Pia Antonsen Rognes: I DINE ARMER

Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen

9 – 25 April 2021

In the exhibition I DINE ARMER, Pia Antonsen Rognes shows textile sculpture forms that fill the entire exhibition space. Fused forms of glossy black textile and snakeskin-patterned velour fabric in pink colors grow both outwards and inwards in their own form and give associations to scarred skin and decay. The sculpture slither from the ceiling down to the floor where it meets black smelly rubber. For the occasion, Babel’s black box has been transformed into a growth chamber flooded with pink lights. 

I DINE ARMER provides a wholly bodily experience, where the sculpture defines the movement of the viewer and the smell of rubber enhances the intrusiveness of the work. Babel visningsrom for kunst looks forward to opening I DINE ARMER – an exhibition, a work and an inner state. 

“I like that this can be thought of as a toxic place that is attractive, but at the same time gives association to something dangerous”.

Pia Antonsen Rognes. 

Pia Antonsen Rognes (b. 1986) has an MA from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik and a bachelor’s degree from Bergen School of Art and Design. She recently participated in the Norwegian Artisans’ Annual Exhibition at the North Norwegian Art Museum and has previously had a separate exhibition at e-g Gallery SOFT, Trøndelag Center for Contemporary Art and Gallery Format. Rognes lives and works in Trondheim. 




Maria Veie Sandvik, art historian

I discovered Pia Antonsen Rognes the first autumn I lived in Trondheim. Half a year earlier I had moved from Berlin, and I felt a little lost. It did not matter to speak trøndersk1, I had after all lived more than twenty years outside Trøndelag. The longing for the pumping quirky big city with techno clubs and people in synthetic creations and sharp hair colours was strong. When I went to Trøndelag Center for Contemporary Art (TSSK) on the other hand, on October 25, 2018, it felt like I landed a bit. Rognes’ exhibition at TSSK was a turning point. 

Rognes makes bodies of foam rubber, spandex and faux fur. It’s almost better than the pink faux fur bar Roses in Berlin’s Oranienstraße. Really sweaty, scary and uncontrolled. It’s a bit like holding a snake. You know that after all it is just an animal – or in her case a textile installation – but you still get the feeling that it is something more, a kind of consciousness or intellect. Something that thinks. For the spatial installation here at Babel, she has also used meat hooks. Can it get more bodily than this? 

The work with the apt title IN YOUR ARMS was first shown at Buskerud Kunstsenter this January. The Subject’s reviewer wrote that Pia Antonsen Rognes “explores the driving force in self-destructive behaviour. The title IN YOUR ARMS gives associations to something soft, close and tender, but the first impression does not evoke such warm thoughts. Here one is rather surrounded by something grotesque and foreign, which only later shows signs of something recognizable.”2

For me, it is a little more appealingly sensual than grotesque, but that is probably due to my love for the colours and synthetic materials Rognes uses in her works. The aggression that is expressed gives me associations to the German techno-scene. Here there is a lot of leather and strong colours, and something that can often tip over into a little bit “too much” and “crazy”. On the other hand, what is often undercommunicated is that such use of colour and material as a dress code also represents a social scene that embraces everything that does not fit into the Norwegian normcore. Environments that gave me a hug without demands when I needed it most – but this experience is not a requirement to understand Rognes. On the contrary. I do not know her, my role as an art historian is to analyse how one might read her works. It is you who will go IN YOUR ARMS. I’m just holding your hand. 

Perhaps it is precisely the duality that Rognes wants to explore – this opposition between the attractive and the excessive. It is probably not the intention that one should think pink faux fur and spandex are cosy and safe – the point is that she uses materials that have a strong character, which gives the work its own physicality because they are so sensual. They do not try to mimic skin, but still become fleshier than if you had used a more “natural” colour and material choice. I can hardly wait to experience her animal again. Watch it crawl out of the black box at Babel.

1 The regional dialect in Trøndelag.
2 https://subjekt.no/2021/01/18/grunnleggende-frastotende-men-ved-naermere-oppsyn-oppstar-tiltrekningen/ Downloaded: 21.03.21

This text is supported by Fritt ord

Photo: Susann Jamtøy/BABEL visningsrom for kunst