An Evening with Knut Åsdam
Introduced by Kaja Silverman, followed by a discussion between Åsdam and Homay King.
Knut Åsdam is one of the most
internationally recognized Norwegian artists today, having represented his
country at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Åsdam makes films, installations, and
photographs that question our degree of conditioning through urban space
and incite us to live in a more conscious manner. In his photographs, his
principal subject is architecture that he considers to be at the “conjunction
of the social, of the personal, of the paranoiac, and of the public.” Recent
exhibitions include: Tate Modern, London (2011); The Depo, Istanbul
(2011); Kunsthalle de Bergen, Norway (2010); Museum Boijmans, Rotterdam (2007);
Tate Britain, Glasgow (2000); Biennale de Venise (1999).
Homay King is Associate Professor of
History of Art, and Director of the Program in Film Studies at Bryn Mawr
College. She is the author of Lost in Translation: Orientalism, Cinema, and the
Enigmatic Signifier (Duke UP, 2010). Her essays on film and contemporary art
have appeared in Afterall, Discourse, Film Quarterly, October, and elsewhere.
She is a member of the Camera Obscura editorial collective, and is currently
working on a book entitled Virtual Memory: Time-based Art and the Dream of
dir. Knut Åsdam, Norway, 2003, digital, 23 min.
Filter City focuses on two women, their relation to
each other and to a city that is in transformation–architectonically,
politically, and socially.
dir. Knut Åsdam, Norway, 2008, digital, 13 min.
An articulation of identity in transition.
The entire film was shot on a train moving through a continuous mass built from
cities and their adjoining regions. The characters are traveling in the
suspended generic space of the train through regions composed of old and new
economies and old and new social realities. On the train itself, a targeted but
sometimes absurd narrative plays itself out as a linguistic reaction to the
time and place.
dir. Knut Åsdam, Norway/UK, 2010, digital, 43 min.
The film portrays an urban reality
characterized by migration and change – the movement of people, the movement of
money and power, and the drift of the imagination. The 43 min. experimental
film and installation work is set within spaces of the modern city – markets,
gyms, parking lots, parks, squares, streets, and stores. The main character, O,
negotiates her material world; the city’s economic, political, and social
demands appear to have been absorbed into her movements, speech, and
psychology. The urban sprawl that takes in the Olympic site and the Thames
Gateway features the sorts of “composite architectures” that often provide the
backdrop to Åsdam’s films. In Abyss, the cityscape is the other main
protagonist of the film, one that the other protagonists are subjected to.
dir. Knut Åsdam, Norway/Lebanon, 2011, digital, 24 min.
Tripoli emphasizes the political history and
architectural traces through the preserved relics of our recent past. It also
emphasizes psychological and traumatic dimension of a place reflecting
political history. In the city of Tripoli in Northern Lebanon one finds the
remains of one of the world’s most distinctive and ambitious construction
projects, a stranded vision in the form of an international fairground and conference
center designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1966. The project
started in an optimistic period when Lebanon was a success story of the Middle
East. However, a few years later, in 1975, the civil war broke out and all the
work on the extensive project ceased. The complex was never completed, and was
instead used for ammunition storage, a landing place for helicopters and other
military uses, or it was simply closed to the public for long periods. The film
is part architectural documentary and part incoherent and fragmented theatrical
drama. The fragments of stories mirror the ambiguous and schizoid nature of the
site, and attempt to leave space for a story of violence, disjunction, and the
This program is made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, the Slought Foundation, International House Philadelphia, Penn Design, the Department of History of Art, and the Department of Cinema Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.