BJARNE MELGAARD – BATON SINISTER: THE VENICE INSTALLATION

In the few years since Bjarne Melgaard (born 1967) exhibited HALLO MAYBE at Haugar in 2005 his artistic career has flourished, not least in New York where he now lives. This time he is showing the installation BATON SINISTER which he fashioned for the Venice Biennale 2011, and which many commentators believe to be his breakthrough work internationally. The Sparebanken DNB NOR Foundation acquired the work at the biennale with a view to a long-term loan to Haugar.

In Venice Melgaard was part of a programme arranged by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway. As guest professor at the Università Iuav di Venezia he led a course on the themes of AIDS and the ability of art to change the world. To round off the project Melgaard hired the Palazzo Contarini Corfù and together with 12 students “trashed” the stately palace with a number of installations under the umbrella title BATON SINISTER. This was originally an heraldic charge indicating illegitimate birth in the family line. Melgaards’s contribution included some 20 paintings, most of them declaring that the “Domestic Terrorists” in the militant Black Panther movement of the 1960s and 70s were not to be found at the Venice Biennale. On a flatscreen panel one could also follow Melgaard’s conversation with Leo Bersani (gay theorist and emeritus professor at the University of California) on the topics of homophobia and acts of counterterrorism by homosexual activists. The motto for BATON SINISTER was also: ART DOESN´T CHANGE ANYTHING!

The installation caused quite a stir among Biennale commentators. The art critics of the New York Times and the magazine Art Forum ranked Melgaard’s work amongst the most remarkable contributions on show.