SUBTLE STRUCTURES
- THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF MARTE AAS

The photography of the Norwegian artist Marte Aas is never striking, never heated. Rather, it is silent, withdrawn, low-tempered. For many years, she has focused on mundane phenomenas in urban landscapes, mostly in the fringes of the city, in the recreational areas where culture infiltrates nature. In parks, gardens, skislopes and hockeycourts, she observes how people inhabits and uses these places, defining landscape as a place where social identity is being shaped. She often focuses on postwar architecture, providing a critical yet nostalgic glance at these emptied architectural symbols of a bygone ideological collectivism, more specifically the Scandinavian socialdemocratic model. Always keeping a distance from what she observes, it seems like she is constantly trying to reveal some underlying structures or rules of behavior in these undefined and marginal cityscapes. How do these frameworks affect the contemporary citizen?

Marte Aas relates to and simultaniously challenges the genre of straight photography, the clear, crisp and often detailed depiction of objects and environments. Her pictures are stable unities, accentuated by an even, flat light. Rather than focusing on the objects and events themselves, she steps back and takes in the empty spaces of our everyday lives, the open fields, the grounds of concrete which lack instant meaning. It is as if the environments are more dominant than the people inhabiting them.

In her recent photographs, we can see a subtle shift towards a more defined human presence. As a photographer she has moved closer to her subjects, in an attempt to engage more physically in the picture space. She directs the spectators attention towards specific social phenomena and unconcious behavioral patterns; voluntary work in a residential area, observers of a political demonstration, hikers walking along a narrow trail and children crossing a pedestrian path. The photographs seem to suggest the limited possibilities of individual fredom of movement within society seen as a collective body. Frozen, the onlookers turn their backs on us; true social engagement still seems to be a mere potential.

Ida Kierulf