In a superficial world, a person who combined hardcore punk and academic seminars, Hölderlin and house music, skateboarding and contemporary art would probably be characterized as ”full of contradictions”. In a more serious world, where music, thinking and art are more than cultural signposts and where the term ”interests” is too tame and weak, all these things are naturally connected. This was the world of Peter Amdam, the very mode of existence of a dear friend and colleague who passed away early this summer and whose memory we celebrate with this exhibition.
Peter Amdam was a musician, DJ, art critic, editor, curator and literary scholar with a particular love of philosophy, aesthetics and the history of ideas. He was an international figurehead in the so-called straight-edge genre, as the driving force of the bands Onward, Sportswear and For Pete’s Sake. He was an editor at Natt og Dag, a regular contributor to Kunstkritikk.no and a host of other publications and – during the past five years – also increasingly engaged in organizing exhibition projects, often in collaboration with Carl Kostyál gallery.
The immediate framework of Peter’s curatorial projects was often a philosophical concept of the kind that might do the dirty work of clearing away the received ideas that typically surround artistic practices, so as to open up for more open-ended modes of reception. Thus, the 2011 exhibition project named A Science of Friendship explicitly distanced itself from the notion that artistic collaboration is all about shared ideas or affinities – a way of thinking that too easily reduces collective work to a concept of identity and identification, agreement on some theme or concept. In contrast, the suggestion that there might be such a thing as a ”science” of friendship placed emphasis what is necessarily unthought and unknown in any collaborative undertaking. Whatever took place in the artistic exchanges between Matias Faldbakken, Gardar Eide Einarsson and Sebastian Helling would have to be discovered and described post-factum. The curator himself was certainly not going to provide any explanations, beyond outlining a certain logic of search and discovery.
A similar ethos informed projects like Awaiting Immanence (2013) and The Medium of Intensity (2013/14); the latter focused on distinctly non-emotional forms of painting whose impact derived from accessing organizational resources beyond that of human subjectivity. By evoking the pressing reality of today’s ubiquitous digital networks, Peter tried to draw attention to the way in which artistic activity would necessarily have to be thought of in terms of the new modes of sensing, produced in a realm where technical speeds far outpace the capacities of human perception, as well as the various diffuse vitalities that run through it. In Peter’s vision, the abstract nature of the work of artists like Alfred Boman, Jana Euler, John Henderson, David Ostrowski and Lucie Stahl, Fredrik Værslev, Klara Lidén, Adam McEwen and Hanna Lidén was above all an effect of close associations with a new range of non-human operators rather than with a rejection of visual representation. The topic was pursued in Life Within Such Limits (2015), where works by Yngve Holen, Katja Novitskova, Pamela Rosenkranz and Timur Si-Qin were aligned with the strange new conceptions of life that arise in a networked world where matter can no longer be seen as inert and passive.
But beyond these intellectual ground operations, Peter’s curatorial work was above all driven by a curious and impatient spirit, a mind and eye automatically drawn to difficulty and difference, the romantic beauty of all sorts of eloquent refusals and arrested significations. In many ways, and as unfashionable as that may sound, he was the ultimate aesthete – at least if by that word we do not mean the cultivation of certain cultural givens but by an endless, clued-in sensation-seeking, whether visual, musical, or literary. If he had little patience with the pedagogical atmosphere that often accompanies institution-critical art practices, he was actively attuned to the politics of sensation and the various cultural movements it brought about. No one seriously schooled in punk, house and techno could ever see the forces of sensation as something merely abstract, and in many ways one could say that Peter translated his longstanding experience with the mobilizing power of noises, beats and rhythmic patterns to the field of art. He knew fully well that aesthetic escape plans are always specific and located, always grounded in some existing scenario. He might have been a romantic, but certainly not of the naïve kind.
At once a homage and a farewell party, For Pete’s Sake brings together a number of the artists Peter admired and collaborated with.
Written by Ina Blom