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A thought on the Melgaard+Munch exhibition.

The End of It All Has Already Happened – Bjarne Melgaard + Edvard Munch

01.31-04.12 2015 @ The Munch Museum

One may think whatever one wants about Bjarne Melgaard, but Edvard Munch needed a black cock up his white ass and a shot of steroids to bring him back from the dead. As for “Scream” it really needed to choke on that plastic bag whilst giving the audience the finger.

Now, why would I say something like that? Let me explain.

Upon entering the exhibition the first thing you see is Munch’s old garden hose. A cheap trick? Maybe, but it poses the question that is important to understand the rest of the exhibition; what is art? In the next room, fittingly referred to as the appendix-room (the appendix being an organ of no use), the art is presented in a traditional way. The paintings are nicely hung next to each other with neat little plaques stating title and year etc. Here the artworks are simply aesthetic objects or relics and icons for our bemusement. It’s purpose is to make us feel like good, culturally interested people. If we follow the appendix reference however, we understand that this sort of museum practice serves no use and has no purpose or meaning beyond making us feel good about ourselves.

The next room is where the real exhibition starts. Here the topic is “sexuality, gender and normativity”. The room is a cacophony of color, extreme visuals and the sound from one of Melgaard’s films. There is no way to separate the two artists from each other and the funny thing is that not only does Melgaard’s works actualize and re-contextualize Munch’s works, but Munch’s works also makes Melgaard’s pieces better. Now, the clue to understand this is the question “what is art?”, remember the garden hose?, and the second clue is in the film of Melgaard talking with Leo Bersani; critical thinking. Critical thinking is something we need to practice throughout the exhibition, and throughout life actually. Critical thinking is what we need to practice in order to oppose dogmatism.

In the middle of the show Melgaard has been given a room of his own. Here he presents some new works and for me this is perhaps the weakest room of the exhibition. On the other hand it serves as a break from the heavy themes dominating the other parts. It’s a more relaxing atmosphere with music playing and one gets new energy to enter the last rooms of the show.

The next theme being presented is “disease, death and dystopia” and, while it is not as powerful as the first theme, it is here we find “scream” or rather we don’t, since it has been covered up by one of Melgaard’s works. Now, this is worth pondering over for a little while. The work covering “scream” is an image of a male upper body choking on a plastic bag. This is a form of autoerotic practice where the choking intensifies the orgasm when masturbating. Considering the famous icon of “scream”, the number of “scream-commodities” available in the gift shop and all the people coming to the museum with the sole purpose of seeing “scream” and nothing else, we might think of this painting as a fetish object. We can perhaps think of the act of seeing “scream” as a form of cultural masturbation. An autoerotic experience that is, despite the individual viewers satisfaction, choking and diminishing Munch’s importance as an artist and our experience as viewers of his works. So, maybe the erotic connotations of Melgaard’s orgasmic scream wasn’t that far out after all?!

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Both Munch and Melgaard are presenting us with things that we find unpleasant to watch and think about. However, just because we are used to looking the other way doesn’t mean that it’s not happening or that it’s not a part of reality. Also, I think it is quite possible that Munch would make art the same way that Melgaard is doing if he was living today. And he might very well also have been gay. Finally, I will once again stress the importance of engaging in critical thinking. Always.

Now, go and see the exhibition yourselves and make up your own minds.

Helle Grøndahl

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Helle is an artist, curator and academic. They have a Bachelor in Fine Arts from The Trondheim Academy of Fine Art, NTNU and are currently studying a Master’s in Gender Studies at The Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo. In their work Helle uses appropriations, copies and reproductions to comment on, reveal and deconstruct the ideas of identity, gender and sex.

Website: http://www.hellegrondahl.com/

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