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Silent Drift at SOFT gallery

27. februar – 31. mai 2020

Siren Elise Dversnes Dahle: Constructions and Sideways Drift

Catalouge text, written by Line Ulekleiv


The flow is primary, the result is temporary. Siren Elise Dversnes Dahle does not content herself with smooth surfaces, but causes elements and materials to become curled up, tilted and densified. She builds exhibitions as if on a construction site where all the parts act as points around which viewers orient themselves, both physically and metaphorically. Her works become images of constantly ongoing processes.


Dahle digs around the exhibition as a given format. In advance of it, she takes walks and observes, in open contact with the physical framework for the exhibition. How this flow-zone will materialise is unclear until the exhibition is mounted – and in this way she introduces vulnerability, a risk of breakdown and inadequacy. The exhibition room’s architecture and the surrounding city space as a given geographical area become important premises for the exhibition. Dahle incorporates random finds, materials and knowledge from the gallery and the city space into her own unkempt and dishevelled weaving. She gleans and gathers and drifts towards explorations of a physical nature.


The preparations for Silent Drift at SOFT galleri involve, for example, an impressionistic mapping of the street grid of Kvadraturen, the part of downtown Oslo where the gallery is located. The patina of this strictly defined area, built after a city fire in 1624, has eventually come to stand in stark contrast to Oslo’s new contours – heavily polished and generically angular. The dilapidated and lugubrious qualities still exist, even if less obvious and upgraded. Dahle has roamed through Kvadraturen at different times of the day, in sleet and sun, and registered details, garbage, worn-down insignificancies and small absurdities. What captured her attention on her walks appears in the exhibition as something glimpsed – here, among other things, the rust-red façade of Oslo’s second city hall has rubbed off, as a memory of something old and burned. The city’s history and visual character leave their imprint in the gallery room, which at SOFT can be captured through the window, with a sweeping glance from the sidewalk.


To search through low-lying materials leads to several expressions that Dahle often combines in installations and abstract formal compositions. She uses modules that are stacked and built out, oftentimes meeting us at eye-level. Our sense of physical presence and the material’s flexible force are central. Textiles are recurring elements, and their fragile surfaces are subjected to constant pressure. They are stressed by the threat of being unravelled by the other materials they may be cast in or surrounded by – among other things, heavy and rough concrete, cement blocks and rebar. These hard materials signal building activity, and the new construction can be manically monumental just as easily as it can be a failure. The textiles look as though they want to break out from the heavy framework, into a freer state of being.


The woven works reflect a slow and concentrated process in contrast to the exhibition’s own spontaneous scenography. Dahle’s work with a digital loom involves rhythmic elements and tramping on pedals, but also precision. The weaving combines diverse source materials and images and treats the front and the back as equal. The loom’s non-hierarchical potential would normally result in a smooth woven surface, but Dahle complicates this by deliberately including ‘mistakes’ in the weft. The threads do not cross each other but avoid creating unified form. The ends of weft threads hang down the front in clusters and counteract any conventional subordination to a larger structure.


The weaving as a basic construction, a finely-tuned structure of horizontal and vertical threads, finds its parallel in the imagery Dahle uses as her photographic starting points – often collapsed or bombed buildings. These images of ruins are woven, and a fine-meshed interaction emerges between construction and the destructive collapse associated with warfare and crisis. The architecture is grim, apparently destroyed. At the same time, Dahle’s work draws a picture of a more existential decay – distorted thoughts and feelings of discouragement. She places herself at an intersection of contrasts: between imperfect beauty, an aesthetics of decay, and the possibility of building something up. We are all part of the material and its cyclical changes, but the sideways drift towards chance occurrences is hopeful.

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