing to declare ” in my suitcase full of porn. Olav Herman Hansen´s artworks - collages with cuttings from these porn magazines - nearly made the police close the exhibition at the opening day but threats from media wanting to blow up the story made them change their mind. We were fifteen artists in GROUP 66 and four guest artists from Copenhagen - all working in various art disciplines like foto, film, painting, graphic art, textile, sculpture, and also being composers, musicians, writers, performers, poets and actors. This made the exhibition and the evening events consist of a great contribution of cross – overs. Of equal importance to the exhibitions were the EVENING EVENTS with different happenings, new music, jazz, lyrics, films and debates. LATERNA MAGICA were experiments with light, images, sound, dance, space. The definition of CO – RITUS : a visual rituell event, between artists and audience, developed in 1992 by the situationists Jørgen Nash ( Asger Jorn´s brother ) and Jens Jørgen Thorsen. It is a cooperation creating a piece of art, focusing more on the art experience during the production process ,than on the artwork itself, wanting to relate the art experience to the ritual.
CO-RITUS a situationist event staged by GROUP 66 :
A board of 4.5x2.5 m was built in the middle of the art space with the audience seated on chairs in a half circle at the front. The Performers were : the Danish situationist Jens Jørgen Thorsen and Olav Herman Hansen. Stefan Rink was the conductor and the rest of Group 66 and volunteers were the live orchestra playing their instruments while creeping on the floor. A tape recorder, with a prepared sound tape, kept the order of the rhythms and by pressing the button the conductor started ”the concert. ” Paint was thrown and danced on the board with brushes, hands and bodies following the rhythm of the music. The audience was yelling and shouting comments and 22 minutes later the painting was finished and sold on the spot for kr 400 to the chaiman of the board of the Bergen Art Society, who wanted to cover the inside of his summer house . The Performers got standing applause. The definition of A HAPPENING in the sixties was - an event or action with a fixed direction for the first part of the course, conditioned by being interrupted by the audience and taken in new and totally unexpected directions. GROUP 66 had several successful HAPPENINGS. GROUP 66 also had a ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE with invited guests, discussing new art spaces for experimental art, art galleries, Art Academi and an activity house for youth. The media response and debates were massive, continuing long after the exhibition was finished. The exhibition and EVENING EVENTS gathered a numerous and active audience ( 800 came on the opening ) In 1969 we established our own art space ` GALLERI 1´ in Bergen.
C O N C R E T E A N A L Y S I S
Bergen Art Society/Bergen Kunsthall 2.10 -18.10.1970.Opening hours 12am – 10pm. Free entrance. 9 Evening Events . Total number of visitors 11.374 - a record for Bergen Art Society in 16 days.
At the opening of the exhibition there were neither speeches, catalogue, pricelist or drinks. Nothing what an audience expected to find, but - to make the confusion complete - a surrealistic newspaper by the organizers, Laurie Grundt and Stefan Rink.
Concrete Analyses was an exhibition of 200 artworks, none for sale- and at the same time a surrealistic anarchistic frame for activities and debates. The walls of the art space were covered with black plastic sheets and spray boxes were available.
ART IS DEAD STOPP CHANGING ART CONSENTRATE ON THE WORLD
SUPPORT VIETNAM SEND YOUR SON THE ANALYSIS IS A KICK IN THIN AIR
These were the statements you met, sprayed in Norwegian on the black plastic , sheets, entering into the art space making a hollow sound as your feet walked on the heavy metal plates covering the `MOTORHIGHWAY - technical and psychological communication ´ leading you under a bridge covered with textile rags in many colours and directly towards a spinning wheel of shifts workers , their heads hitting the floor with clashes. Turning left you entered a space called `CIRCUS – politics and authorities ´and next `THE LITTLE DRUGSTORE – schools, radical literature and bottled doctrines ´. Turning right from the highway you came into the `SURREALISTIC MARKED- architecture, religion, music and textiles ´, with constructions of materials from demolished wooden houses in Bergen. Here we had a sitting group, speakers platform, oilcan drums ect. During daytime people came and stayed for many hours, reading, talking, music - jamming. The evening events with happenings, performances, experimental films, concerts, poetry, debates ect. gathered a big active audience. The concrete textiles, the social satire hats and suits, we had made from recycled material, were tried on and worn in the exhibition by the audience. This triggered spontaneous events, dancing and jamming on all the available instruments. A dada scope concert ”Hommage a Bergen ”, for solo instrument light Japanese Suzuki motorbike, a chamber ensemble and a dancing choir of 10 persons wearing white Nixon masks, was performed. Debates with invited politicians, and other VIPs on, how to make Bergen a better place to live - demanding an Art Academi an experimental theatre space, a youth house ect. took place in the exhibition. The media followed closely with a lot of response and debate - even a long time after Concrete Analysis was closed. The amount of visitors represented again a record for the Bergen Art society, whose board was very close to being overthrown by their angry members.
