A COMMENTARY ON THREE HOUSES AND ONE NOTHERN LIGHTS

Alexander Konstantinov

The title «Light in November» comes from the month in which we planned to complete the project, and from light, which is a key theme in Norwegian art. I mean that special dim twilight that is present as a background and, perhaps, even as a main character in the majority of the works of classic Norwegian art, including painting, literature and music. Light in November is a border condition between summer light and dark winter – or between day and night, when daylight has not yet vanished but artificial lights are already clearly visible. Unlike in central Europe, here in Norway both kinds of light coexist during several long hours, illustrating the principle of supplementation.

On the background of this twilight we attempted to place a drawing, by building in the center of Trondheim three houses on the scale of buildings of the actual town. The pathos of monumentality of our architectural edifice we smoothed over by drawing, using plastic tape, the images of roofs and facades on the roofs and facades of our three buildings. 
By this means, we transformed an urban structure into a gigantic three-dimensional color engraving. At the same time the red, green and blue houses resemble three giant computer pixels in RGB format removed from the microstructure of any computer monitor or TV screen. With twilight, these houses-engravings began to shine from within. The internal light of the dwelling penetrated the walls and became an external light – a streetlight. At the same time, the town square turned into a lived-in room with a huge lamp in the middle. In our second installation, which we created in Trondheim at the same time, natural light passed the same way but in the opposite direction. Northern lights were enclosed inside 
a traditional Norwegian building – a four-story, hundred-and-fifty-year-old warehouse standing by the river.

The themes of natural and artificial, internal and external were enriched in both installations by the combination of direct citations from traditional Norwegian architecture, which we took from 
the streets of Trondheim, with modernist visual language, especially the legacy of the Russian avant-garde. Indeed, our very strategy – the creation of installations that imitated real houses or tamed northern lights – resembled the utopian ideas that were born in the avant-garde art of the previous century.

But there was another, ironic side of the coin that we paid in tribute to tradition: the fact that we had created an edifice that, from a certain point of view, seemed to be just a joke. The meaningfulness of this joke, however, was suggested by the fact that it was completed in the weeks leading up 
to Christmas – the time when people are given sentimental presents. The very name of the project is a paraphrase of William Faulkner’s novel «Light in August», referring to Transfiguration, and therefore connected to Christmas. In a certain sense our installations are Christmas presents to the city. Their realization was hard and laborious; however, I hope that my young co-artists will retain the impression of simplicity and lightness, and at the same time of creative profundity, that saturated the atmosphere of our collaboration.

Location: Trondheim, Norway.

Year: 2004 – 2005

LIGHT IN NOVEMBER

a project realized during the artist’s stay at the Lademoen Kunstnerverk-steder residency with support of the Trondheim Kommune and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.