REVIEWED: Morten Andenæs: enclosed circuit

By Renata Domitran  

A solo exhibition of Oslo based artist Morten Andenæs (1979), enclosed circuit features 35 photographs of different sizes. Upon entering the gallery space, the viewer is confronted with portraits of individuals or images of single objects that at first appear to have no obvious connection between them. Accompanying the exhibition is Andenæs's pamphlet of written contemplations about the works - an almost exhausting read of short texts designed to complement the show. In these, Andenæs often refers to the writings of Roland Barthes as he investigates the significance of the image; accentuating its value and importance. Once the viewer has absorbed the accompanying texts, Andenæs’s photography takes on a different light. The challenge that arises for the viewer is therefore to establish what to make of the photographs themselves given that they both show an uncanny familiarity whilst also triggering discomfort and unease. 

Morten Andenæs
Aurora; in anticipation of pain, on a scale from 1 to 10. National Institute of Occupational Health, 2013. courtesy of Galleri Riis

The largest photo in the exhibition, Aurora; in anticipation of pain, on a scale from 1 to 10. National Institute of Occupational Health (2013) is a portrait of a young woman sitting on a chair in what appears to be a medical facility. Whilst she is connected to various measuring devices attached to both her head and arms, her gaze points directly at the camera. She seems calm but the viewer is led to believe that this is an experiment to measure pain tolerance - something only known to one through reading the work's title. In this manner, Andenæs is presenting an image of pain via an expressionless face. He is questioning the very notion of conventional representation. How can we really judge the accurateness of a particular visual representation of pain when the face of pain before us shows no emotion? The invisibility of the feeling of pain that this photo of a woman represents is what Andenæs points to. He highlights only the existence of what it is - the woman, the measuring device and the title of the work.

Morten Andenæs, picture this. figure study #28 from the series FUCK, 2013. courtesy of Galleri Riis.

Picture this from the series FUCK (2013), is part of Andenæs's larger series of gun photographs. There are 7 photos on exhibit, each depicting a black gun against a chroma-green background - with the gun aimed in different directions in each photo. The images produce an unsettling feeling of silent violence, which completely lacks reason or a back-story. A gun in itself is an iconic representation of aggression and violence, but by showing it repeatedly in 7 different angles against this green background, Andenæs creates an element of confusion that forces the viewer to observe the guns almost stylistically. Seeing these pointing guns therefore creates discomfort; their depiction here challenges old personal preconceptions about guns and forces one to simply accept their existence without being able to clearly define these objects.

Morten Andenæs, nina (construal) #2, 2013. courtesy of Galleri Riis

Nina (2013), is a series of portraits - some featuring a woman and others a baby. There are no visible connections between the two, except the shared title. The woman poses in different positions without revealing an underlying meaning. The baby, surrounded by its natural beauty and vulnerability, appears only to allude to its own existence.  Given that Nina is a woman’s name, the only fact the viewer can be sure of about this series is that the subjects are female. Any further interpretation is purely a matter of personal assumption or symbolisms these images may trigger. Andenæs captures the subjects’ pure existence and in doing so, he subtly points to the irrelevancy of a person’s name - in this case Nina.

Morten Andenæs, nina (infant), 2013. courtesy of Galleri Riis

Enclosed circuit therefore challenges the viewer’s ability to let go of initial preconceptions and the need to be provided with answers. There are no visible clue-providing motifs or clear traces of story line to relate to when confronted with Andenæs's photographs. His images are simply fragments of reality that force the viewer to accept their very existence regardless of what they may personally represent to oneself. Morten Andenæs holds back on the narrative nature of photography and discloses only selected partial realities. Through its presentation of familiar images and lack of obvious narratives, enclosed circuit serves as an open space for personal interpretation and analysis. As a result, Andenæs’s own approach to the significance of an image and the power of photography adds to Roland Barthes's power of image.

·     MORTEN ANDENÆS: ENCLOSED CIRCUIT, GALLERI RIIS, Oslo, Norway. March 15 – April 28, 2013