Jason Havneraas and Jóhanna Ellen Ríkharðsdóttir: Mother of All Muses

Jason Havneraas and Jóhanna Ellen Ríkharðsdóttir
Mother of All Muses
15 JUNE AND 16 JUNE 2013
INCA: Institute for Neo Connotative Action
750 Delaware St. Detroit, MI, 48202
INCA presents an exhibition by INCA’s current resident, Jason Havneraas and Jóhanna Ellen Ríkharðsdóttir.

Mnemosyne was the personification of memory, and the mother of the nine muses. Lethe, her opposite counterpart, was the spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion. Both are also the names of two of the five rivers of Hades. Dead souls drank from Lethe so they would not remember their past lives when reincarnated, while initiates when they died were encouraged to drink from the river Mnemosyne.

In his two months as the INCA resident in Detroit, Jason Havneraas (Born 1978 in Aberdeen, Scotland, lives and works in Oslo, Norway), has spent his time meeting, photographing and making videos of individuals that he finds compelling, from many walks of life. Havneraas documents conversations over several meetings, each time growing closer to core, meaningful issues. In this exhibition he will screen conversations and show a selection of portrait photographs. As a counter-conversation, the artist has selected the Video Eat Me by his partner, fellow artist, Jóhanna Ellen Ríkhardsdóttir (born 1983 in Höfn í Hornafirđi, Iceland, Lives and works in Oslo, Norway).

Havneraas was recently told a story about a collector posing the following question to an artist: “can you stimulate your muses”, the artist hesitated before replying “yes”. The collector never called back, leaving what was meant to be the correct answer in the air.

Havneraas has spent his time in Detroit collecting muses, mainly late middle aged men around the same age as his father who died in 2009. Acutely aware that two months is too short a time to draw any meaningful conclusions as to the reasons for the existential state of a large city, the artist has focused on these men and their stories and opinions, questioning but not judging, literally trying to stimulate his muses into saying what they know as truth. Over several sessions friendship builds, awareness of the camera fades, it starts to be fun, and the process begins to work. Within the constrains of the artist’s distinct aesthetic; a perfect frame (if you will) for the sublime concoction of Mnemosyne and Lethe that Havneraas searches for.

Jóhanna Ellen Ríkhardsdóttir, as foil, has no time for searching; she goes straight to the point. Her video in the basement of the INCA house raises uncomfortable questions for the two men talking upstairs. The artist often works around issues that affect people’s personal intimate space and the discomfort that can occur when those limits are violated. Whatever river she drinks from we are brought back to the present; with no memory or forgetfulness we confront a muse who is musing on us, and maybe looking into oblivion.


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