On Display

Feature in Issue 13-4 | Winter 2001

An artist’s diary that chronicles an unusual collaboration between a photographer and a clown.

Beep! TEXT MESSAGE from Mari Mork:

‘Stressing around Alesund, sorted out printing of poster, talked 2 a newspaper! Met Solveig. Planning how 2 hang up photos, putting up posters everywhere, got a new shop, furniture shop, bought wine for u and me! Later I’m helping painting in gallery, big red circles (clown nose). Busy! It’s gonna b good fun working with u again!’

Context: On Display – Exeter 2000 and On Display – Alesund 2001

The Blurb… An Anglo-Norwegian collaboration between Rupert Green and Mari Mork. A series of photographic installations behind shop fronts that produced a collection of thirteen photographs taken in Exeter, England and of eight photographs taken in Alesund, Norway.

Mari: At the different locations I tried to capture the right (odd) moments, looking at people’s reactions as well as Rupert’s performance. Also adding to the images are the reflections in the windows, giving exciting and sometimes surprising effects. The images are therefore a mixture of the arranged and constructed, together with the unexpected and unforeseen.

We had finished On Display – Exeter 2000 and I was wondering what was next. So we talked about the possibility of the experience happening in Norway. How would the Norwegians react compared to the British? Mari returned to Vigra in Norway: I returned to Bradninch in Devon. Mari e-mailed saying she had met Solveig in Ta Det Piano cafe in Alesund and that the cafe/gallery would sponsor my flight. Did I still want to come?

The Diary…

Saturday 8 September, 4am
Kisses goodbye to a sleeping family then taxi to Bristol International Airport. Approaching Amsterdam. Then to Oslo. Footfalls on the Alesund runway. It’s 6.10pm. Norway time.

Monday 10 September
Dark and gloomy weather. On Display posters everywhere. ‘How nice!’ I thought as Mari and I burst through the Ta Det Piano cafe glass door, soaked to the bone, having run around every street of Alesund! Pleased because we’ve successfully arranged the details of the week ahead. Now we can match the costumes borrowed from the Theatre Fabrikken wardrobe to each window. Sounds easy. ‘Coffee?’ Says Kjetil the friendly owner of Ta Det Piano and, after exchanging pleasantries, I feel at ease and welcome. I see my face in the photographs on the wall and we revisit the times we had in Exeter, such as ‘The Sleeping Harlequin’ in Jones the Boot-maker:

‘Is he real?’
‘No, it’s a dummy!’
‘This is Gilbert and George, this is.’
‘Is this a bet?’
The tapping, knocking, banging on the window, a gaggle of French schoolchildren entering the shop: ‘Monsieur! Monsieur!’ A lady, obliviously gazing upon rows of shoes, unaware of the dream. I was adrift, within, listening, finding the tensions, stretching, relaxing, sliding restlessly around the confined space, confronting the glass barrier with my bare feet; and then Mari whispered, ‘Are you all right? You can stop now. We’ve done an hour and a half!’ Funny how that one sticks in my mind.

Back to the coffee. The horizontal rain has stopped: time to work. The first shoot is to be in the cafe: ‘The Music Conductor’. It goes badly. Distractions, too rushed, too tired, too dark; I notice Kjetil looking on with a curious smile, too much something… I feel embarrassed. Mari and I have yet to click.

Tuesday 11 September
Arrive early at a photographic shop, Sponland. The staff had cleared the window space and were eager to help with any problem. After exchanging pleasantries, I stuck on a red nose and carefully negotiated the climb and descent into the space, taking with me a wad of coloured tissue paper squares which, with Mari’s sticky tape, were stuck a sheet at a time to the window. Leaving a loophole for eyebrow play, I settled down for the main event. Mari, outside on the cobbled street, narrows her eyes and with a wry smile was about to take a picture with her new Hasselblad camera when a lady from the radio appeared. Within minutes, so did a newspaper reporter with her photographer. Mari began to experience the nice problem of all this attention all at once. With two balloon swords I ventured outside Sponland, to play with two guys who were hanging around. This brought much mirth and amusement to the street. With a weapon in their hand, they slammed into each other, yelling and laughing, rubbing each other’s faces with such ferocity that it took me by surprise. Luckily, it lasted long enough for Mari to capture the moment.

Wednesday 12 September
World in crisis. Nothing doing. Drained.

Thursday 13 September
Lunch at Piano. Met Solveig’s hairdresser friend Alison from Manchester. I quickly hit upon an idea for a shoot at her hairdressing shop across the street. The light is brilliant and the reflections are strong; we must work fast to get this. Alison says there is a girl in the shop with spiky hair who would be ideal.

Phone calls, I eat up my chips, thumbs up from Alison and before I can say ‘Tusen takk!’ we are there. ‘Freed’ doesn’t smile as she pretends to cut my hair. I look out of the window at Mari, scratch my red nose and wonder about things. Mari is happy and uses three rolls of film.

Friday 14 September
Last chance to take pictures, so we rush around doing everything but. At Fagab we need to choose from reams of negatives, the best picture for Saturday’s opening. Sounds easy. Then we’re off to find a shop to get it mounted, but the problem is size of card for a 1x1 metre square print.

Saturday 15 September, 2pm
At a very busy Piano, Solveig’s husband Christopher is mounting the huge print onto the wall. It looks fantastic. I try to help but get in the way and get politely told to prepare for my performance. Point taken. Just nervous, that’s all. After the show, which went down well, I was touched by the generous gifts from Solveig and Mari’s family, this helps draw to a close a most excellent experience of working for the first time abroad.

Contact details for both artists: aldo@rupertgreen.com and marimork@hotmail.com

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-4
p. 16 - 18