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Indepth Arts News:

"Jan Steffensen: Aquaduct"
2003-05-03 until 2003-05-25
RAM galleri
Oslo, , NO Norway

Jan Steffensen (b. 1967) exhibits a reconstruction of a conduit system used in the old Roman Empire, to provide water for the humans of antiquity. An aqueduct is a bridge construction with a conduit leading water over a valley, or for some distance. In the Roman Empire the sealed system of the aqueducts was built to bring water down from the mountains to the city. As a rule the construction was supported by tall stone arches. Jan Steffensen has reconstructed an aqueduct at RAM Gallery on a scale of 1:6.

At Ram Gallery the aqueduct will run from wall to wall, and therefore indicate a continuation beyond the gallery space. A segment of reality cuts through the room, thereby leading our attention towards the world outside the sphere of art. The headwaters must have its source outside the gallery, and the aqueduct must lead the water to another place. The exhibition emphasizes the life-giving powers of water, as well as the role of the gallery as a transitory place on an important journey, the journey from source to existence. In this way Steffensen contributes to the question of arts autonomy in an increasingly polarized world, where those who have access to the sources have their primary needs covered, while those who do not have access, do not.

The aqueduct is constructed from floral foam, a dry, green compressed block that becomes soft as a sponge when moist. Floral foam is used for flower decorations. When dry the foam is light and brittle, but when moist it is heavy and flexible. Its form and measurements is the same as a standard brick. The sculpture will most probably receive and carry traces from the visitors as the exhibition proceeds.

By placing a running water device into a gallery context, Steffensen not only points to the contrast between the preservation of life and the employment of culture, but also to the fact that water is a metaphor for both knowledge and life. 

The construction also reflects the relationship between life and death. Some historians believe that aqueducts such as these saved Rome from the worst pests, because the city always had supplies of clean and uncontaminated water. Other scholars believe that the aqueducts themselves contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, because of the extensive use of lead in the water pipes, a slow and constant source of lead poisoning. In this way the actual supplier of life became a vunerable device for life and death.

Steffensen creates a bridge between the past and present, producing nourishment for both body and soul.

Jan Steffensen has earlier turned a Volkswagen, popularly known as «Bobla» («the Bubble»), upside down and made it into a bubble bath at the exhibition Hverdag - bilder - hver dag , at the Stavanger City Jubilee. He has also exhibited seven reconstructions of battle ships from World War I, made and shaped out of wet sand; each 7 meters long; on a scale of 1:35. Steffensen completed the Academy of Fine Arts in Bergen in 1999.

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