Photos: Corey Arnold






The man who loves monsters.

René M. Hamel has been named "The Monster Man from Oslo".
He is born and grown up in Kaiserslauten, Germany, where nocturnal watching of horror movies on television probably left its traces in the delicate mind of the child. It has to be some reason or other - because during the last years this immigrant has attracted considerable attention within art and media circles in Norway. Not only has he been the object of a great deal of praise in nationwide media like Dagbladet and Aftenposten, he has also managed to establish a dialogue with everybody and everything from ecstasy-munching house-youths to heavy, multinational fashion-industry.

This is to a great deal caused by René M. Hamel hitting a "zeitgeist" - a spirit of the time. His sculptures and other works are tailor-made for the beginning of a century and a millennium. There is a sense of aggression and alienation in many of his works, but also a deep fascination for what the future may bring. René M. Hamel operates within that border zone which the Swiss artist H. R. Giger once defined as "bio-mechanical landscapes" - i.e. that point where the human being and the machine comes out in a new unit. It is easy to lean on contemporary terms like "horror", "comic stories" and "science fiction" when one is to describe what Hamel does, but it doesn't imply that he is without predecessors from past times. Many of his sculptures expresses more of the same nightmarish world which Hieronymus Bosch once painted, but in Hamel's version we find the basic subject in our fear for what Man is about to transform himself into - not in any chastising Deity. Hamel's Frankenstein-monsters definitely belong to this world, and affect us therefore as a horrifying warning of a development which is but a few steps away.

The twentieth century has above all been the century of fragmentation. Just like the atom was split, the collective views of Mankind were split as well. In a world which more and more adapts the form of a splintered hall of mirrors, maybe the works of Spacebrain Future Trash are closer to us than we would like to believe? And - it is in accordance with these mirroring qualities that Hamel chooses to take his art out from the safe galleries and the sterile museum areas, and instead lets his cyber-monsters loose among festively spirited consumers and house-party participants.

And this is exactly why one should rather not overlook the humoristic aspect of Hamel's works. It is indeed a humour which can be bitter as well as black, but it is easily recognised by everyone who has been brought up with EC Comics, "Aliens" and "Terminator". Swap the word "fruit" with the word "fear" - and see if not Hamel's collage-like robotheads all of a sudden remind us of the made up faces of the painter from the 14th century - Giuseppe Arcimboldo!

Since we are into historic parallels - the German born painter Kurt Schwitters created his works out of littered tram tickets and outdated timetables. His so-called Merzbau was an attempt to build an alternative - but all the same commentary - world to our own, where just the rejected and discarded were the building stones he used. That reminds us a whole lot of Hamel's container-aesthetics.

Kurt Scwitters lived in Norway from 1935, and had to flee the country five years later. His only constructed Merzbau was some time later destroyed by children who played with matches.
René M. Hamel's cyber-sculptures won't be as easy to put fire to.

-- Arvid Scancke-Knutsen









Photos: Sandra Jensen