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The Joy and Beauty of a Moment
By Maaretta Jaukkuri

Kristina Bræin´s installations have a fleeting and fragile presence about them. Bræin places everyday objects, often building or painting materials, in a given space but without ever bringing the statement to closure in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, she lets the feeling of process, of building, of painting, or of constructing linger on. The given room is the crucial other partner in the dialogue that makes the work. Everything in the space plays a part in this dialogue with the artist´s vision. It is a give-and-take situation, whereby the artist unfolds the qualities of the space rather than close them around a pre-defined statement.

For the artist this is a process that involves sharpening the senses by looking, listening, and trying out. The artist seems to move within a situation where she is more of a recipient than someone who defines. She looks for a precise balance between the different aspects of the work, and it is impossible to know in advance at what point that balance will be reached. She wishes to keep the voice(s) of the space and its existing meanings alive while also manifesting the connections, associations, fleeting thoughts and sentiments that arise in her own mind and which she serves by means of her visual language.

Kristina Bræin has said "One can call a halt at any point in time. A good composer knows that." ("Man kan slutte på hvilket som helst tidspunkt. Det vet en god komponist.") The balance between the pre-given and the given that is aspired to here is not a static state, but consists rather in the moment of recognition that nothing is finished, or closed, and that meanings are always in a state of flux or "becoming" rather than being. The movement that gives rise to these works runs counter to the normal process that aims at a finished thing, object, or statement.

Bræin´s installations are composed of down-to-earth material components: tiles, paint cans, tape rolls, shoes, used lipsticks etc. Her combinations of materials consist of found and/or used objects, together with the materials used in work processes. She marks areas around these objects with painted surfaces; simple coloured squares or rectangles in muted tones. These geometric forms give firmness and continuity to her installations.

Kristina Bræin has studied not only art, but also architecture and music. An awareness of this background seems to help one find directions in her often abstract use of visual language. Or at least, it helps one to map the elements in her works that create meaning.

The fleeting presence of many of Kristina Bræin´s installations is their most intriguing aspect. Her works contain many suggestions of being left unfinished on purpose, as if they had been forgotten, or simply abandoned, in the middle of the work process. Thus it becomes the task of the viewer to re-compose their parts. The exercise of connecting or understanding involves a process of becoming also for the viewer. We seem to see something of the life that is forever passing in front of our eyes or in the midst of which we stand. Here we see it reflected or exemplified in the work whose meanings have to be spun from their constant flux. In this sense, these installations are about time, and the story that each of us is able to weave using one´s own specific time, the individual times of various lives combined with the elements given in the artwork itself.

The scene offers a kind of materialised sentence or statement with punctuation marks: commas, periods, exclamation and question marks. It is a sentence created by different materials, which reveal many layers of time as well as many different fields of reference. In this, they share the multi-layeredness of language and possess a truly polyphonic quality.
The spatial rhythms produced by the various elements also amount to a kind of material-spatial poetry recited or sung in front of our eyes and minds. We are reminded of polyphonic song with its numerous vocal parts. The specific quality here is the work's soft tonality and its gentle mode of address; it is reassuring and comforting. It is as if it were meant to induce in us a state of calm that allows us to see beauty in the smallest and most ordinary aspects of daily life.

Bræin´s installations are very scale-conscious. This is the quality that best reveals her concern not to impose anything on us. Instead, she seems to guide us gently towards a "reading" of her work, or towards an engagement therein. The scale is not meant to compete with the given space. It seems to rely on its own presence. The work is often placed low in the room close to the floor, a factor that adds to the sense that we are witnessing the discovery of new spatial possibilities rather than the mere appropriation of a preestablished situation. Neither does she try to hide existing features of the space, such as electric fittings, mouldings, or other elements of the architecture. She contains them all in her installations, giving them specific roles, thereby accentuating rather than concealing their presence.

Kristina Bræin has said "The last hint of irony has moved out. Where shall I go now?" ("Den siste snev av ironi forlot leiligheten. Hvor skal jeg gå nå ?") Irony is used to create a distance to things or to prevent a discussion from becoming too profound or too intimate. It can have a cathartic effect, but can also be a vehicle of alienation that prevents us from taking anything seriously, or at face value. Here Bræin's installations seem to use language in new ways: language is needed for communication, but here it seems able to assume new functions simply because it is used in such an immediate and uncomplicated manner, devoid of any irony. Her installations seem to savour language for the first time, as if testing its capacity to communicate and convey meaning.
Connected to this use of language is the kind of world her installations evoke in our minds. Once the components of her works and their placing in space have transformed themselves into a meaningful picture in our minds, once we have decided what kind of world she is picturing, then we become aware of those delicate moments in life when we suddenly see how splendidly light can illuminate some aspect of our daily environment, or understand the beauty of a moment when we are busy doing other things. These moments are simply there for the attentive eye and mind.

(KUNST 2003:02)