Per Kristian Nygård’s (b. 1979) exhibition in the Vigeland Museum has been given the titleThe Economy of Form. As the title suggests, Nygård’s project explores the relationship between economy and form, and how financial considerations contribute to determining the premises for shaping our surroundings. At the same time he is preoccupied with the monument as idea. The Vigeland Museum was originally Gustav Vigeland’s (1869–1943) workshop and studio, and stands today as a monument over the sculptor. The neoclassical building was erected during the 1920s using costly materials; oak, bronze and marble. Inside this iconic building, Nygård has created another monument, a triumphal arch.
Triumphal arches were traditionally erected in marble, with elaborate sculptural decorations. Nygård’s arch is built with lightweight aggregate blocks. These blocks are a rather cheap, prefabricated product and are normally concealed with concrete plaster or by being built into an outer construction. While many of Nygård’s previous installations are characterised by being almost seductively beautiful – what we encounter here is a grey wall. It’s as though he wants to distance himself from the sensual quality we find in the earlier works – while at the same time still wishing to provoke a physical reaction. How does the viewer experience this wall? What does it feel like?
In Rooms 11 and 12 Nygård has created smaller sculptures out of u-blocks, a slightly different variant of the common Leca block. This is a material he used for the first time in the artist-run BLOKK venues in Bergen, in 2019. The exhibition included a round sculpture resembling the Colosseum, in which the blocks were mounted on top of each other in such a way as to create a decorative pattern. The exhibition in the Vigeland Museum includes a similar sculpture, only larger, lighter and more compact. It also has stairs in various forms. Stairs that don’t lead anywhere. They are like ruins, evoking memories of houses that once stood there. The works in Bergen were described by the artist as a draft for a monument to a condition in which the economy is a defining premise for the imagination. This description can be applied to the sculptures in the Vigeland Museum as well.
The last work in the exhibition is an installation of thuja plants placed in the park in front of the museum. The thuja plant is one of the most common plants in Norwegian gardens – and yet it is often considered a bit vulgar. It is frequently chosen because it is an evergreen – in other words, based on its function and not its aesthetic qualities. Just like the Leca block.