Thursday, March 15, 2007



'Vessels of Acquiessence'
Call me Orca? Artist harpoons New Age vision of whales
Reyhan Harmanci
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bert Bergen draws (and frequently sews on) many pictures of orcas. But he has no illusions about why they're called killer whales.
"People have so many associations with whales and orcas. They're very vicious and violent but very similar to humans," he says, describing how orcas kill other orcas just to eat their tongues.
Bergen's work comments sharply on the difference between the New Age vision of these giant sea creatures and the less cuddly reality. His posters for rock shows (he plays in the local band Ascended Master) have been appearing around San Francisco for the past few years, and his silk-screened clothing sells quickly at sample sales, but this show brings his ideas into sharper focus. He describes the collection of sewn drawings (he likes to bring his ink figures in relief by embroidering) and wood sculpture as an allegory.
"It's dealing with this human figure that enters the orca," he says. "It's an allegory dealing with the mineral, plant and human world mythology. Through a series of fragmented panels, the story unfolds." Bergen also says that he constructed the pieces to have the feel of human hands -- in keeping with the themes of nature's relationship to man, he didn't want to make anything too sleek or processed.
Bergen, a native of Washington state, began drawing after studying photography at Evergreen State College, where he would draw his ideas before shooting. After being laid off by a nonprofit a few years ago, he's been able to devote more time to his work.
As the intentionally misspelled title of his show ("Vessels of Acquiessence") suggests, Bergen doesn't mince words when it comes to the New Agers, the consumers of air-brushed whale calendars or perhaps practitioners of crystal therapy. He says that much of his work is a parody, but also a "comment on what is the mystical, what is spirituality."
"I grew up hunting and fishing and saw this side of nature and violence, and it's beautiful," he said. "With New Age culture, they seem so passive and not very honest about the whole spectrum.
"People don't want to understand the balance of dark and light, the real violence that happens. When you're so passive and white and privileged, there's this horrid view that your life is a wound and you're in a constant state of healing that doesn't resonate with me."
Opens in the Adobe Backroom along with Eve Ekman’s “The Ocean’s a Boneyard, the Sky Flies Still” in the Main Room. 7-10 p.m. Fri. Through April 16. Adobe Bookstore, 3166 16th St., S.F.

Monday, March 5, 2007

New works by Bert Bergen

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Opening reception: Friday March 16 7pm - 10 pm

Show runs through March 16 - April 16

In the main room: Eve Ekman

Music by: Fortune Towerz

Bert Bergen was born on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound of Washington State.
His teen years were spent in Tumwater, Washington engaging in activities such as hunting, fishing and going to see any band playing in the neighboring town of Olympia.

Bert received a BA from the Evergreen State College in 1997 with a focus in photography and gender studies. After college he relocated to San Francisco. Gradually he shifted his focus away from the expensive world of photography, but kept its process orientated discipline of art making.
Bert has been in the bands: Lice, the sun, Appreciation, Citay and Ascended Master. Being active in the music community provided a platform for him to develop much of his visual aesthetic and technique in screen-printing, wheat pasting, drawing, painting, sculpture, sewing and ritualistic performances. He designed and manufactured seven cassette, LP and CD release for bands he has been in.
Bert has designed and produced posters, t-shirts and clothing for bands such as Om, Six Organs of Admittance, Oneida, Crime In Choir, Von Iva, Zombi, Pelican, DMBQ, Afirampo, Green Milk from the Planet Orange, Earthless, Mammatus, and Jana Hunter.
Bert has exhibited at The Lab, New Langton Arts, Triple Base, Quotidian Gallery, Ego Park, The Painted Bird, Hayes Valley Market, Pond Gallery, Soap Gallery, Artscape Baltimore, MD, and Skylab Columbus, OH.

Bert Bergen

Vessels of Acquiessence

As humans our bodies are inferior when dealing with elements that other creatures of this world take with ease. In order to traverse this inability, we create vessels that allow us to exist in other realms that normally would not be possible. If these vessels came to humanity in animal form, what possibilities would exist when we gave up our bodies and entered theirs? This mutually acquiescent relationship would lead to an existence that transgresses the relationships of this world. A new and purely visceral sensuality would be realized. Similar species of the animal bodies that are inhabited would obviously accept us. Our worlds would finally be each others. There would be a greater force visible to us that we could finally communicate with, another entity that could possibly illuminate the reasons for our existence. Humanity would finally have its purpose.

This allegory for the new age of Earth is depicted through sewn drawings (ink and brush drawings that are completed with an embroidery sewing machine) and a two dimensional enameled wood sculpture.