Art for change

Photo: Kunsthall Oslo

Art exhibit in Oslo displays how second-wave feminist ideas changed Norway’s contemporary art

Denise Leland

Seattle, Wash.

Art Hall Oslo is currently host to an exhibition entitled, “Hold stenhårdt fast på greia di.” The exhibit focuses on Norwegian art and women’s rights from 1968 to 1989. The curators of this exhibit are two renowned visual artists, Eline Mugaas and Elise Storsveen. Unfortunately, the exhibition title does not easily translate into English, but it is said to signify something along the lines of “hold onto your thing.” describes the uniqueness and impact of the exhibit.

This exhibition presents, for the first time, an overview of the many ways in which second-wave feminist ideas contributed to a transformation of the accepted subjects and methods of contemporary art in Norway, as well as the creative contribution that artists made to the public representation of the women’s movement. From the formal liberations of the 60s avant-garde, through the developing political awareness and organised struggles of the 70s, to the disenchantment of the 80s, the exhibition also aims to show some of the ways in which formal art production was influenced by a radical core of activist practice.

The display presents a wide array of art, ranging from propaganda posters to large, iconic artwork seen both in and outside of a feminist context. Some of approaches to female struggle are more subtle, while others choose a very explicit approach.

A 1970 textile piece by Brit Fuglevaag under the title “Against Female Circumcision” depicts female genitalia. Another bold and direct art display of photo collage comes from Wencke Mühleisen, known to many as an active social commentator, sex researcher and writer.

One of the more subtle works from the exhibition comes from Siri Anker Aurdal, consisting of hanging luminous shapes, transparent and overlapping to create beautiful color harmonies and compositions.

While the exhibition focuses on women’s rights, it does not exclude men but in fact embraces a handful of exclusive male artists.

The timespan of focus for the art show (1968 – 1989) is important not only for art historical reasons but in relation to women’s suffrage. Some of the major issues of this time dealt with abortion laws and general equality for women.

The beauty of this art exhibition comes from the energy and inspiration of a bygone time from recent history and from recognition that each work of art has its own high artistic quality to be admired. 

“Hold stenhårdt fast på greia di” will run at Art Hall Oslo until April 21.

This article originally appeared in the Mar. 22, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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