• James Benning, small roads, video 2011
    James Benning, small roads, video 2011
2 July 2022–2 October 2022

A Flora of the Moment

James Benning, Frank Ekeberg, Ragna Misvær Grønstad, Rosalind Nashashibi, Karl Axel Pehrson, Pia Sandström and Ulla West

A quote from the American filmmaker James Benning who once stated that the role of the artist is to “pay attention and report back” has inspired this year’s summer exhibition at Marabouparken konsthall. In Benning’s work, the act of seeing and the gaze are the foremost tools for establishing a relation between the motive and the artist/viewer. In other works, intuition and listening play important roles. The park, in which Marabouparken konsthall is situated, is another obvious starting point.

On one level, the exhibition can be seen as a question about whether empathy with our surrounding world, can be a tool for establishing a more sustainable relation to nature. On another level it wants to point to the changeable, temporary and unexpected as immanent poetic qualities in nature and in art – a capacity that allow us to see reality from new perspectives and open up for hope and possibilities for transformed structures.

The works included in the exhibition all build on nature studies and extended meetings with nature in different forms – plants, trees, the sound of birds, oceans. In James Benning’s film small roads (2011) the viewer is immediately reminded of the sudden moment of stillness and width one can experience when standing in the middle of nature after a road trip – today complicated by a feeling of nostalgia since neither the car nor the surrounding nature any longer can be said to symbolize the freedom it once did.

Ragna Misvær Grønstad, Saltvannsblomst #1–4 (2016-2017), foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
James Benning, small roads (2011), courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin, foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

Frank Ekeberg’s No Man’s Land (2019) takes its starting point in the boreal rainforest of Norway, creating a soundscape where sounds of birds and insects gradually disappear during the exhibition’s opening hours to an extent corresponding to the disappearance of the rainforest over the past 100 years. The recordings are done in forests symbolic of Norwegian identity and closeness to nature which today rather points to a contemporary reality of loss.

Frank Ekeberg, No Man’s Land, 2019, fältinspelning/field recording

Ragna Misvær Grønstad’s big woodcuts Saltvannsblomst (2016–17 lead us into the mythical place Sáivu, a lake with double bottoms, below which a parallel world is found. A water world which the artist has visited for conversations with some of history’s important thinkers and poets, and from where she has collected her saltwater flowers. Ragna Misvær Grønstad’s works are grounded in a Sami view of the world and in a wider understanding of nature, which also includes that which is not immediately visible.

Rosalind Nashashibi, Vivian's Garden (2017), courtesy of Rosalind Nashashibi and LUX, London, foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

In Rosalind Nashashibi’s film Vivian’s Garden we follow the two Swiss/Austrian artists Vivian Suter and her mother Elisabeth Wild in their everyday life in Panjachel, Guatemala. Through a dreamlike perspective we get to come close to their life in the rainforest where they live together. Vivian Suter’s artistry can be seen as a collaboration with nature, where chance, intuition and experience are important aspects. Rosalind Nashashibi’s film is a congenial and tender portrait of the two women and their relation to each other and the place.  

Karl-Axel Pehrson, Exotiska blommor och djur (1973), Exotiska blommor och djur (1973), Frukter (1982), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, donation 1990 från konstnären, foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

During the 1970s Karl Axel Pehrson left the nonfigurative painting that he made himself known for and indulged in painting landscapes, beetles and bugs. Even though the flora and fauna that Pehrson depicted turns toward the fantastical it is apparent that he intensely studied reality’s animal and plant kingdoms. Many of the plants resemble compositions of real plant parts that have been depicted with great realism and his new beetle species has emerged with pronounced biological insight. 

Pia Sandström’s work for A Flora of the Moment, is a newly produced big scale textile installation which takes its starting point from the plants growing in the park, as well as an ongoing text work. In the slow and reducing process of handwriting and drawing, the expressions of thoughts and images are concentrated into a work that’s situated somewhere between text and image. The root of a plant, its growth, budding, blossoming and withering are all parts of a process, which contains both the hidden growth under earth, the strong visual impact of the flower in full bloom and the way it touches us. The work talks about a reciprocity in the relation between the human and the nature, where also beauty is at the core. What will the rose tell us?

Ulla West, Marabouparken 2021 (2022), foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger

In the summer 2021, Ulla West set up a laboratory at Marabouparken, where she used the many plants in the park for dye experiments. In this exhibition, she returns to the material and presents two new works that build on the earlier processes – ever changing paths turn into a map over the project in the park. Dyeing on fabric and paper become traces of time passing, in which sun and oxygen are crucial for the blue colour of indigo and cyanotype prints. Cyanotype prints are imprints of the sun light, blue copies, an early photographic copying method. Something appears and disappears, the transition exposing slow development and change. 

The exhibition is curated by Helena Holmberg and Erik Sandberg.

Pia Sandström, Vad vill rosen? (2022), foto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Installationsfoto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
Installationsfoto: Jean-Baptiste Béranger