Selected rewiev and essay of :

Broen over Gjørme


Beyond Time

Review by Anette Therese Pettersen.  Klassekampen, 22. sep. 2014 
Venue: Henie-Onstad Art Center, Oslo 2014


Broen over Gjørme (Bridge over Mud), the most recent work to emerge from Verdensteatret, is low-key and strangely touching.

On previous occasions, I've compared Verdensteatret's performances/installations to dwelling inside an animal in a coma. It's not a particularly original description, but it's a recurring image of all the Verdensteatret productions I've been witness to. The group transforms its stage or art space into a dramatic body, pulsating between its visual and audiovisual elements, and all the fragments that float by has a certain dreamlike expression.

Just like its predecessors, “Bridge over Mud” is such an installation – an all-encompassing work. Dramaturgically, it's not plot-driven, and there's no obvious narration for the spectator to follow.

Instead, there's a fragmented form that opens for countless interpretations and entry points. Verdensteatret was founded in 1986, and the twelve artists who make up its current constitution all come from different artistic disciplines. The company has been on a number of international tours, and received an honorary Hedda Award, Norway's most important theater prize, this year.

Nevertheless, I feel Broen over Gjørme presents a more fragile sound structure. Their earlier works had installations that also occupied more of the vertical space in the room. This time the setting is a wide flat “field” of railroad tracks.

Small wagons chugs around, and the emission from their headlights is projected through glass prisms creating landscapes and formations onto the walls of the room outside the construction.
After a while, the stage becomes better lit and small periscope-like loudspeakers are raised and suspended (a closer look seems to reveal they're made of scheap plastic glass). Inbetween the tracks, where the trains rolls along and figurative (almost Bauhauesque) boards are being pushed to and fro, you can also glimpse some formations that could look like coral reefs.

There are a number of associative trains of thought, but there is something about the tracks and the rest of the visual setting that makes me think of Tarkovsky's science fiction movie “Stalker” (1979). The film works well as a prism for this work, but while Tarkovsky lets his characters leave their eveyday life and enter The Zone, in so many ways this work embodies a (timeless) Zone by itself.

Amongst other things, the spatial imagery is made up of wires, tracks, glass prisms and loudspeakers, yet the combined expression or experience is most organic.

 In the film “Stalker” its main character states early on that whatever happens in The Zone does not depend on it, but on us. You can say the same about “Bridge over Mud”, as none of the images, plots or soundscapes are unambiguous. The room or universe crated by Verdensteatret seems familiar in a peculiar way, though alienating, leaving the onlooker to choose how to imagine the implications of each image created – be it through long trains of associations or smaller, fragmented sequences.

The images and soundscapes that emerge lead me to think of something prehistoric –it's as if we hear the distant echoes of the creatures that is the origin of what today has become petroleum and raw-oil -hoisted out of their reservoirs.


The hall at the Henie Onstad Center provides a good space for this work. The sounds come closer and closer while the room gets better lit – and the energy built up throughout the nearly hour long performance of “Bridge over Mud” finally recedes.

The span between deafening cacophony and the somewhat more scrawny, fragile space this performance creates seem to reflect the extremeties of human life. To get back to “Stalker”, there is another quote brought back to life by “Bridge over Mud”: “Weakness is something fantastic, strength is nothing.”


Verdensteatrets’ Symphony of the Senses 

Essay:  You walk as far as the shoes of reason will take you – then you jump.

by Elisabeth Leinslie  
Published September 20, 2014  


We travel in so many ways. We travel inwards. We travel outwards. We're dragged down into the mud, then upwards, towards the sky. It's a journey without borders. A journey that will take you wherever you want to go, make you follow unexpected paths. We die. We live. We sail on to the nest image. To the next room. To the the next stop on our journey. And Verdensteatret takes us there.


A voyage through the material

During the last few years, the Oslo-based art ensemble Verdensteatret has been on the road for prolonged periods and presented exhibitions in different places around the globe. It has been invited to prestigious sound and stage festivals, prominent art biennales (the Shanghai Biennale, among many); art museums; multi-disciplinary art arrangements and other, less definable venues.

On its extended voyage, it has compiled and collected a kaleidoscope of material. The group is made up of very different people, each one discovering material individually –like intuitive flight recorders (tachographs). Some collect through technology, others organically, some are social beings, others sleep with people, some read, others gather people around them, some listen and others just sit there observing, some think they remember, others are afraid.

As they returned from a big project in Kolkata, India, in December 2011, they had been touring and doing research almost continuously for two years. The time was ripe to take a break, settle in a studio to dig deep down into the material they had gathered or that grown inside them during the tour.


Symphonic art-form

The outcome of this process is being shown at the Henie Onstad Art Museum during the Ultima Festival in Oslo. Bridge over Mud consists of a multitude of elements. Hand-made or found. Mechanics and technology. Figures, driftwood and remains. Video and sound. Light and darkness. Fragments from all kinds of places. The level of detail is breathtaking. Also, each element is immersed into the action. Extremly massive noise and  fragile, stirring silence. Rich, thick layers of expressions and inflections stretch their space in every direction.

Bridge over Mud is in its very nature a fragmented and abstract work. Its main substance rests in a poetic space that stimulate your senses through a symphonic multimedial expression. The form profits both from visual art and video art, sound art and performance. This generates a challenging complexity where opposing forces collide in “impossible paradoxes” on one hand and surprisingly harmonic cadences on the other. It's a symphony of elements that entice your senses. Listening to this work may take you to places you've never been before.


To Associate and Experience

Fragmented and abstract works of art helps the spectator avoid the analytical decoding processes a narrative, meaningful subject matter would demand. Bridge over Mud quite simply stimulates other cerebral processes. A work of this kind may find a more direct route to the memory centers in your brain, thus opening for a wider opportunity to form your own lines of associations. As the space is so obviously abstract, there are very few pointers as to where this work will carry you – everything is delightfully open to interpretation. Said in other words. this structure leaves you free to imprint your very own significance into what you perceive.

But that's not the end of it. As we enter into a free associative experience, it's as if your thoughts and emotions start to stray from the path. If you're able to put yourself in the right state of mind, this sort of work is able to skip your memory processes entirely and plug directly into your feelings and instincts. This way, it may open a passage to things you cannot normally access. It may sound like magic and act as if it were, but it's quite simply Perceptual psychology. And if you dare to make the leap, you may find yourself beyond the road most traveled by rational thinking.

It's about giving in to the art experience. In this way, we can recall, think of, be led to and experience the most peculiar of places. New doors and rooms may open into ourselves and our world. It may be beautiful or ugly, filled with dread or love. It may be full of death. It may be full of life. What will happen is entirely up to you and the work, to the senses and thoughts, feelings and affections, the intellect and all that is contained in the room.


One Step Further

The constant voyage Verdensteatret is on spans all its works and carries it further to new destinations, new experiences, new contexts. It's a constant forward motion, yet always anchored in its own artistic identity which cannot easily be placed within one particular definition. This last work may best be described as a room of many media that unfolds within a finely tuned audiovisual symphony. This spatial instrument is handled live by performers and artists from different artfields. The performers' presence in the room id deeply embedded as a central element of the expression itself.
Bridge over Mud takes Verdensteatret's artistic expression one step further. This work will pierce your soul in a more insistant and convincing way than any previous work. The interaction is more finely tuned than ever. And the participants are less visible. The group trusts that the symphonic space will be the messenger to our senses.