Portrait of a Department
A banana. A dolphin, in the same pose as the banana. The symbol for the Firefox browser. Frankenstein’s monster. Orderud farm. A reproduction of Etienne-Jules Marey’s graphical train timetable from 1885. These are some of the images and videos that decorate the Department of Information Science and Media Studies. Together they give an artistic image of the department, a portrait.
The paintings and videos are hanging spread out in the corridors of both floors - it takes an observant eye to notice them in passing. All of the pictures are painted on panels, which are often shaped to fit the motif, which means the panels are round, pentagonal or shaped like a briefcase.
What constitutes the identity of a department? When Røed and Entian’s art project was initiated in 2004, the department was recently established. Media Studies and Information Science had merged. The commissioning of this artwork was part of the effort to bind the two fields together. Info Media’s employees and students work with information, news, society and film. They relate to popular culture as a research field. The artist couple has brought in symbols from these fields, but has also focused on the day-to-day life of the department. Many of the paintings are replicas of decorations that hung there before the project was carried out. One of the portraits represents one of the students’ study halls; another shows a series of books with titles relating to Media Studies. A painting with the words “Out of confusion comes chaos. Out of chaos comes anarchy and fear. Then comes lunch” is a large-scale depiction of a piece of paper stuck on the door to the meeting room.
A screen with changing images in a perpetual loop breaks the pattern. They are old portraits, art paintings, filmed in a dark, bluish light. Faces emerge from the dark screen. The video is a portrait of portraits from the art history of painting, and serves as a gateway to the entire decoration. Media Studies grew out of an analytical tradition of which art history is a part, and images are part of their field of research. In today’s visual culture the distinctions between disciplines are not necessarily important.
The banana and the dolphin are hanging side by side in one of the corridors. They were made because a number of students in the department told the story of a particularly amusing introductory lecture: the lecturer described how computer programs may be able to distinguish between forms, but they could not tell the difference between a dolphin and a banana, if the shape was similar. Today that probably does not apply anymore, with the advanced software of facial recognition that is available. Thus, the portrait is also a testament to a time that has passed, and the changes that we have seen since then.
Patrik Entian (1966-) and Ellen Røed (1964-) have collaborated on several projects. Patrik Entian is a visual artist. His paintings are mostly presented as series, which he puts together in consideration of the environment so that they almost appear as installations. Entian has recently made a large-scale public artwork at the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo. He is currently completing his PhD project Looking for Painting / Att synliggöra det synliga at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts (KHiB).
Ellen Røed works with video art and digital media. She is interested in the dynamics of forms and changes over time. Røed worked at the Bergen Center for Electronic Arts (BEK) and was an assistant professor at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, until in 2009 she was accepted into the Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme at the Academy, with the project Former for forandring (Forms of Change).
NORA SØRENSEN VAAGE