Starting point for the exhibition Observational Hazard is Øystein Aasan’s interest in the photographic representation of Italian modernist architecture. Architecture from this period is knowingly connected to the ruling of the fascist regime led by Benito Mussolini. The utopian promise of Modern art and architecture was thus mixed with the brutal and excluding mind-set of fascism. But because Italy is rich in architectural history, it was slow to allow modern architecture to be built. As a consequence, the majority of buildings constructed between 1927 and 1947 were commissioned by Mussolini’s party Partito Nazionale Fascista, being party headquarters, sports facilities for the fascist youth party or parade areas.
The exhibition, however, does not examine fascist architecture as such, but looks at architectural photography as a historical construct, taking fascist photography and its architecture as an example. Aasan’s interest is thereby in particular connected to the notion of image construction through photography and in turn how this is and was used to construct and convey a specific (party) image and history. Despite historical claims that the camera is an objective recording device, with the resulting photograph giving an accurate image of reality, it is evident that photography is a representation of a constructed reality. This also applies to architectural photography, even though one might presume that architecture can only be represented in an objective manner. In relation to the photographic documentation of fascist architecture, this deceiving hypothesis becomes even more precarious, here taking the hypothesis that photography is capable of becoming an “observational hazard”.
For the exhibition at Fotogalleriet, Aasan uses the historical architectural photographs as a medium in itself – dissecting and reassembling them to create a large-scale collage covering the largest wall of Fotogalleriet’s exhibition space. In this way, Aasan both physically and conceptually deconstructs those photographs that were to convey the grandness of fascist architecture.
In the adjacent room, which is often used as a video gallery, the visitor encounters a type of reading room displaying a number of Aasan’s handmade artist books. The books include elements visible in the large wall work, at the same time act as a framework for the exhibition concept to yet add another layer to a process of de- and reconstructing photographic material.
Øystein Aasan (born 1977, Kristiansand, Norway) lives and works in Berlin. He received his education from the National College of Arts, Oslo. Aasan has exhibited nationally and internationally, selected solo exhibitions took place at Kunsthalle Lingen, Lingen (2015), PSM, Berlin (2015), VOLT, Bergen (2015), Another Space, Copenhagen (2014), OZEAN, Berlin (2014), Kunstnerforbundet, Oslo (2013), La Salle de Bains, Lyon (2012) and Lautom Contemporary, Oslo (2011), amongst others. Participations in group exhibitions include The Beautiful Changes, RH Contemporary Art, New York (2014), Dating Service, Autocenter, Berlin (2014), Inside Outside Architecture, The National Museum of Norway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2013), Momentum Biennial, Moss (2011) and Lights on, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2008).