Below the Surface
Elisabeth Mathiesen (2 – 28 May 2006)

Below the Surface, Norwegian artist Elisabeth Mathisen’s first solo show in the UK, brought together nine films and a small series of photographs, addressing questions around  politics, power and gender.

The film Below the Surface (2005, 3 min 57 sec), which lent the exhibition its title, was shot from a hotel room in the Oslo’s red light district. The camera is still and shows a section of the Postgiro Building (the new home of the Aftenposten newspaper) in all its immobility. Below this section,  down at street level, a chaotic soundscape can be heard: cars drive past honking, people shout and children cry. Mathisen presents an image of the distance between the turbulent everyday world of a private individual and the silent, unchanging face of power.

In the film Hun vil jo alltid være moren min (She will always be my mother, 2005, 15 min 48 sec), the central piece within the exhibition, Mathisen is talking to a young woman who has grown up with a drug-addict and prostitute mother. This powerful story is put across in sober terms, with a simple (but far from simplistic) interplay between sound and image counteracting both sentimentality and voyeurism. The viewer senses the degree of shame and what it means to be consistently accorded lower priority than the need for a fix.