Pedro Gómez-Egaña, Olphaert den Otter, Thomson & Craighead, Anton Vrede

With impressive images, the artists evoked both a sense of immediate threat and measures of time beyond human comprehension. With the continuous presence of live performers, the inescapable question of humankind’s role formed the heart of this exhibition.

The centerpiece was the theatrical installation ‘Domain of Things‘ by Pedro Gómez-Egaña. On a steel structure, almost two metres above the ground, a twilight-lit living room without walls arose. Half-empty cups, an open laptop, and other details suggested someone’s recent presence. When the house’s wooden floorboards started to slide like tectonic plates, it became clear that people were present. Like a machine, tacitly and slowly, these live performers set the construction into motion. Their presence evokes reflections: Why did these people go underground? To seek shelter from the instability in the world above, or are they part of the very mechanism causing the instability?

For years, Olphaert den Otter has been producing a relentless stream of images showing catastrophes and natural disasters. These ‘World Stress Paintings’ depict hurricanes, floods, explosions, plane crashes, and destroyed homes. The images are based on news photos, but they differ in one crucial respect: there are no people, and with that, there is no reference to a specific drama. The more his torrent of images flows, the clearer it becomes that Den Otter is not concerned with exceptional incidents, but with a permanent condition of global chaos. The artist also presented a new large-scale in which ruined city landscapes, from classical antiquity to Homs in Syria, merge into a maelstrom of destruction.

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Against the ever-present sense of threat and insecurity, Anton Vrede mobilises an ongoing series of symbolic animal figures. In various legends, they are known as ‘tricksters’: archetypal figures who can endure the challenges and dangers of the world with cunning and guile. Across world history, the trickster emerges as a hero of the marginalised and oppressed. The animal figures also function as a symbolic code which allows people to share stories about fooling and undermining power in contexts where open resistance is impossible. For those who know the code, Vrede’s seemingly innocent drawings of the hare, the monkey and other animals form a subtle gesture of defiance. For years, every morning, Vrede sent a trickster drawing via social media into the world as a daily antidote to growing social tensions. At TENT he presented a wall of drawings.

Thomson & Craighead presened two works dealing with two profoundly different notions of time, the first beyond and the second characteristic for human comprehension. The installation ‘A Temporary Index’ is a huge clock that counts down in real time to the moment when sites of entombed nuclear waste accross the world become safe for humans. This may take millions of years, a time frame so unimaginable that we relinquish our responsibility. Thomson & Craighead make this inconceivable time span visible using self-designed numerical symbols; signs that may only be understood by future generations. They also presented a work based on the ultimate human vision of time: the Apocalypse. With blood curdling vivacity this biblical narrative predicts the end of times. Thomson & Craighead took the intense sensory descriptions of blood, bile and burnt meat as a recipy for a perfume, with a heavy metallic scent of cumin, aldehyde, and roses.

With thanks to Office for Contemporary Art Norway.