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Ideas, but in things


12.06. - 26.07.2015

Curated by Bjørn Inge Follevaag
Co-curated by Malin Barth

Commodities are objects that satisfy human needs and desires. Commodities are the fundamental units of capitalism, a form of economy based on the intense accumulation of such objects. The basic criterion for assessing a commodity’s value is its essential usefulness, what it does in the way of satisfying needs and wants. This usefulness is its use-value, a property intrinsic to the commodity. Exchange-value allows one to determine what one commodity is worth in relation to another commodity. In his work “Das Kapital” Marx points out that on the surface a worker’s salary appears to be the price of his labour. The value of labour is expressed in monetary terms, thereby not only eradicating the meaning of value but converting it to its opposite. 

In February of 2012, industry victims of the Italian recession placed 10,000 yellow helmets around Maurizo Cattelan’s middle finger monument “L.O.V.E.” in front of the Milan Stock Exchange. This protest was enacted in order represent each individual who lost their job within the construction industry in Italy. This day is known as the “day of anger” (Giornata Della Collera). Workers came together to express their protest on the recession, including each person who was directly impacted by the economic downfall. It solidified the idea of a peaceful protest exhibition. Most importantly, instead of raising chaos during this hard time and evoking a violent protest, the Italian men and women who were affected organized these helmets to show their mutual discontentment. As a result, it has created a lasting impression. 

In her exhibition Ideas, but in things Ingrid Berven also addresses the concept of values – among other works in videos, paintings with genuine pearls, also with work helmets in Carrara marble. The discussion about values has been a consistent feature in her artistic practice for years. Especially values relating to art, as seen in many of her former exhibitions. By the use of artistic metaphors and in choice of materials she challenges the audience to question their concept of value. Concretely, and figuratively speaking she questions time, society, humans and attitudes. The artworks and how we perceive them may be revealing as well as unsettling. They are significant statements to social development. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the importance of looking beyond monetary value and rediscover different measures of contentment. 

Man’s need is boundless, and capitalism’s focus on personal need binds us to a spiral of destructive consumption. When monetary values become the measure of success everything else loses its value. These ideas are what Berven asks us to consider. 

- Bjørn Inge Follevaag


Opening speech by Håvard Haarstad Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway. 

Publication: "Ingrid Berven", 2015


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