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In her latest experience, Rita Marhaug has entered the performance and installation into a surreal space. The improvisation, selection of daily and accidental materials, eclectic scenario with unpredictable happenings and collaborative quality of her works have set a flexible stage for communicating with them. The main axis of all these works is the artist’s body, not merely as a performer, but a “female performer” and her “feminine body.” The feminine aspects of the body, apart from the political and traditional presuppositions, enter a surreal space where they are viewed from a new window and this space gives way to less-heard narratives. Marhaug also makes a similar argument against other socio-cultural manifestations by applying her own body. On one side, the natural resources and the government’s economic policies which exploit them, and on the other side, the nature reserves and public behaviour with them, both make important details of her art practice. Marhaug observes apparently common policies in prevalent approaches toward the woman’ body and the natural environment which are well juxtaposed and adaptable. Going over the disciplined intellectual system, emphasis on the natural material, highlighting the time, ephemerality, individual/social identity, attention to psychoanalyses, phenomenology and… are among qualities that make her art practice interpretable based on the feminist attitude—in fact, Marhaug’s criticism, in line with the feminist critique, addresses the macro cultural policies and consequently socio-cultural norms and standards.

Marhaug has concentrated in her early phase of profession mainly on drawing and print, and has combined photography and installation with them. She has creatively applied different capacities of these media to similar thematizations as mentioned above. During this phase of work, she has emphasized “landscape” and the perspective from which people observe and evaluate subjects. She consciously disturbs the audience’s regular mentality through combining drawing and photography together and giving tactile aspects to her works by applying technique of print, various types of papers, colors and installations. She gives notice to a different existence than merely an “image.” Her works pay to overlapped layers in “identity” of the subjects and investigate their psychoanalytical roots. As a female artist and a mother, the major stress of her works in their early phase (which later tied more generally with the feminist approach) were laid on the identity and family relationships: types of realities relating to the family institution that are only understood through close scrutiny of details in this very institution and considering the position of a woman/mother within it. For an exact topography of the family institution, Marhaug has selected to work with certain objects and materials. Many of these objects and materials are selected from routine equipment (TV, laptop, closet, furniture, clothes, etc.) at the same time that they connect to the female subject as well (woman’s hair, fertility, family gatherings of women and children, meticulous re-use of worn textiles, etc.). In many of these works, she depicts the very personal and intimate experiences which have developed within time and at certain situations belonging to the private life of family members—understanding these experiences, therefore, demands understanding those situations and the time passed.

A central feature of Marhaug’s work is concentration on time, process and accident. In many of her installations, performances and specially hand-made books, we encounter a kind of time-based aspect requiring patience and attention. This feature sometimes appears quantitatively, as in her installation Second Skin (2015) she includes a thin, beige textile that over the course of time is gradually grown in size to 225 square meters, or in Tide (2018) her installation is made of 14 kilos of whelk shells showing the same weight as her skeleton. She often renders the same feature also qualitatively, as in Vitrine Project/The Cell (2020), we observe a performance in a 5 square-meter room with large windows to the city-center in Bergen, where the passersby in order to follow the show had to wait, spend time and scrutinize it.

Marhaug’s artistic praxis seems to consider time as a prerequisite for facing with and investigating what has been introduced to us as “reality”—a prerequisite which itself requires presence at the event of the reality. In her installation at a group exhibition entitled Unexpected Meetings with Reality (2010), she mentions the function of the concept “presence” as introduction to understanding the unexpected. According to her, the frequent use of the word reality in everyday life has turned it to a habit which must be deconstructed. Marhaug’s suggestion is instead to encounter reality as an unexpected subject to conceive its contradictions and problems: to conceive the boundary between reality and fantasy, or reality and unreality.