Founded in 2009, Entrée is now a key fixture in Bergen’s art scene. Having recently moved premises to a space right in the centre of the city, Johnny Herbert posed some questions to the director and co-founder, Randi Grov Berger.
Could you explain the circumstances of Entrée’s move to the new space at Markeveien 4b? What was your decision-making process?
– I had known for about a year and a half that I had to move Entrée (due to gentrification of course); the neighbour of our old storefront space offered our landlord more than we could afford. I then followed real estate pages and walked around the city in search for new possible spaces for the gallery. In this process I’ve been able to rethink what Entrée would potentially be in new locations in different parts of the city. On the table there have been ideas of moving outside the city into a large garage hall, into new corporate steal and glass buildings along the new Damsgårdsundet area, as well as also collocation with artists collectives or other galleries. All quite exciting alternatives but as soon as I visited Markeveien 4b I was one hundred percent sure this was the place. The gut feeling was just right. The location in the heart of the city was of course very attractive, with the rooms looking promising, but a lot of work was needed. The oak floors, the door, and the strange window designs, are really giving this old 1920s storefront its character and are all architectural signatures from the building’s architect, Ole Landmark, who also made Bergen Kunsthall in the same period. This is a space I would love to make the future exhibitions in, I thought. I showed it to some of my trusted friends and colleagues, and my artist’s board, and they all backed me up on the decision to go for it.
What challenges and opportunities do you feel the space brings, both in terms of its spatial specifics and its location, and how are you planning to work with this?
– The new space is, like artist Mathijs van Geest (who helped out here in the summer) termed it, ‘much more confronting’. This gives new opportunities and a new energy to the project. Being positioned in the commercial part of town with busy stores on either side, and by the public square, Torgallmenningen, we will have the opportunity to take part in or play with the activities that are planned here. Spatially, our new white cube is small with quite a high ceiling and an enormous window; I imagine there will be some more vertical exhibitions for sure. I’m also planning shorter installation periods than before given the new locale’s small size. I imagine there will be fewer site-specific installations and on-site productions than we have done in earlier years. The new space is so simple and holds the works in it with no need for added structures or to much rebuilding. That being said, I’m sure there’ll be some architectural inventions in time. The new location also definitely makes for a much more social meeting place for our colleagues; people can come by and have a coffee on their way to or from the studio, I might also have some banana bread…
There’ll be queues in no time! Operating within the commercial environment sounds like it could be very fruitful. I agree with the confrontational feeling Mathijs invokes; the huge window almost gives the sense of already being in the space whilst still on the street.
You mentioned before that you considered moving to larger spaces (presumably out of the city centre). Do you feel the new space shifts your position within the Bergen scene and, with the closure of Premiss and KNIPSU in the last couple of years (although the latter has since done projects under the same name), two young spaces in Bergen, what do you think the difficulties are of running a space in the city?
– I don’t think our new location changes our position. It would probably have changed if we moved into a much larger space, but, as is now, we are, I presume, the same size and will operate as before. I’m unsure if location has anything to do with those other artist-run venues you mention. It must be especially hard to run a gallery on top of ambitions to continue keeping up a career as an artist, as in those cases. Self-organized exhibition platforms often have a short life; quite naturally this is the way it works. When they get bigger they change into something else.
I just received exciting news that Bergen-based artists Hedvig Heggem Nergaard, Lasse Årikstad, Espen Iden, and Tatiana Lozano are starting a new gallery, FELT, on Steinkjellerbakken this fall. Maybe new initiatives popping up are what changes the position of the existing ones, don’t you think?
Yes, perhaps in conjunction with the shifting cultural environment in the city in general. How things like the triennial, Bergen Assembly, changes attitudes, inspires/deflates, and lays foundations for sustained local activity, for example. It’s great to hear about a new artists-run space opening in town, it’ll be exciting to see how they go about it! When you were starting Entrée in 2009, how did you handle the realisation that perhaps your work was shifting into something more aligned with what is called ‘curating’? Did your ideas about what you were doing change, and, given your earlier comments about specific possibilities the new space affords, in what way do you feel your concerns as a curator in the last six years might be able to be further articulated in Markeveien 4b?
