Birds, Father and Mathematics, Balbakken October 2012-April 2013

Print Email

Munan Øvrelid, graphics, photos, ink images, sculpture and a sound piece 
Opening: September 27th. 7 – 9 PM
Exhibition period: 28.09 - 05.10. 2013
Opening hours (by appointment): Tuesday to Friday  2 - 6 PM Saturday 1 - 5 PM
For a appointment and questions please contact Mr. Langhelle’s Cell Phone 0049-173-6035317 or send a mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The exhibition is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Facts and Fiction – The Artist, his Father and the Objective (Un)truth
Munan Øvrelid's art is hovering between rationality and irrationality. His visual poetry is constructed dialectically in a tensional relationship between nature and culture, closeness and distance, control and coincidence. 

The artist's father, a retired mathematician, has withdrawn to a cabin in the Norwegian mountains, where he pursues his new hobby: birdwatching. The basis for the works in this exhibition is the collected mathematical data from the bird life around a bird feeder during a long winter. The material is determined by several circumstances such as the father's research method, but also the variable research activity which can be seen in the intervals of a graph. In the middle of the research period, the graphs show less activity, because the scientist had become a grandfather for the first time. The father's own life cycle merges into the research material together with the life around the bird feeder.

Øvrelid's sculptural and audiovisual descriptions of nature are based on rational graphs and diagrams, but when exposed to the weather, the physical properties of the material have been allowed to develop freely. Munan Øvrelid creates and interprets his father's mathematical material through a visual logic that follows completely different rules than those of the father's scientific work. The mathematical data collected by the father ends up in the hands of the son as visual poetry.

In a series of sound pieces, Øvrelid has, in collaboration with Marcellvs L, developed systematical and rational methods which are used on the recordings of bird songs. The method, which is based on the amount of birds per month, results in very different organic sound compositions. The pieces contain a sound spectrum that ranges from real bird twitters to the artists' own mimicked bird twittering.

Another work in the exhibition consists of a series of graphical prints from steel plates that were placed under the bird feeder. The plates are gradually filled with bird feces and become part of the ecosystem. They are transformed by the artist and become part of the economical system of the art world in the form of graphic prints for sale. Two different (eco)systems meet.

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they don’t refer to reality”
Albert Einstein

The key elements of mathematics are formalism, notation, convention, symbols and clear rules, which are used in the quest for objective truth. The mathematician is the only scientist who can claim to reach an absolute truth. This absolute truth is not relating to truths in the world in which we are all living, but to prevailing abstract dimensions that the mathematicians have themselves invented. In modern history, natural science and mathematics have been feeding off of each other. For a natural scientist, mathematics is an important tool, and for the mathematician, new discoveries within natural science are the basis for experiments. Galileo Galilei was the first modern thinker to claim that the laws of nature are “... written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth”.

Mathematics is a pure abstraction. But maybe because of the distance to our physical world, this structure of ideas will appear to be very well suited to describe and explain the real world. Today one can say that Galileo was right: practically all modern natural science, and also the social sciences, use the language of mathematics. But in Øvrelid's work process, the abstract truths of mathematics are transformed into physical objects marked by the chaotic subjectivity of reality.

Seen in relation to the history of art, one can also say that Munan Øvrelid is hovering between many directions. His work method shows a relationship to artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Kurt Schwitters and Gerhard Rühm, who are all associated with concepts like surrealism and concrete poetry. In more contemporary times, conceptual artists like Hanne Darboven and Marianne Heier can be mentioned. But unlike Øvrelid, Darboven interpreted the material she used with the logic of science. Marianne Heier's poetical strategy is based on the underlying structures and value systems of our society. When Heier casts a diamond into the wall of an art institution, she raises questions about the relationship between art and capital.

Michel Foucault writes in his book The Order of Things:
“This book is based on a text by Borges. (...) 
This text quotes “a certain Chinese encyclopedia” which says that “the animals are sorted as follows: 
a) animals who belong to the emperor, 
b) embalmed animals, 
c) tamed, 
d) milkporks, 
e) sirens, 
f) mythical creatures, 
g) stray dogs, 
h) those who belong to this group, 
i) those who act like mad, 
k) those who are drawn with a very fine paintbrush made from camelhair, 
l) and so on, 
m) those who broke the waterjug, 
n) those who look like flies from a distance.” 
After his example, Foucault writes:
“With the amazement about this taxonomy, we reach with one leap what is called in this list the exotic magic of an other thinking
the frontier of our thinking: the pure impossibility to think it.”

Munan Øvrelid's works create openings in different directions. The works have many layers of meaning and can be seen as an investigation into the interaction between nature, science and art. One can also consider them a critique of our relationship with nature, in other words, a poetic criticism of the system. 

Aage Langhelle