Sunah Choi
Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen, Norway


What do we see here in this old bank?

The room itself manifest solidity with its stone columns, ornamentation and colour scheme. The placement of the columns indicate the remains of a counter- structure – in the most physical sense of that term. A counter- parting the inner banking activity from that of the public. The room hints a formal language that we are still familiar with, although it is not of our time.
The basic notion of power linking to ideology and security is something we learn to grasp in the spatial formations we are surrounded by, everywhere in society. We even find it in the children’s stories.

In the fairy-tale about the three little pigs building shelter against the wolf, the difference between a house built in straw or brick is the difference between life and death. When the wolf comes huffing and puffing the solid house represent something radically different than the informal shelter, not just in terms of form or function, but also in virtue of its builders attitude. We can only imagine which of the three pigs would go forward and build a successful bank, it’s all about spatial attitude....
With architecture one can manifest the power-relations of capitalism, or one can counter the acts through a more ambiguous language of hinting at other spatial relations and other spatial invitations to a more including and engaging spatial practice. In the exhibition here, there is a dialogue between these different mind-sets, found in the building, and introduced in the works in the exhibition „Banco“.

But back to power and its spatial languages.

With the spaces of authority and wealth radically shifting usage and status these days, with new practices of power and money-exchange, it is interesting to inquire into the aspects of ambiguity in meeting with these spaces, testing of what bars and ribs and meshes and fencing can mean. Here we have both bars, weaved together into reconciling fabrics and open structures and punch cards connoting technologies that imply a labour oriented industry and a labour dignity about to disappear, inside a landscape viewed with wire. We have benches and counter- horizons. These are translations of trans-local aspects of currency, with ribs and rod used in a language of imagination beyond the old connotations within a bank or currency.

Here it is also interesting to start dissecting what this language of solidity, trust or wealth is composed of, once the bank is no longer a bank, and the remains is deprived of its former use. The role of simultaneity, transparency, fragments. In the pig story the pigs that build the flimsy shelters are described as silly and imprudent, whereas the sensible, practical pig builds himself a house that the wolf finds impenetrable. A traditional bank needs the same connotations. It needs to be seen as impenetrable, a carefulness, not too showy or extravagant, not wasting, but sedimenting wealth and through that postulating growing prosperity. A calm and controlled optimism.

But a bank is also a fortress, fencing in money. And fencing these days is difficult to merge with optimism. A sheltered space protecting wealth physically. Parting the money and the potential threats to this accumulated stack of coins. An inside and an outside.

In the many artworks we see exhibited here one can start to imagine many investigations into what power and money represent in society today, spatial manifests of thresholds, borders, boundaries, but also negotiations between the formal and informal, between the trustworthy and the ephemeral, a floating in landscape, a floating in space, through a manifest of a counter, a horizon, embracing open structures, not fences.

Cecilie Andersson
Rector, BAS, Bergen School of Architecture

The text of Cecilie Andersson was written for the solo exhibition Banco, Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen, Norway
07 March - 31 May 2020