26 April 2012

How to find the best exhibition in town?

It is hard to resist the urge to experience as much as possible when visiting a new site. That also goes for visiting art exhibitions. In spots with a wide range of galleries that may become tough, like at the Venice Biennal, in Beijing 798 Art District, or in any city of a decent size. It is practically impossible to visit all, seeing it all, you simply have to choose. How do you make that choice? You may have advisors, may have done some research, and know some from before.

In Oslo there are several choices of paper and web guides. There is “Listen” - a national overview leaflet, mainly focusing on Oslo. There is “Underskog” - a web based portal  with information about theatre, concerts and exhibitions. And the newcomer “u-f-o” - a paper and web based portal focusing on contemporary art. None of these are perfect. “Listen” has a very limited number of presentations of Oslo sites, and even thinner outside the Oslo municipality border. ”Underskog” has unlimited space on the website, and seems to have no rules for layout and content in the posts made by each venue. Few, if some, inform about the opening hours and address. “U-f-o” is a stylish, well edited web page and leaflet with all practical details, but limited on the descriptions. It seems to cover most of the venues, from high-brow to low-brow.

I would love to get something like “Listen” when I arrive in a new country. With this I could start diving into the art world. But after a while I would get a craving for more. I love the rough, democratic touch of “Underskog”. It is a mess, but a very charming mess. And I love the stylish, informative and no-nonsense approach of “u-f-o”.  The web is crucial to get the latest updates, but nothing beats a good map on paper.

Which one to use? My method is this: Use “Listen” to get an overview of the most important, or at least largest exhibition sites. Then “Underskog” may give you impressions and teasers of what might be interesting in both the large and the smaller sites. With these impressions in mind, it is perfect to pick up a copy of “u-f-o” for all the practical details, what is where, opening hours, and addresses and a map. And there is an exensive list of happenings as well.

Then appears the next difficulty: How many exhibitions can you really absorb in one day? I  flicked through 12 galleries on two days. How many of those leave an impression? The spectacular stays in mind, while the silent ones slip away. Especially video art is hard to grasp when you are in a hurry. The first impression is crucial. It is like watching TV with too many channels, you just end up zapping through back and forth, not daring to settle for one movie, because there might be a better one just starting on another channel. Without a system all exhibitions will just blend into one gray mess. I use photos and notes. (Which is why I really hate photo bans in exhibitions, and in one gallery in Japan it was even prohibited to take notes!) The results of my photos and notes are found in my posts here on VWW.