PARTICIPANTS: Laurie Grundt, Stefan Rink ,( concept and organizers ,) Olav Herman Hansen, Anne Hedegaard, Elsebet Rahlff, Oddvar Thorsheim, Niels Bolstad all from Group 66. Kim Schwartz and Bodil Lundsteen art students. Kjell Skyllstad, Ole John, Timo Linnasaco, Kari Rydman, Jacqueline Buch & Co. Sixten Haage, Marius Heyerdal, Terkel Hedegaard ect. invited participants from Scandinavia.
C O M M O N L I F E / S A M L I V 1977 – 1978.
BERGEN ART SOCIETY 28.01- 16.02.1977. 17.008 visitors.18 Evening Events. TROMSØ ART SOCIETY 3.11 – 13.11. 1977. 6.000 visitors. 8 Evening Events. OSLO. KUNSTNERNES HUS 1.04 – 23.04.1978. 75.000 visitors.10 Evening Events. TRONDHEIM ART SOCIETY 12.10- 5.11.1978.14.000 visitors.18 Evening Events. Total amount of visitors 112.000. ( public record for all the exhibition places. )
COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV received financial support by The Norwegian Council of Culture. The Ministry for Social Affairs Health Dept., The Ministry for Church and Education.the different counties and municipalities and private sponsors. The Norwegian Council of Culture also granted artists` fees for all the exhibited works in COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV as the first exhibition to receive this apart from the official national and regional exhibitions.1974 New Years Eve.- the idea and concept of COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV was discussed between Olav, Elsebet, Laurie(GROUP 66) and Inger Grundt, a researcher in Biochemistry at Haukeland University Hospital.The question being - could information about contraceptives, abortion and venereal deceases be danced or painted ? Would this information reach out,? Could we make an informative art exhibition ?- ART TO THE PEOPLE - we wanted to penetrate the wall of taboos both the psychological and physical barriers. Medical students had worked for some time with family planning and wanted foothold in the schools. However, they were not welcomed, and this attitude and denial had fatal consequences. The exhibition concept was met with great interest by different artists, art- and medical students. Five groups were established that worked for two years on informative artworks such as medical information, visualized through paintings, graphic art, textiles and sculptures. The five groups were :1. Condom and Diaphragm 2. The Pill and The Coil 3. Abortion 4.Sterilization 5. Venereal Diseases. We had to acquire knowledge about our bodies and were educated by medical students and doctors all the way. Our work was presented and discussed every now and then. The most vulnerable works, showing venereal diseases, were exhibited inside a textile house -`a happy home ´ allowing the visitors to have a good look without being watched themselves The informative artworks in textiles proved to be very useful in a communicative way. Information folders were prepared by the groups. A COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV newspaper with articles and interviews was edited by the author Merete Wiger. A library of relevant international literature was collected. The evening events featuring among others sexologist Berthold Grunfeld, psychologist Tore Langfeldt, a theatre group of school kids performing their piece ´Why did you teach us so little ? Visual artists, including GROUP 66, joined to broaden the theme on common life with relevant artworks. Historical art works from Edvard Munch and Christian Krogh were borrowed from the National Art Galleri. Our children drawings on the theme were shown at the right height of eye. In that way, the theme of COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV was elaborated by theatre, dance, music, talks, films, debates, artworks and this made it even more cross- disciplinary and innovative. School classes made appointments and were taught about sexual life and their own body by medical students in the exhibition. The media coverage and debates were enormous. The leader of the school board banned the exhibition, and the Norwegian Television NRK made their own TV production, working for three days. COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV -- WAS A CONSECUTIVE EVENT FROM MIDDAY TO MIDNIGHT -with opening hours from 12am. –19pm. free entrance. Evening Events from 19pm. – 23pm. entrance kr.3 The Evening Events gathered a big engaged audience and the debates on very intimate themes were quite amazing and surprisingly courageous. The visitors debate book and opinion wall paper was also responded to. Leaving the exhibition you passed big baskets with free condoms
After having worked four years with COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV and getting request from the rest of Scandinavia and not feeling able to deliver - it was a lot of work to keep touring the exhibition - we packed it and stored it away, feeling bad and that art definitely had its limits, and was in this case too exclusive. We wanted a permanent art space for COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV so that people could use it as long as needed. Some of the works, however, found its ways to doctors waiting rooms and the information folders came to use as well.
