here I am -

- trying to get teenagers interested in literature …


me presenting books

Trying to get them to want to read books (instead of going online :)), and encouraging them to reflect upon what they have read. A very interesting and challenging task.


students talking about funny books

These 17-years-old are part of a national jury called Ungdommens kritikerpris (young critics award), a jury which will decide which was the best Norwegian adult fiction book in 2013.

kritikarpris_JA1_8023_2The teacher and I, making lists of pro & contras

I have visited the class three times this winter, talking about criticism; how to read in a critical way, and how to discuss fiction, and how to give grounds for evaluations.

On my last day in the class we were visited by the newspaper. All images are from Stavanger Aftenblad

the reason of beauty is emotional

Here is David Brooks; adding valuable arguments to our ongoing study of art & beauty:

We really have to trust our emotions, which are much smarter than our reason in some ways – because our emotions tell us what to value.

- we don’t have the choice to control our emotions, but we do have the power to educate our emotions. And we do that through literature and through art and music to give ourselves a repertoire of emotional experiences.


how to be alone

Some years ago I read Sara Maitland’s book A Book of Silence. It’s a beautiful book based on Maitland’s own experiences of living alone in the Scottish highland. Now she is out with a new book, in a way it’s a continuation of the first, but How to Be Alone is also an attempt to better distinguish between the two concepts of silence and solitude. “I am writing this book because I would like to allay people’s fears and then help them actively enjoy time spent in solitude.”

The first chapter is called “Sad, Mad and Bad”, it asks:

How have we arrived … at a cultural moment which values autonomy, personal freedom, fulfillment and human rights, and above all individualism, more highly than they have ever been valued before in human history, but at the same time these autonomous, free, self-fulfilling individuals are terrified of being alone with themselves?

Why is our culture so afraid of solitude? Are people preferring to live alone a threat to society? Must they be sad, mad and/or bad to choose an alternative way of living? (You all know my longing for Antarctica, so obviously I feel it’s my own sanity which is under scrutiny here).

Maitland asks:

  • could some people’s peaceful happy solitude function as an antidote, or even a balance, to the frenetic social activity of others?
  • what, exactly, is our social responsibility in a society where most people feel powerless?
  • why does other people’s claim to be happy in a different way from oneself provoke so much anxiety?
  • why – and how – have we come stigmatize people who prefer to be alone?


Greta Garbo chose to retire at the age of 35 to ‘live another life’

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

you should always carry something beautiful in your mind

— Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

John O’Donohue in conversation with Krista Tippett

Some of you might already know the words and writings of the late Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue (1956-2008). I must admit: I don’t. All I know is a few passages from Longing and Belonging, which I have been listening to on my early morning-walks the last couple of days.

You know I have started this quest for beauty, it might sound rather spiritual – still I didn’t search for a religious mystic to be my companion. But he came anyway, on his own, or maybe it was me – accidentally stumbling upon his words. Anyhow; I have decided to let Mr. O’Donohue be my guide for a while -


        beauty is not a luxury, beauty ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity which is within us

— John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

I have already fallen in love with this strange irish voice of his – our rather dissimilar apprehensions of the world doesn’t seem to matter at all.

Transcript for John O’Donohue on The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Why I Write


I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. …  

 … I write to honor beauty …

So many good reasons to write, to make any kind of art – .

A favorite is this:

I write as an act of slowness.

and this

I write because I am not employable

and here’s for you:

personal EXERCISE:  Why do you write?

1) …

2) …

3) …

“Don’t talk. I can’t hear myself see!”

a post inspired by Slow Muse

As an art critic I have for a very long time been concerned about all kinds of written statements accompanying art exhibitions. In our post-conceptual area written descriptions and declarations more often than not dominate the art arena, at the expense of visual sensibility.

As a critic I expect an art exhibition to be self-explanatory, as a viewer I expect the artist to be able to express what she seeks to articulate in a visual language, not having to explain herself in any kind of written document.

I see the need for written instructions to be a sign of deficiency, of the artist not being able to express herself visually.

I know artist statements have become fashion. And just as trends and fashion shifts, I really hope the artist-statement-trend soon will find itself to be out of date.

I want to see the show the way a viewer would see a show—with no inside information. I might ask, “What’s the material?” or “Which one came first?” Something simple, but I don’t want to hear at all what the artist thinks. And I’m not writing for the artist. I’m writing for the reader, and I want to tell the reader what I think.

Jerry Saltz 

An important thing for a critic is a kind of disinterest…I think the work of art, whatever form it takes, is the artist’s statement. And I don’t want secondary statement—

- Roberta Smith

Of course the artist can also be a writer, but then the written work would be an integral part of the exhibition’s totality, and not understood as a kind of secondary explanatory document. It could for example look like this:

tn_750_500_Chiharu-Shiota-Love-Letters-2013-Installationsansicht-Kunst-Textil-Stoff-als-Material-und-Idee-in-der-Moderne-von-Klimt-bis-heute-Kunstmuseum-Wolfsburg-Courtesy-ARNDT-Berlin-.97c7be9ebdd6b142b154e57e6c1453d8Chiharu Shiota, Love Letters, 2013, Installation, Size variabel, Courtesy ARNDT Berlin, Foto: Marek Kruszewski

A studio space is an intimate space, which puts the critic in an awkward position. You are no longer objective. It’s almost like hanging out in someone’s bedroom and thinking you can still be on their jury at trial.

- Christopher Bollen