The German-Jewish writer Stefan Heym says that; «…neither is poetry, after Auschwitz, what it used to be. Of course we can still hear young girls laughing or see the beauty in proportions, but it is all enveloped in a cold, bleeding frost of knowledge of what atrocities man has performed on his fellow men, and may do again.»
In a sense this statement sums up a lot of the sentiments I perceive from Øyvind Johnsen’s video work Pass Over (2013). The video is a poetic, sad, thought-provoking statement on issues such as pain, unfulfilled lives, lost opportunities and love.
Based on true events, yet not bound by them, Johnsen investigates issues of moral as well as humanistic character by the use of concrete and abstract images, sound and movement. From a philosophical perspective he debates the issue of coincidence in human life yet leaving the conclusion to the observer.
The video’s title refers to transition, as well as to the Jewish Easter and the exodus. In many ways the work also represents an exodus both in its narrative and in Johnsen’s own process towards making this video.
Bjørn Inge Follevaag – Curator
As a youth in Bergen in the early 1960s, I watched the documentary ‘The Scourge of the Swastika’. It made a tremendous impression on me. Since then it has grown ever stronger in me, what is meaningless and tragic above all: that people are deprived of the opportunity to live the lives they were meant to live.
30 years later, in my grandmother’s childhood home in Balestrand, I find a small diary from the late 19th century. Amongst the trivialities is the story of a German couple, a Jewish woman and a Christian man, and what happened to them at Stalheims hotel on one of the last days of summer.
As I return to the city, the story from the diary is confirmed. In archives I find newspaper articles, judicial examinations and a transcript of a letter. The woman’s name was Nelly Hamburger. The man was Hans Grüner. He was from Fürth in Bavaria. The year was 1896. Anti-Semitism was already on the rise in Europe.
A video begins growing in my mind. I make some recordings. Try to get people involved in the project. But eventually, I put the project aside.
Until 2010. I am in Berlin to make recordings for my Kort møte (Brief Encounters) series. It is Easter. Halfway into this quiet week, there is an ocean of time to spend on nothing in particular. Ideas for what will later become Pass Over are rummaging around in my head.
On the morning of Good Friday I travel tothe outskirts of the city, walk through a residential area, find a gate and greet a friendly man. And with a kippa on my head I wander into the enormous, overgrown cemetery, der Judische Friedhof in Berlin-Weissensee.
Vision has always been considered the noblest of senses, with a superior capacity to offer access to the world.
In Øyvind Johnsen’s video Pass Over, however, vision comes under critical scrutiny. He urges the spectator to reflect on the relationship between vision and psyche, and between sight and representation.
There seems to be areas of experience that challenge, defeat and block representation. Are pictures able to express experiences of loss and pain? W. G. Sebald asks the same question in his novel Austerlitz (2001). He is convinced that there are scenes of horror that can never be confronted directly, only obliquely by reference.
This is also the method Johnsen applies in Pass Over, to focus on representation on visual terms.
Siri Meyer – Professor in art history
Mosebakken 9, N-5232 Paradis, Norway – 004795842914 – firstname.lastname@example.org – https://www.sensistens.no
Born 1946 in Bergen. Grew up in Ytre Arna, resident in Vinje and Rauland in Telemark 1969-84, and since in Bergen. Has worked as an artist since 1969, first with graphics and later drawing and painting. Started with video in 1988. Has since mainly worked with video and photography. Graduate of Bergen Academy of Art and Design (1966-69), Oslo National Academy of the Arts (1981-82) and Vestlandets Art Academy (1987-88).
Finished in 2010 the video project Brief Encounters, a series of talks with 9 artists related to Bergen, including residents of London and Berlin. Participated in 2011 with Earth Kiss and In the Pulse is at the exhibition Retrospective; Experimental Film and Video Art. Part 1 at the Stenersen Art Museum in Oslo. Completed in 2013 the video Pass Over.
Works now with a new video project called Absence Present.
Has exhibited videos, photographs, drawings, paintings and graphics at solo exhibitions at Bergen Kunsthall, Galleri Langegården and USF Visningrommet, among others, and at group exhibitions such as The Annual Autumn Exhibition, The Vestland Exhibition and The UKS Spring Exhibition. Has taken part in exhibitions in England, Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands.
Art work commission for public swimming pool at Stord Culture House. Works purchased by Norwegian Art Council, among others. Grants and support from Norwegian Art Council, Bildende Kunstneres Hjelpefond, Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond, Norwegian Photographic Fund, The Fritt Ord Foundation and the municipality of Bergen.
Member of NBK, FFF and BKFH.
video – 2013 29’33’’ 16 : 9 / HD
camera / sound / editing: Øyvind Johnsen subtitles: Norwegian / German / English
music : “Violino Solo” / 1989 / Ketil Hvoslef – violinist: Jutta Morgenstern – song: Vítěslav Novák / “Až přejde den” / Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music / 2008 – singer: Magdalena Kožená – radio interview: KCRW / Bookworm / 2001 – radio interviewee: W. G. Sebald – poem: Dagny Juel – reader / poem: Sissel Sannes – reader / Schmerz: Natalia Leltchouk – reader / Ande: Magne Eide Møster – reader / Vertrauen: Anna Theresa Torgersen – also appearing: Birgit Eide / Bendik Johnsen / Eilev Ubbe Johnsen / Hennie Andersen / Jenny Wille Joung – archive / suicide letter: Statsarkivet i Bergen – voices / suicide letter: Sebastian Dörfler / Jutta Morgenstern – newspaper articles: Bergens Tidende – voices newspaper articles: Torleif Torgersen / Øyvind Johnsen- voices / diary: Lina Knudsen / Øyvind Johnsen – old film clip: Deutsches Historisches Museum – film / “Verzeihen Sie…”: Michael Haneke “Das weisse Band” – portrait photo / Sebald: Ulf Andersen, Getty Images Entertainment – poem translations: Hanne Bramness / Annette Rodenberg – all other translations: Jostein Ådna / Martina Skauge, TransLingus / Bjørn Inge Follevaag / Kristin Lerfald Grostad / Hanne Dale
sound mix: Thomas Angell Endresen post production: Mats Andersen, Planet Earth consultant: Bjørn Inge Follevaag
Øyvind Johnsen © 2013