He addresses social themes at their very core in a stimulating, sometimes absurd tone and with eccentric design. In the multichannel installation ‘The Theory of Freedom', the definition of freedom is paramount. Parallel presentations by Melhus can be seen at West Den Haag, Art Rotterdam and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
Bjørn Melhus is fascinated by American TV series, science fiction and contemporary visual culture. He uses imagery and quotes from TV and Internet as a basis for the characters and dialogues in his films, in which all the roles are played by Melhus himself. His latest work, ‘The Theory of Freedom', is set in the tightly regulated world of gated communities (filmed in Istanbul), and examines various aspects of world religions, globalisation and neoliberal capitalism. Melhus mixes the controversial neoliberal ideas of Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982) with stereotypical scenes from American mainstream films such as Armageddon. Ayn Rand, founder of objectivism and portrayed by Melhus as a tyrannical mistress, was at the forefront of influential, conservative think-tanks and her book ‘Atlas Shrugged' is read almost as widely as the Bible in the USA.
Melhus hugely magnifies familiar settings and his playful, humorous approach, together with a harsh dose of reality, is both laughable and painful. The multichannel installation, which is completed with his films ‘Heaven' (2013) and ‘AmericaSells' (1990), reinforces the powerful, repetitive rhythms of the sound-bites that are so characteristic of his work.
One Project #1
Bjørn Melhus studied film and video at the Braunschweig School of Arts. After he graduated, he followed several residency programmes in cities including Los Angeles and New York. His highly praised work is exhibited at various international film festivals and in museums including Tate Modern (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Centre Pompidou (Paris) and at the International Istanbul Biennial. Melhus has worked as Professor for Virtual Realities at the Art University Kassel, Germany since 2003.
One Project is a new initiative in which the Kunsthal will, over a period of several weeks, make a large exhibition hall available for a short yet powerful gesture. One Project is not an exhibition in the usual sense of the word; it is a topical project with the nature of a one-off operation or event by contemporary artists.
‘The Theory of Freedom' is being exhibited in collaboration with gallery West Den Haag on the occasion of Art Rotterdam and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Parallel presentations by Melhus can be seen during the IFFR (24 January) at gallery West Den Haag (31 January to 28 February) and Art Rotterdam (5 to 8 February).
Debate ‘Me against us'
On Friday 6 February, in the auditorium of the Kunsthal, gallery West Den Haag is organising the debate ‘Me against Us', a discussion (in English) led by Liesbeth Levy on Bjørn Melhus's socially critical work. Speakers joining the debate will include Bjørn Melhus, art and media researcher Stefan Heidenreich, Manifesta director Hedwig Fijen, sociologist Pascal Gielen and philosopher Joost de Bloois.
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