Exhibitions

02

Vibeke Tandberg

Yippee-ki-yay! Narratives beyond grasp or control

Exhibition opening 11.01.2024, 18.00-20.00

Vibeke Tandberg: Yippee-ki-yay! Narratives beyond grasp or control

The battle cry of the West is freedom, and the crier is a cowboy. He is Daddy-o, The Man, frontier spirit incarnate: good old boy, patriot, war criminal, don’t mess – or his defence of our freedoms will open the gates of hell.

Vibeke Tandberg’s exhibition quotes for the first part of its title a catchphrase from an ‘80s action movie that in turn has it from The Roy Rogers Show – a mid-twentieth century franchise of westerns, Hollywood’s most nationalistic genre.

Her work is as theatrical as ever, but now its stagecraft leaps combatively into the space of the viewer. This historical space is a present that narcissistically sucks past and future into its orbit. As philosopher Boris Groys writes in his essay “Comrades of Time” (that supplies the rest of the exhibition’s title), it is a contemporaneity that makes history serve its own purposes: the present, according to Groys, has ceased to be a ‘point of transition from the past to the future, becoming instead a site of the permanent rewriting of both past and future – of constant proliferations of historical narratives beyond grasp or control.’

And worse than that. In the work Hestearkivet numerous body parts of a horse lie scattered on the gallery floor, like after a carpet bombing. It is death-within-death: As they were cast from a taxidermic specimen, the ghostly bits and pieces are twice removed from life. There is even a triple absence in there, considering that the horse is what remains of an equestrian statue when the patriarch is gone.

The horse reappears in the public sculpture Hestebarrikaden, a work commissioned by Norsk Billedhuggerforening and on display until August 2024 in Øvre Slottsgate. Here it evokes the infamous, violent confrontation between youth protesters and mounted Oslo police that took place in 1978, just a few blocks away. Hestebarrikaden is a non-ument for the publicly unrepresented historical event, an un-work that transfigures the horse as a symbol of freedom with a pointed ambiguity towards the weaponization of oversized flowerpots in anti-terror design strategies.

In the photographs, Old Man Cowboy, the horse returns as the sidekick of a lone figure made out as a cowboy with a latex mask. His appearance is silly bordering on grotesque. On a stage that is as shallow as a bad movie, liberty’s clichéd guardian and his mouldy mount are going nowhere: under a pale spotlight and through billowing theatre smoke, his lassoing is a forlorn gesture around a dying empire.

Other photographic works from The Old Man Cowboy series will also be displayed publicly in the windows of Statsbygg’s empty buildings on Møllergata, their proximity to the nearby government facilities echoing the national trauma of 2011. They are scheduled to be unveiled by the end of January and will be viewable spring of 2024. The series feeds off Tandberg’s earlier film and photo works with the old man mask, as in the iconic and pregnant Old Man Going Up and Down a Staircase (2003), or recently, in Old Man Dancing, a film from 2021 in which he appears as a ballerina.

As in most of the other works in the series, the old man is played by the artist. She is also a bit of a cowboy, then – as we no doubt all are around these parts, what with Norway drilling away and Denmark’s arms export hitting new heights with every war in the Middle East. Sweden, too, has long excelled in the old game of guns and roses; social democrats selling cannon.

Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. Freedom dies hard.

Lars Bang Larsen


Vibeke Tandberg lives and works in Oslo. Her artistic practice encompasses a multitude of disciplines, including photography, painting, film, and literature. While her early production takes the vantage point of staged and manipulated self-portraits, her practice has been increasingly directed toward a restless testing of opportunities within the arts. By using a wider variety of media and techniques, her work can be described as an investigation of how the world shapes itself and how to shape the world. Ideas and works are deconstructed and reconstructed. Creating becomes violence, alteration, conversion, and dissolution. Tandberg emphasizes that the subject is an unstable point of venture, meaning is shifted all the time, and artistic freedom is without expectations.

Tandberg has a MFA from the Department of Film and Photography, Göteborgs Universitet, and a BFA from the Department of Photography, Kunsthøgskolen in Bergen. She has held residencies at Bethanien in Berlin and ISCP in New York. She has exhibited extensively nationally and abroad since the mid 90's and has had numerous solo exhibitions, among others, at Norrköping Art Museum, Haugar Kunstmuseum in Tønsberg, Centro per l'Arte Contemporanea in Rome, Sprengel Museum Hannover and the Astrup Fearnley Museum. Tandberg has been part of group exhibitions at National Gallery of Art in Washington, Moderna Museet in Malmø and Stockholm, Kunsthalle Bonn, 28th Biennale in Sao Paulo and the Sydney Biennale. Her work is represented in a number of public and private collections, including Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Collection, New York. She won the Lorck Schive Art Prize in 2017, and in 2019, she made her debut as a playwriter for the play Hunder at the National Theatre in Oslo. She has published five novels and a collection of essays on Forlaget Oktober. Her new novel "Hestedagboken" will be released in spring 2024.

Lars Bang Larsen is a writer, curator, and art historian, and Head of Art & Research at Art Hub Copenhagen (AHC). He has researched histories of politics and aesthetics as they have mingled and played out between art, exhibition-making and countercultures in the 19th and 20th centuries. His PhD was on the subject of psychedelic concepts in neo-avant-garde art (2011), and he has (co-)curated exhibitions such as documenta: Politik und Kunst (2021) and Mud Muses. A Rant About Technology (2019/20). His books include The Model (2010) and Arte y Norma (2016). He has been affiliated with institutions such as Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Haute École d’Art et de Design – Genève, and the Bienal de São Paulo.