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An Artist Chases the Ghost of Her Father

BERGEN, Norway —In 1975, when Lene Berg was 9 years outdated, the Norwegian artist’s father, Arnljot Berg, was arrested for the homicide of his second spouse, the actress Evelyne Zammit. He served a quick jail sentence and, shortly after his return to Norway, took his personal life. These occasions are the nucleus of Lene Berg’s movie set up Fra Far (From Father), which provides kind to the advanced relationship between a father and daughter, a filmmaker and artist, a convicted assassin and his household, a “creative genius” and his legacy, and Norway then and now. These layers slip and slide with fluidity via 5 completely different rooms, presenting viewers with completely different angles on who Arnljot may have been, full of each certainty and doubt. What turns into clear, after the truth, is that nothing appears particular.

The present begins with a seven-minute video, “The Day Rises” (2022), through which a diorama unfolds the refined particulars of the occasion itself, advised from Berg’s clouded recollection. The scene fills with vape smoke, mannequin streetlights activate and off, and the sounds of Arnljot’s loud night breathing, backed by sirens, echo throughout the house. The artist’s hand modifications the mannequin automobile. By way of speculative retelling — misremembering and questioning — Berg conjures a dreamlike scene of the crime, which bears witness to its personal creation. Oddly playful in fashion for the morbid story, it reveals the fallacious nature of reminiscence. From right here, the exhibition intimately charts the fallout since the cataclysmic occasion for the household Arnljot Berg left behind. 

Lene Berg, “The Day Rises” (2022), video, seven min. (courtesy Bergen Kunsthall)
Lene Berg,, “Film Ghosts,” in progress, Økern 2022 (photograph by Lene Berg)

A range of weavings of Arnjlot’s 35mm celluloid movies dangle from a excessive ceiling in “Film Ghosts 1-6” (2022), paying homage to his legacy as a filmmaker. In “Time Machine (Ghosts)” (2022), a sound collage of Norwegian radio broadcasts announce the location of fish, drawing consideration to Seventies Norway, earlier than oil and wealth, and when Arnljot was a outstanding filmmaker. There’s a sense of looking out, highlighted by a highlight that roves round the room. Arnljot Berg is directly hyper-present and absent as the focus of the exhibition. Viewers are denied any sight of Arnljot’s face, with the exception of “Fact and Fiction” (2022), silkscreen prints of grainy French and Norwegian newspaper photographs from the time of the arrest. Admittedly, the true crime aspect can supply a sensationalist pleasure, however this isn’t what carries the work. Berg withholds spectacle and embraces narrative as an alternative.

The query of guilt or innocence surrenders to the emotional weight of the topic, which lingers all through the exhibition, every room revealing one other side of upheaval for the artist and her siblings. In the video work “Father’s Days” (2022), we see letters between the imprisoned Arnljot and a younger Berg and her household on a TV monitor, learn aloud and surrounded by the drawings Berg’s brother (a toddler at the time) despatched to his imprisoned father. At its core the exhibition manifests the anguish of a household whose cherished one is convicted of a critical crime. Love and devotion for that individual develop into intertwined with hate, confusion, and disbelief. That is felt most acutely in “The Disappearance” (2022). Talking via an analogue cellphone, Berg addresses her father. Describing occasions when he would go lacking for days, she says, “Sometimes I miss you so much I can’t breathe,” adopted by, “If you hadn’t done it yourself, I would have killed you with my own hands.”

Along with providing a wealthy meditation on the subjectiveness of reminiscence and reality, Fra Far is, finally, a young posthumous portrait of Berg’s father on her personal phrases, full of actual and speculative recollections. The artist subverts the unidirectional gaze that usually haunts criminalized topics. As an alternative she presents a metanarrative whose heartbreak and complexity linger lengthy after.

Kyrre Hellum in Lene Berg, “Casting Arnljot” (2022), four-channel video, 10 min. (courtesy Bergen Kunsthall)
Lene Berg, “Prison Letters” (2022), video, 19 min. (courtesy Bergen Kunsthall)

Lene Berg: Fra Far continues at Bergen Kunsthall (Rasmus Meyers allé 5, Bergen, Norway) via August 21. The exhibition was curated by Axel Wieder.

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