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Part #3 Moss, Norway

/  Year: 2004
/  Method: Billboard in public space / for pictures see slideshow
/  Produced with support from Momentum, the Nordic Biennale for Contemporary Art
/  Carried out for Momentum 04, curated by Per Gunnar Tverbakk and Caroline Corbetta.
/  Back to Concept
/  Pictures

Momentum catalogue text
Written by Halvor Haugen; translated from Norwegian to English by Peter Cripps

One Saturday morning in 1967, the artist and writer Robert Smithson took the bus from New York City out to the suburban district of New Jersey (1). The trip provided the basis for a pseudo-journalistic report illustrated with snapshots. In Smithson's text the suburban landscape is described like a filmic backdrop that lends everything a hint of the unreal. It is a decidedly unglamorous panorama, a no-man's-land of half-finished buildings and idle construction machines. These he describes as monuments, not of past events, but of a future that has already arrived; they are ruins in reverse.

In the project It's better to build than to fade away, Lindström and van Berkum focus on a similar ambiguity in the development of urban landscapes in contemporary Europe. The project, which they began in 2002, takes the form of a series of works which the artists characterise as photographic interventions. By means of a strategic placing of billboards showing pictures of local building sites, they reveal the underlying structures that are eventually covered over during later stages of building activity.

In the way the billboard is usually used in connection with building and construction work, it serves to provide a visual anticipation of the undertaking in question. It is intended to function as an advertisement, both for the projected building and for the contractor. But one could also claim that it serves to smooth over that aspect of building work which the economist Schumpeter has referred to as creative destruction - a phrase that is meant to sum up the role of entrepreneurial activity as the driving force of the capitalist economy.

The work that Lindström and van Berkum present at Momentum documents the phase in the development of a residential site between completion and moving in. The depicted site lies just outside Moss, but it could be almost anywhere. It puts us in mind of what Gertrude Stein is reported to have said about a visit to Oakland, California: There's no there there. Such a place that lacks a there is in effect not a real place, but rather a non-place. Lindström and van Berkum's work can be seen as a temporary photographic monument to a kind of macroeconomic decisive moment - the moment when one more bit of a local cultural landscape is parcelled out as a picturesque idyll. The placing of the billboard beside the canal in Moss, where the town's commuters board the ferry to Oslo, establishes a link between the depicted suburban development and the infrastructure that conditions it. It leads the gaze further, towards a diffuse horizon that provides few clues as to whether one is in New Jersey, Oakland - or Moss.

1) Robert Smithson, A tour of Monuments of the Passaic, New Jersey Collected Writings, University of California Press, 1996.

It's better to build than to fade away, part #3
has been produced with support from Momentum 04