Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

A seemingly innocent nursery rhyme is everything but. "Mother Goose", that first lady of nonsense rhymes, is a name that literary scholars argue originated in 17th century England and France, a collective pen name for rhymes and tales handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, political content has been steeped into the seemingly nonsensical rhymes, providing a means to disperse socisl critique covertly. Though there are several interpretations, the "Mary, Mary, quite contrary" rhyme, for example, is claimed to be a protestant condemnation ot Mary Queen of Scots. Code and wit was used to hide a strong critique of the oppressive ruler.

Same same, but different with art. What you see is not necessary the only thing you get. It all depends, of course, on the effort put into the seeing. Some artworks are easier to uncode than others. The photographer Marte Aas, for one, deosen´t give her viewers anything for free.

The image presented here does not represent a typical Aas piece, but is an extended comment to a body of work that she will be exhibiting at Galleri Wang, Oslo in October/November. The glass jars, cups, bowls and vases used in the sculptural "mushroom-garden" installation transmogrify household items you would find in any random Norwegian home – the items represent both gawdy and vintage Scandinavian design- into strange, surrealistic beings. Nearby, a large scale photograph depicting a path leading to a wood completes the installation, suggesting a narrative that is just out of reach.

In the words of the critic and artist Tommy Olsson, Aas "…moves around in a landscape that seems so mundane that you risk becoming immune to what you are actually seeing,…her work turn into a question – maybe even becoming a pure critique – asking us how cursorily we look at the things that are in our immediate surroundings."*

Not intending to ironicize over average Norwegian interior decorating tastes, Aas seeks to probe into the normal to uncover truths about sight and acceptance. In a typical work, called Neighbours (2003), Aas photographs a series of villas that are almost identical. The photographic style is minimal, a neutral documentation of the facades, the sky flat, garden toys abandoned, no light inside. A seemingly neutral registration of a surburban landscape. Again, the narrative exists as a mild insinuation only.

In her work, Aas uses what she calls the act of "enptying". According to Anne Karin Jortveit, peeling away all unnecessary details – such as using a flat sky instead of a cloudy one – allows her to expose our need to create a plot where one doesn´t necessarily exist.** The series of photographs Aas is exhibiting in the gallery space proper shows views of the city – this time Oslo – that anyone could relate to. A night view of a downtown road junction, a construction site in an urban neighbourhood, a vacant lot reclaimed by nature. A run-of-the-mill snapshot – of course, lacking a dad with a lop-sided grin or an unshaven uncle – of an ordinary day. The walls and roads tell a tale that is by no means unworthy – it is the story of you and me.

Claudia Sandor

* Tommy Olsson, “Att möta väggen – om hur man ser förbi, och ändå längre” www.kunstkritikk.no, 26. september 2003.
** Anne Karin Jortveit, Marte Aas, Fotografir/Photographs 1997-1999, Marte Aas, 2000.