From the catalogue for exhibition Composite
– Art from the late 90´s at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999.
A grassy open space between low brick buildings and a flock of birds flying away apparently scared by something – or someone. Not a person to be seen in the picture. Is there anything more empty than a grassy place in a housing complex devoid of people?
Marte Aas utilizes several photographic styles but she primarily works within the genre of staged photography. This approach involves the viewer in a way that is different from documentary photography. That is, while her photographs do not necessarily lie they are ambiguous in terms of subject matter.
On the one hand, there is something distinctly surreal about her images, as when we see a person dressed in a coat running over a grass playing field, heading toward the woods. Others may be disquieting, as when two persons embrace at the edge of a parking lot. At first glance, an act of love. Or they are funny, as when someone swims after a rowboat, making us wonder if the swimming is voluntary or if the person in the boat is purposely rowing too fast in order to keep the swimmer from reaching it. Other works have a more commonplace expression; photographs of boys playing soccer, people relaxing on skies or resting on the grass with appartment houses in the background. This type of work is often considered "straigt photography".
We are familiar with the expression "photographs don´t lie". Working with staged photography means an interest in making apparent the photographs ability to lie, in showing that the camera´s objectivity is always subjective. This concern is seen, for example, in the work of the German couple and photographers Anna and Bernhard Blume. Bernhard Blume has remarked that the camera has been developed in order to reproduce a seemingly objective reality. Marte Aas´work may be viewed as a continuation of the attitude Blume represents, as a questioning of the notion of truth that is linked with photographic documentation.
In her work with staged settings, Aas´motives refer to something outside of the reality from which they are taken. Something is placed within a setting to be shown or presented to the viewer. Yet there is also a kind of displacement by or from the scene, as in the relationship between scene- obscene. The obscene referes to things that should not or cannot be shown, that which lies outside of accepted and approved boundaries, offstage.
At first glance, each scene seems trivial, almost insignificant. However, upon closer inspection one perceives and senses an atmosphere that is anything but comforting and pleasant. This is part of what is fascinating about Aas´photographs; there is a disquieting quality, a sense of uneasiness in the scenes that is impossible to pinpoint or define.