Knut Åsdam Screening

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

7:00pm – 8:00pm

@ International House 3710 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia


@ International House

An Evening with Knut Åsdam
Knut Åsdam in conversation with Homay King following the screening

Filter City, 2003 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. The film is set in modern apartment complexes that evoke different western cities. The urban spaces that they use are both “theirs," but also subject to conditions beyond their economic or social control. The characters narrate the spaces they inhabit, as well as their desire for friendship, intimacy and meaning. One character adopts a searching and affirmative use of language, while the other uses depressed speech as a social medium to control her relationship. The scenes mix the theatrical and the everyday with an emphatic look at subjects' urge to communicate and relate to their environment.

Oblique, 2008 13 min
Oblique is an articulation of identity in transition. The entire film was shot on a train. The characters are traveling in the suspended generic space of the train car through regions composed of old and new economies and old and new social realities: Newly built outer areas around the cities, construction sites, institutional and office buildings, transitory places, between growth and collapse, marked by quasi-contradictory processes of economic progress and the development of slums. On the train itself, a targeted but sometimes absurd narrative plays itself out as a linguistic reaction to the time and place.

Abyss, 2010 43 min
The film portrays an urban reality characterised by migration and change – the movement of people, the movement of money and power, and the drift of the imagination. The 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 economical, 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. The film drifts between a material world and its psychological effects, and pays special attention to the physical and material environment of the city without privileging a realistic dramaturgy or narrative. The characters move through the public and private spaces of the contemporary city and interact with one another as if the economic, political and social dynamics of the city had inscribed themselves within their language, movements and psychological make-up.

Tripoli, 2010 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 centre 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. It is now extremely unlikely that it will ever be completed because of the huge costs involved in restoring the crumbling structures. 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, attempting to leave space for a story of violence, disjunction and the uncanny.

Knut Åsdam is one of the most internationally recognized Norwegian artists, 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: Gasser & Grunert, New-York (2012); Tate Modern, London (2011); The Depo, Istanbul (2011); Kunsthalle de Bergen, Norway (2010), Museum Boijmans, Rotterdam (2007), Galerie Serge Le Borgne, Paris (2006),  FRAC Bourgogne, (2006), Tate Britain, Glasgow (2000), Biennale de Venise (1999). His work has recently been collected by the Tate Modern.


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 Digitality.

International House is located at 3710 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.  

Organized by Kaja Silverman, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Professor of Contemporary Art in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, International House, and Slought. Support has been provided by the Mellon Foundation, PennDesign, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the Department of History of Art, and the Program in Cinema Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.