Translated Extracts from Newspaper 'Vart Land' report on MEMENTO MORI exhibition.
21st March 2003 Reporter: Britt Rogstad Foto: Lars O Flydal
HEADLINE: "Remember You Will Die"
Sub-heading: "War Kills. Fire destroys. Life will go out in all of us eventually.
Ragnhild Monsen has seen both death and fire.
The installation Memento Mori arises from these experiences"
RAM gallery in Oslo takes the form of a deathlike fire location. But an airlike heavenly
ceiling of whisplike nylon threads stretches down to a cooled ash-covered floor. In January
the artists studio at her homestead in Sweden burnt to the ground! Silent witnesses to
many decades of her life you can find here in these grey-brown ashes. BUT she's smiling.
"Things, objects, are for the momentary joy but you cannot be the objects. It is pointless
to spend your life energy taking care of dead things. Thoughts like that came with clearsighted
vision as I stood looking at the ravaging flames", she says calmly.
The metal form of the garden furniture survived the catastrophe. The alloy wheels of the car
flowed like lava across the floor.Paint cans and tubs. A sewing machine and an antique milk
seperator. Her husband's chain saw. Mowing machine, berry picking tools. Many of life's
daily implements can still be identified. Precious memories and broken dreams mingle
inseperably with each other. All the materials Ragnhild had planned to use in this exhibition
burnt up together with the 100 year old barn.
"Almost like guidance. It was guidance! God helped me create a concept that I hadn't envisaged"
she explains as she continues
"I was given a chance to begin anew, free as a bird from the weight of my past material life, but with
all the experience and the thoughts, the spirit and the creativity we carry with us all the way to
the last gate"
The bombs over Bagdad adding a dizzy reality to this exhibition. War kills quick. Sickness and accident
can strike anytime. Memento Mori - remember you will die.
"Of course the fire was a disaster, but just a few days later I was to experience something far worse.
A precious (long standing) close friend was diagnosed with incurable cancer. She died four weeks later.
I followed with her, in her presence, for some part of the last road. The perspective and direction the
fire had illuminated to me became sharply focused there in that hospital" she says.
"Look, here are some of my books," she suddenly expresses as she touches the ashen pages, happy to
see the printed thoughts she had been surrounded with up until that unhappy January day of the fire.
Only one who has been close to them can rediscover the pages of text in this tip of fired remants.
Let it be so
"And look at that clock, this old fashioned clock with a pendant stood in the front room of my parents
home during the 1950's. The candelabra I could possibly have saved, but I simply thought 'let it all go'.
Now when all is burnt up we can see how similar everything is. Isn't it beautiful, like our lives? We borrow
days and years in the tension between the material and the spiritual. Our bodies go back to the soil
of that we are sure. And what about the spirit?"
Ragnhild Monsen leaves the question unanswered and playfully raises her hand to caress the whisplike
threads above us as though gliding silently.She is conscious of the dualism in the present. Maybe the
awareness of death bestows the power to fully live. In her art she has focused much on the opposites, life
and death, spirit and material, feminine and masculine, light and darkness, pain and joy.
"The fire took something from me in order to give something back. I had to lose in order to find,"