Sunday, April 17, 2011

Magasin 3

Part III of my "Rediscover Stockholm Spring 2011" campaign targets at Magasin 3, Stockholm's reputedly best contemporary art gallery. I always wanted to visit this place, but every time I had an opportunity, Magasin 3 was closed (like this) or I caught cold due to cold winter. Finally I manage to arrive today.

I planned to have lunch at a cafe nominated for Gulddraken 2011 award nearby which turns out to be closed over the weekend. Yes, it's Stockholm.

The entrance of Magasin 3 is perplexing at first glance:


It turns out both of these two doors are the lifts which take you to the first floor on which Magasin 3 gallery spaces are located. And the left lift is a big one, looking like the one for lifting stuff, not people. This is a nice prelude to the world of contemporary art.

The first thing I do is to have lunch. Cafes and restaurants in museums and galleries are not particularly impressive in this (self-claimed) capital city of Scandinavia. And so I avoid having coffee. But a baguette sandwich and a Sicilian lemonade imported from southwest England are both pretty good. Another pleasant surprise.

This weekend Magasin 3 hosts a contemporary dance performance. I imagined it would be performed in the middle of art gallery with art works in the background. No. It takes place in an empty gallery space, which is a bit disappointing. But the dance itself is of high quality. With no music in the background, two female dancers, one of them looking boyish, the other wearing a rather nerdy sweatshirt (even though she looks very beautiful), interact with each other by body movements as if they were one person and his/her own self, trying to identify with each other. After lots of trial and error for about 10 minutes, they finally get connected. I've never watched contemporary dance as seriously as I do today. But I like it.

The exhibition features the best pieces of work collected by Magasin 3 and its associated partners throughout Europe in the past decade or so. The way the curator puts these pieces together in the gallery space is sometimes nerve-disturbing, which is great as the role of a gallery is to add value to art works with the way they display. After being exposed to contemporary art during my five years of life in London, I think I have more discerning senses in contemporary art than the average person. And I can tell you many works are pretty good. My favorite is a video installation which shows the artist obstructing a queue of several lorries from moving forward at night for about 10 minutes (Person Obstructing A Line Of Containers, by Santiago Sierra). Lorry drivers, of course, get frustrated, honking a horn repeatedly and flashing the light, which becomes a kind of sound and visual art. A giant heap of black confetti (Sans titre (Le Terril), by St├ęphane Thidet) creates a sense of uneasiness, because it looks like a heap of coal, suggesting something heavy, but each piece of the heap is a very tiny piece of paper, unnerving your commonsense. Another video installation showing street demonstrators in Albania carrying mirrors instead of protest banners (The Landscape Is Changing, by Mircea Cantor) also distorts your commonsense as you start wondering what these demonstrators try to demonstrate. Do they protest against what the city looks like (which mirrors reflect) or do they actually support what the mirrors reflect?

But other works are more disturbing. One video installation (Barbed Hola, by Sigalit Landau) shows the artist herself, naked and standing on an Israeli beach, playing a hola-hoop with the barbed wired hoop... Another video installation (History of the Main Complain, by William Kentridge) is a black-and-white (and red) animation made of a series of hand-drawing cartoons, showing a person is beaten up or hit by a car. An animal-looking sculpture (Animal, by Peter Fischli & David Weiss) has an ass hole (literally) through which you can peak into this animal's stomach (which is completely empty), and this behavior itself starts making you feel uneasy (Why am I looking into an ass hole only to find nothing?).

You can see the images of all the works in the exhibition, including those mentioned above.

Overall, the exhibition is of great quality. But I got mentally tired when I got home. There is a tendency for contemporary art exhibition in Stockholm to get gloomy, perhaps because ordinary people in this country are more or less happy.

The building that houses Magasin 3

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