The Buck Stopped Here: Tori Wrånes submerges Shoreditch in a Norwegian underworld

The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

Expectations were high at last night’s (24 February) special performance to mark the UK debut of Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes at Carl Freedman Gallery. In the past she has staged a surreal concert whilst dangling from a tree by her hair, for Performa 13 she was suspended upside-down with an extra pair of legs, while at the last Biennale of Sydney she donned prosthetically-enhanced eyes to sing beneath a giant swinging rock using a microphone that doubled up as a phallic tail. Everyone had already agreed that the title of the Freedman show, Drastic Pants (until 2 April), was the best ever. According to Wrånes it is about “the dilemma of having two legs which walk in different directions”. And judging by her previous form, this was an artist who could go in any direction imaginable. Appropriately, the likes of Tracey Emin, the architect David Adjaye, the broadcaster Janet Street Porter and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, had all turned out in force to witness... they knew not what.

And Wrånes didn't disappoint. The works on the walls—abstract paintings made from prosthetic silicone, sculptures made using stuffed clothes and rotating painted punch-bags—were all obliterated as she plunged the gallery into darkness and transported the seething Shoreditch crowd into an ominous Nordic parallel universe, dominated by myth, folklore and the irrational id. The giant prosthetic nose, abundance of facial hair and rubbery hands—caked in fluorescent paint that occasionally glowed fiery orange—could have taken her into Tolkein-troll territory. But, as she sang at her illuminated sculptural microphone, the intensity of Wrånes’s androgynous presence and her uncannily soaring, squealing—and at times growling—voice left everyone enthralled. Often Wrånes performs with a multitude of collaborators but here her solo presence was enough to win her an immediate hoard of London fans.