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Art review

A.K. Dolven: «Untuned bell»
Tullinløkka, Oslo

Artforum.com
April 30 2010

According to rumors in the Oslo art scene, A. K. Dolven Untuned Bell, 2010, was scheduled to have extended its stay in Tullinløkka, an open public space next to the National Gallery in central Oslo. But in spite of its heavy, permanent appearance, the work can only be experienced––i.e., seen, played, and heard––until the end of May. The outdoor installation comprises a giant bell suspended high in the air between two wooden poles. On the ground below, there is a foot pedal so that visitors can play the one-and-a-half-ton instrument.

Until recently, the bell was stored under the care of the foundry that manufactured it. Because it had fallen out of tune with the forty-eight others in Oslo’s city hall, it was exiled as part of the nation’s preparations for the millennium celebration. Dolven has not only rescued it but also staged an afterlife: The bell appears as the protagonist in a work concerning social norms as well as deviation and the regulating forces of all things public on the individual.

Tullinløkka is contested ground; some have even called it “cursed.” Since the 1970s, several attempts have been made to incorporate it into the museum. Many failures later, the new National Museum is finally planned to open in a different location, the Vestbanen. Dolven’s work picks up on the more constructive past functions of Tullinløkka––it was once a parking lot, but through the years it has offered a skating rink, park, and playground. Here, Dolven also underscores the more communal history of the grounds. Adjacent to the work is a wall where visitors are encouraged to write their own “untuned” messages, and where lectures about the meanings of public space are taking place.