– I completed the MA program ‘Art in the Public Realm’ at Konstfack in Stockholm, where I did projects that were often promoting the work of others, and I guess all the way back to when I worked with photography as well, this is what I did. Back in Bergen I felt there were so many different possibilities at the time, and when Cato Løland and I found the space in Nøstegaten 42, the appeal of working in an open and seemingly semi-public space was much stronger than working alone in a studio. I felt the younger art scene was almost invisible and underrepresented at the time in other venues. The reception of Entrée’s project was unexpectedly positive, which encouraged me to continue. When I started the curatorial program at Bergen Academy of Art and Design in 2010, I had made a choice to put all my energy into this one project. It felt like the natural continuation of whatever it was that I was doing as an artist.
As a curatorial platform, Entrée is a local replica of the well-known, self-organized, and artist-run white cube, a well-tested and internationally recurring model. My approach to organizing exhibitions has been to function as a facilitator and hopefully a useful assistant to the artists. Sometimes I’m very much involved in the entire process, other times not. Since it’s a one-woman organization, I’m fortunate to follow the projects from inception all the way to promotion. As an example of a more visible curatorial position within a project, I started Flag Bergen, which later became Flag Nesflaten, Flag New York, Flag Stavanger, and now the on-going Flag Tromsø. In this project, I’ve invited sixty artists (and counting) to design their own flags that I produce and claim flagpoles for in the city centres. With this project I recognized how the curator-given format, that of the flag, but also that of the white cube, limits the artists’ means, but also gives way to other potentials.
I do have some new ideas for future group exhibitions that I’m eager to work on in the new space too, but at the moment I’m just finally having a proper look at the new space with works in it instead of scaffold and paint buckets… I’m surprised also how many people can fit in it.
You also recently ran a parallel space in New York whilst on an OCA residency there, how did you find this and do you have plans (and the desire) to open up another space elsewhere?
– Entrée can be portable, so when I got a curatorial residency in New York I thought the best way to get the most out of it was to install a Entrée satellite there, and to also use the opportunity to also involve curator Espen Johansen to work on a new project simultaneously in Bergen. I think it is vital to promote the Norway-based artists abroad, to do studio visits and see exhibitions elsewhere as much as possible. I have specifically focused on New York to keep in touch with our network there following our participation in Performa 13 in 2013. This is also the reason we participated in NADA Art Fair in May this year, and plan to go back next spring. It is exciting to work locally in Bergen, and in parallel have the chance to be an international actor and communicate the work of artists we exhibit to a much larger audience, international press, collectors, and international curators. The bonus being that we are attracting new artists to Entrée and Bergen.
Next year I’ve been granted another residency in Berlin, and will get the chance to do some new satellite projects, which will influence the programming back in Bergen as well. I thought for a while about bringing Entrée to New York, but soon realised I would have to give up everything in Bergen to do so as I certainly don’t have unlimited resources. For the time being it’s Bergen all in, with new energy from the move.
Lucky Bergen! Last but not least, could you introduce the current exhibition and the future programme?
– The artist on right now is the excellent Bergen-based Bjørn Mortensen who we first collaborated with for the Entrée New York Satellite last fall and then again this spring for NADA in New York. So this is now our third collaboration and I hope there will be more! He is combining some new colourful glazed ceramic works, some which also function as wall-mounted fountains, together with his vigorous automatic drawings and “3-dimensional” large-scale paintings. The space is completely filled, and still there were many more works we could not fit in… I’m seeing the limitation of the small space already. The sound in here from water constantly dripping from his “Wall Pots” make me feel like I’m in a zoo or botanical garden; very nice days at work indeed.
Coming up at Entrée is a “Christmas Show” planned for December, and then next year starts with Berlin-based Sinta Werner showing some new collages..