Ålands Andelsslakteri, Gölby, 1.6 - 16.8
Meet Art is an exhibition by the B7 Baltic Islands Network, where artists from seven islands in the baltic sea meets to make site specific art. This time around they have an exhibition in an old slaughterhouse in Gölby, Jomala on the Åland islands.
They have all definitely been inspired by the abandoned slaughterhouse, more or less successfully. The art works revolve around themes such as life and death, eating or not eating meat, and survival of different sorts.
Some of the art works are in themselves over-evident, such as Richard Kuusk’sPerpetual Matter where a tree grows next to a slaughtered human, wrapped in linen hanging from a slaughter hook. While others become overly evident through the texts related to the works. These are, for example, Lene Degett’s MEAT ART 100 XI 975, Mia Englund’s Has the steak got legs, Anna Holmström’s Ouch! and Berit Ångman Svedjemo’s Survivors.
Degett’s MEAT ART 100 XI 975, mundane objects bound together in rectangular packets, wrapped party in golden paper, and placed in a cupboard, speaks totally for it self. There is no need to explain this quite interesting installation, even, or especially with the lines “One mans trash another mans treasure” (sic!). As an older colleague commented on another exhibition recently; The texts make the artists seem insecure of the artwork, as if he or she was not sure if it is strong enough in itself.
The same goes for Ångman Svedjemo’s video Survivors. There is no need to explain that the video is about surviving. It becomes overly apparent already from the title. When it comes to Englund’s installation, where she has used some glass plates, a table and a label found in the slaughterhouse, I think she has aimed to combine the written word, handicraft and art. Something that is hard to do. Here again, it is overdone and her message over-evident. In this case the label with the short poem would have been stronger alone in its simplicity.
Also Holmström’s installation would have worked better without the text. Hearts of glass on top of piles with shards of glass. Obviously someone got hurt.
There is, however, a few who have managed to catch the atmosphere of the slaughterhouse, and who have not fell into the pit of self-explanation. Valev and Kalli Sein’s Every step has consequences is an indirectly interactive installation, a curtain with bells attached in the bottom end, that tinkle in pots as you walk by. This very subtle installation is harmonic, yet eerie, and gives the slaughterhouse a sacral feeling. Something that totally goes against the worn look, and the history of the place. It is also strongly related to their other contribution to the exhibition, For whom the bell tolls, also an interactive installation where an old metal milk jug chimes like a church bell when you pull the strings. My thoughts go to A. K. Dolven’s Untuned bell, though this artwork has nothing to do with that, and it is realised in a totally different way. The surroundings does make a huge difference. The chime of the milk jug responds to the small curtain-bells tinkle, creating a memorial for all the slaughtered animals.
The other work of art that stands out is Helle Kvamme’s Limb I, Day 3, ÅAS and Limb II, Day 3, ÅAS. Kvamme found old, small, metal plates with the slaughter house’s logo (ÅAS) on them, when she arrived there. She put them on human limbs, arms in this case, and documented it. The two enlarged photographs are shown behind a large pile of these metal plates. Here Kvamme has equated humans with animals, in a similar manner as Kuusk when he hangs a human from a slaughter hook, but much more subtle. There is no blood, the text is only a little annoying, and the arms hang there as the meat they are.
The artists of B7 seem to share a disgust for the killing that has taken place in the slaughterhouse. In Minna Öbergs stencil Eat less meat, it does again, become more than apparent. I wonder if this is something they shared before they entered the slaughterhouse, or if the atmosphere there created their discomfort. In the end, that might also be the reason for them over-pronouncing their thoughts on survival, living, and the issues with eating (too much) meat.
The exhibition was born out of a short stay, where the artists worked in the slaughterhouse together. Sometimes such a tight collaboration, and closeness to the issues you want to raise, make you blind and insecure, afraid of misinterpretation. In my opinion it is better to leave room for interpretation than spelling out the questions you want to ask or issues you want to attend.
Unfortunately I do not have any pictures from this exhibition.