My Ambience is about the relationship between utopia and determination, individuals and the collective or, put more simply, about living. This overwhelming subject, with distinct political and religious overtones, is so ﬁrmly grounded by Bodil Furu that she is able to turn it into good art. This is not an easy thing to pull off. In her documentary ﬁlm, Furu interviews two young women living in Oslo—Fatma and Claudia. Coming from very different positions, culturally and religiously, they both strive to understand society and inﬂuence people around them, in the hope of creating a better future. Furu takes a retracted position, allowing an intimacy to develop between the women and the viewer.
Like other productions by Bodil Furu, My Ambience shows her free-spirited and respectful approach to the aspects of reality she is working on. Maybe this is why her interview partners appear with such clarity and potency. This is evident in 6x17 (2004), in which six 17-year-olds struggle with the balance between being themselves and being like everyone else. Or in Kabul Ping Pong (2004), an experimental documentary from Afghanistan, in which individual voices are woven together to form a crucial question: How is democracy possible if no trust exists between individuals? Formally, My Ambience offers proof of Furu’s technical skills. Handling space and time in dual channel projection is challenging but helps Furu avoid the most common clichés of the portrait documentary genre, opening up a more complex orchestration of the visual form. The double image, the soundtrack, and the careful editing enclose the interview objects in a rhythm that justiﬁes the ambiguity of their appearance and statements. The images are not perceived as existing side by side—to use Fatma’s precise description of how Norwegians live their lives—but together as a whole.
In western art there is an attraction to new aesthetics. The quest for a unique and undiscovered formal language has been an important force in modern art. In this race for individual expression, the common issues and sides of reality are less interesting. Instead, reality is isolated, quoted, exaggerated, staged, or turned into a self-critical form. Furu counters this by exhibiting what others discard: the banal, the common, and the politically correct. She lets the well-spoken Fatma puncture our expectations and prejudice towards immigrants and fundamentalism. She dwells on insecurity and clumsiness, dull pauses, and difﬁcult questions about life, death, and responsibility. The artist’s role is about selection, said an aging John Baldessari in an interview with Doug Aitken. My Ambience demonstrates a main feature of Bodil Furu’s artistic practice: her ability to cut away and thereby liberate herself from aesthetic conventions and conceptions of what art must be like.
Born in 1976 in Askim, Norway, lives and works in Oslo, Norway