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PROFILE: LEIPZIG: OSLO: BASTARD GALLERY
KJETIL RØED

CURRENTLY there are several idealistic, non-commercial, artist-run galleries emerging in Oslo, but it is Bastard that – since its opening in 2005 – seems to articulate this position most clearly. The gallery’s name suggests a strategic blurring of the line, to quote the gallery’s distant relative, Allen Kaprow, ‘between art and life’. This indistinctness fits well with the artworks you are likely to encounter at a Bastard exhibition, which tend to be raw, open and relationally charged. Bastard also tends to favour hacking, appropriation and other low-cost procedures. ‘Culture Clash’, a recent exhibition of video art, demonstrated this principle clearly, consisting of just one commissioned work, with the rest downloaded from the internet. Several of the artists behind the pirated material, such as Paul McCarthy and Cindy Sherman, in the process of appropriation became bastardised themselves, dragged down from their pedestal and exhibited afresh.





The Bastard way of art-making is fundamentally connected with how and where it is shown. Its location, in the middle of nowhere, parodies the settings of great institutions, and the gallery itself is dirty and worn – there isn’t even a signpost outside to signal its presence. This apparent anonymity, however, has functions that reach beyond the space itself, blending it almost seamlessly with the external environment and giving the gallery a chameleon-like character, which fits remarkably well with its overall profile.





Last year the gallery was transformed into a pizzeria, though there was nothing to indicate it was a gallery that fed you pizza slices. Again, you had to know it was art. Before Anders Smebye and Marius Engh started Bastard, the place had, in fact, been a pizzeria. The show, executed by the artist group aiPotu (consisting of Anders Kjellesvik and Andreas Sique-land), made the very core of Bastard’s philosophy manifest: by placing pizza-making within the frame of art, the gallery took on an ironic attitude towards the art system and the conventional art object, demonstrating a low-key take on relational aesthetics that anchored it to its immediate surroundings. This was underlined by the fact that the art-pizzeria was entirely constructed of found objects or props already present in the building. Both in the environmental connections of its name and architecture, and the immaterial processing of art as concept, Bastard revitalises the practice of defining and presenting art and draws up a few coordinates that weren’t already in place.

KJETIL RØED IS AN OSLO-BASED ART AND LITERATURE CRITIC

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