Knut Asdam



Sorry, no image available

Not on display

Knut Asdam born 1968
Video, high definition, projection, colour and sound (stereo)
Duration: 12min, 51sec
Presented by an anonymous donor 2013


Oblique 2008 is a 12-minute colour film transferred to HD, which can be projected using a hard drive-based playback system, such as Mac Mini. The film, which was premiered at Manifesta 7 in Trentino, Italy in 2008, was shot on a moving train. The characters are shown as they travel in the ‘in-between’ space of the train, which becomes the setting for an absurd narrative. The film does not focus on this narrative, rather it provides portraits of the different characters as fragmented and confused, a condition added to by the film’s setting. The narrative is also interspersed with images of the cities and regions through which the train travels. Some of these places are industrial, others cosmopolitan; some appear to be falling to ruin, others to be just setting up or expanding. In this way Oblique does not represent a particular place, person or character than a sense of flux and instability that the artist sees as characterises contemporary life. Art historian Kaja Silverman has discussed Asdam’s work as describing ‘placelessness’, or the alienation, fragmentation and isolation that is associated with modernity and the world as it is modified by ever-faster modes of transport and new ways to connect globally (Silverman 2010, p.7).

Oblique, and Asdam’s larger body of work, shows how space becomes defined as place through cultural and economic associations. The multiple sites gestured to in this film stages the different ways in which, according to the artist, ‘a group (or a person) relates to itself or to a socio-economically determined place’ (quoted in Kölle and Asdam 2000, p.69). In the first screening of this work, Asdam constructed a related installation with the same title, which housed the film. The spatial environment was comprised of two spaces: an outer chain-link room with one opening, and an inner room with a roof and fenced walls covered in climbing plants. The installation created ‘a space that is at the same time a marker of borders and ideas of urban property as well as a space to disappear to see the film’(Knut Asdam, ‘Oblique’, statement on the artist’s website,, accessed 10 September 2015). The installation extended the action of the film into the space of the gallery, implicating the exhibition viewer in the mise-en-scéne of overlaid, anonymous spaces.

Asdam is considered one of the most influential artists currently working with film and video. Inspired by structural film as well as 1960s European New Wave Cinema, Asdam has developed a distinct cinematic language which addresses the interplay of political and social forces within the context of contemporary culture. His practice, which also encompasses photography and installations, draws on numerous theoretical references such as feminism, queer theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Further reading
Brigitte Kölle and Knut Asdam, ‘Conversation’, in Art Now: Knut Asdam, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2000.
Knut Asdam, Retrospective, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo 2006.
Kaja Silverman, ‘No Direction Home: The Recent Work of Knut Asdam’, unpublished lecture given at the University of Delaware, 2010.

Gaia Tedone
December 2012

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like