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Marianne Heske. Photo: Ann Mirjam Vaikla

“Why? I think it is the longing for an original, natural state of mind.” 0

An interview with Norwegian artist Marianne Heske

Interviewed by Ann Mirjam Vaikla

Photos: Ann Mirjam Vaikla

Marianne Heske - “tour - Retour”
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
October 29, 2014 - February 20, 2015 

Just a few days before the exhibition's opening, I was happy to interview the artist Marianne Heske – one of the key figures in Norwegian conceptual art – and to hear her thoughts on revitalizing an authentic object – an old log cabin – once again.

The project Gjerdeløa, considered to be one of the essential artworks in Norwegian art history, is about transporting and placing a 350-year-old cabin from Tafjord, Norway, into the context of the museum (it was done for the first time for the XI Biennale de Paris, and exhibited at the Pompidou Centre). Later on, the cabin was moved from Paris to Norway, to be exhibited at the Henie Onstad Art Centre. The exhibition tour – Retour marks the third leg of the project by moving the cabin again – from its initial location to the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo. This time the cabin is accompanied by a newly-produced artificial cast of the original, thereby creating a space in which a dialogue can take place between the two.

I feel that in 1980, when you transported the cabin to Paris, the core of the project, as much as it was about the object itself, also lay in the process of moving it. Where is the emphasis of the project now, when it is being revitalized at the Astrup Fearnly museum?

Your feeling is right. tour - Retour - the title says everything. I am moving, or “re-touring”, it again.

What does it mean for you to exhibit your project at the Astrup Fearnly museum in Oslo? Do You consider it a continuation after the showing at the Henie Onstad Art Centre, or is it something different?

It’s the same thing – there is no continuation, nor any difference. Also, I don’t focus on the specific audience. The artwork itself creates the reactions, and therefore, it creates different interpretations.

Do you consider the original cabin as more of an exterior or an interior? What is the dialogue between the two?

An exterior cannot exist without an interior, and vice versa – that’s the dialogue.

Concerning the casting of the original cabin, what are your thoughts on the 1:1 replica? Will it increase or decrease the value of the original?

One is an approximately 400-year-old building made from logs. The cast is made from a synthetic, light material. The contrast lies in the contrasting notions of earthy and artificial, dark and bright, heavy and light – this forms the dialogue between the two in terms of materiality. The cast will not change the value of the original (although this depends on what sort of value you have in mind) – rather, it acts as a mirror or point of reflection for the original. Also, as I mentioned before, the project Gjerdeløa is an open work, and therefore, it allows for very many different interpretations that depend on where you are coming from. It has been, for example, put into juxtaposition with the Kon-Tiki, and it has also been valued from an architectural viewpoint, in which the interest lies mainly in its construction. There are various, endless stories…

What kind of a story does the original barn tell us? How much does it tell us about the nature of Norwegians?

On one hand, the work is very Norwegian, as that kind of architecture (or let’s call it a shelter) was the only way for people and animals to survive in the mountains. In the mainland they had different challenges. The West Coast is much more remote; it used to take days to get from one village to another.

What has been the most surprising discovery about Gjerdeløa as a space?

I am really surprised that so many young people are interested in it. I mean, these people were not even born in 1980, but they are so concerned! And from everywhere – from New York, Berlin – young people from the cities. Why? I think it's because of its authenticity, its groundedness. It somehow brings you back to your roots. You feel safe and calm. People like to go inside. It’s like longing for an original state of mind. It attracts people because it is a real object, not a representation of one, and therefore, it allows for a kind of mental space to exist between the two cabins.