Atle Selnes Nielsen

Atle Selnes Nielsen
Photo: Grethe Hald

In Atle Selnes Nielsen’s kinetic sculptures, events follow each other in sequence, more or less as natural consequences of what he has thought out and put together. The rhythmic breathing of the leather bellows can be recognized as something almost human. This initial impression is accompanied by a sense of physical fragility, as if something is going to sink or swim. Something is activated, and in the background, bleached white bird skulls peck on shiny tin cans, like an ominous sign that something is at stake?

Atle Selnes Nielsen likes straightforward titles for his works, like Reservoir and 115 degrees. He says that these do not provide answers, but might lead viewers to make their own associations. This may cause viewers to move around as if in a slight delirium from their encounters with such richly detailed sculptures. Microphones, speakers and gears with unpredictable movements contribute to an increasing sense of apocalyptic discomfort. Who is looking at us, what will happen, and who will give us instructions? 

The foot pedal that starts everything up reinforces this feeling: what will happen when you step on it? Will the sculpture slowly come together, draw a breath, so to speak, and then do … what? Or will it overwhelm us with sounds and other momentary impressions that we are unable to predict and thus fear?

Drums were the first instruments humans began to play, and this lies in the back of the artist’s mind. The sound art which captivated him early in his career led him further into the world of kinetic art, where each tiny part of his installations has meaning and where nothing is placed by chance. Even a simple cable can be a symbol in the room, resembling a cobra, ready to strike. Add to this a slightly outdated tape recorder technology, and we are shown other aspects of this artist’s early fascination for process-driven compositions, phonetic connections and the acoustic reality that surrounds us. 

Atle Selnes Nielsen’s artworks consist of objects that he has acquired intentionally, but also some that he finds along the way, not unlike Askeladden in the Norwegian fairy tale. When he assembles his sculptures by soldering, welding and grinding, small inaccuracies arise that make up an important element in his artistic expression. He believes things should be slightly bent and crooked, but the precision and discipline of the overall result, while still true to the associations that arise, makes its own statement about well thought-out solutions and full control.

Text: Grethe Hald
Translation: Glen Farley