Tekst av kunstkritiker Jennifer Allen

Ice That Ticks

Steinar Laumann has specialised in trekking across glaciers and even travelled to Greenland to traverse the ice cap – a labour that he has turned into an art practice. The challenges of walking on glaciers include the arctic chill and, equally important, not getting lost on what is essentially a plain devoid of markers to gain one’s bearings. Hikers must follow an absolutely straight line since any deviation will result in an endless circle and possibly death. Perhaps due to this sensitisation to the positioning of bodies, Laumann has developed a unique vision of objects, which he seems to view as measuring systems – rudimentary clocks and rulers that can visualise the passage of time and space but without any dials or numbers. For Den usynlige tråden (2013–ongoing), Laumann inherited an old Egyptian golden brass table from his grandmother and hammered it into a bell-like dome, which, with a little nudge, rocks on the floor. Its motion and its sound recall a timepiece although what this object measures is more than just minutes and hours: the distance between Egypt and Norway, the lives between a grandmother and a grandson, the possessions that multiply with life and that scatter with death. Laumann describes the installation How Long is the Coast of the Brain? (2014–15) as a living library of wood instead of books: a steam box machine for bending lumber planks, sorted by tree species and how these react. The work doubles as a workshop, where spectators learn about their own reactions to doing something that most have never done before. The sound – of steam and an almost silent creaking – is as significant as a ticking second hand, although the machine is a compacted measure of the impact of water on trees. Laumann also invites fellow artists and others to glacier and other treks, which he then turns into documentary works with videos and artefacts. Such projects may sound like relational aesthetics meets extreme sports, yet the artist’s collaborators become clocks and rulers, too – not really by the times and distances they complete but rather by accumulating the experience needed to make such treks safely in a group. For Laumann, people and objects seem to be durations, which require the right movement to be read. Jennifer Allen