Inger Grundt and Elsebet Rahlff : concept, development, participants and organizers of COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV in Bergen 1975 – 1977. The project was accomplished with more than 50 contributors.
From 1977 – 1978 Elsebet Rahlff and Annbjørg Eide were the administration in Bergen, participants and co- organizers in collaboration with local contributors, installing the touring exhibition COMMON LIFE/SAMLIV in Tromsø, Oslo and Trondheim 1977 – 1978.
WORLD FLAGS -Work in progress – Global Transit
On the move from one place in the world to another, consisting of traditional national flags in a new concept – shown on installation of flagpoles in specially chosen locations, in a variety of contexts. WORLD FLAGS all have the same colour, the multi colour of gray, not found in any of the national flags from before. The national symbols and identities are opened, made transparent, by structures of large and small holes.
WORLD FLAGS are treated in the same way, with the same rules as for all the national flags. They follow the sun, are hoisted in the morning and lowered in the evening by a local team of assistants, supervised and supported by the art projects own coordinators. This happening/event takes about one and a half hour twice a day and creates an important contact with the public in their own language.
My flag concept FLAGS FOR OUR WORLD started in Bergen, 11 flags were made in this first series and show on the Festival Square in Bergen in 1990. In 1991 the flags were show on a circular installation of flagpoles at Aker Brygge Oslo in collaboration with `Verdens Teateret´. Next was the RIO- 92 Global Environment Conference in Brazil. We ended up by being invited by MAM Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, to collaborate with Brazilian dancers and incorporate the flags in their opening performance Ecomoes Terminals – Open Stage – Rio 92. 1994, 35 World Flags were shown on the 28 old iron flagpoles on Alexander Platz in Berlin under the protection of co-prod. Wolfgang Krause, Galleri o-zwei, Prenzlauerberg, Berlin. In 1995 I was invited to Copenhagen . We worked for one year producing more than 200 WORLD FLAGS – some of them shown during the process – at Århus Festuge 1996. In 2000 Bergen European Cultural City donated 100 steel flagpoles. 9,5 meters , on mobile fundaments to the project WORLD FLAGS - designed by 3rw Architects Bergen. WORLD FLAGS from the whole world, were shown at the Eu-Parliament Brussels 2000, Belgium, alternating on an installation of 70 flagpoles. Them came Reykjavik 2000 , showing WORLD FLAGS outside the Nordic House on Iceland and later at the Festival Square in Bergen, Bergen 2000 showed the flags on the 100 flagpoles.
About the artist
Elsebet Rahlff studied at the State Design School at Copenhagen to become a visual artist specializing in working with textiles. Since 1963 Rahlff participated in a series of exhibitions in Denmark, France and subsequently Norway, settling there in the mid 1960s. Rahlff played a major role in the presentation of new art forms, such as happenings and installation work. Her project” World Flags” was amongst other places presented on the Alexander Platz in Berlin and in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Bergen and Århus. Rahlff has also lectured and tutored students as an associated professor of Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen.