Rondò Pilot, issue n. 0.8/2019

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Issue no. 0.8/2019

Diana Campbell Betancourt | Clémentine Deliss | Catherine Beaudette | Reinhard Reitzenstein | Marieke Gow | Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva | Magdalina Rajeva | Leah Gordon | Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk | Marius Grønning | Carole Douillard |Mônica Nador and Bruno O. | Rose Hammer


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Rondò Pilot. Issue no. 0.8/2019 Rondò Pilot is an independent publication, part of a research project at the intersections of arts, culture, communication processes and awareness-based systems change methodologies by Daniela Veneri. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. All images and texts are property of their respective owners.

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Contents

About Rondò Pilot …………………………………………………………………………………………..…………….p. 5 A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt ………………………………………………………..p. 7 Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University …………………………………………p. 18 Voices from the Bonavista Biennale …………………………………………………………………………….p. 33 A conversation with Catherine Beaudette …………………………………………………………………..p. 35 An interview with Reinhard Reitzenstein ……………………………………………………………………..p. 53 A talk with Marieke Gow ……………………………………………………………………………………………….p. 71 Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture ……………………..……………..p. 82 A conversation with Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva ……………………………………………………………...p. 84 Magdalina Rajeva and the Mobile school Stolipinovo ………………………………………………...p. 97 Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale ……………………………………………………………………….p. 109 Voices from the osloBIENNALEN ………………………………………………………………………………….p. 123 An interview with Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk …......p. 125 An interview with Marius Grønning ………………….……………………………..…………………………...p. 142 A conversation with Carole Douillard …………………………………………………………………………..p. 160 An interview with Mônica Nador and Bruno O. …………………………………………………………..p. 176 Rose Hammer and Dora Garcìa as Rose Hammer member ……………………..……….……...p. 193 Word clouds …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..p. 205

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About Rondò Pilot

Rondò Pilot was born as part of a research project at the intersections of arts, culture, communication processes and awareness-based systems change methodologies. The aim is to have an overview on a global scale on the dynamics in place in the arts and culture eco-system and in its interactions with the expanded social field, to take a closer look at the level of the individual and collective awareness that is at the foundation of our ways of working, building relationships and influencing outcomes, and to ideally initiate a platform that stimulates dialogue on these themes. The intention is to give voice to different types of people and professionals who work in or come into contact with the arts and culture field, to catalyse ideas and share about topics like activating collective sensing, enabling community building, welcoming new forms of narratives, recognising emerging ways to use contemporary art languages, identifying emerging curatorial and management approaches and forms of exhibition platforms, supporting societal transformational change. The necessity to gain a renewed sense of presence in times of transitions and polarisations seems to call for the re-appropriation of a certain kind of sensibility to navigate the complexity of our world and to adopt more sustainable leading approaches. Rondò Pilot collects series of interviews conducted with the intention to focus on the process that is at the core of how we take decisions and develop projects, and to make space for a deeper level of listening and conversation. We also have small “cases” representing different voices, so as to have a diversified sense of what happens in a given context. All this information will be subject of research along with all future interviews that will be collected and published, pointing to a representation of small and large programs in place on all continents and at all latitudes. This pilot issue offers a glimpse on what is currently happening from Canada to the Caribbean to Norway, from Bangladesh to Bulgaria, including people based in Brazil, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and so on. Special thanks go to all the artists, curators, architects and other professionals who agreed to answer my questions. They have all been very generous in sharing their time and thoughts. My hope is that this publication will attract interest and people motivated to build sustainable arts and culture eco-systems, and that it will activate new connections and help create new opportunities for dialogue and change. Daniela Veneri 5


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A conversation with

Diana Campbell Betancourt curated by Daniela Veneri

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Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a Princeton educated American curator who has been working in South and Southeast Asia since 2010, primarily in India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Since 2013, she has served as the Founding Artistic Director of Dhaka-based Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh and Chief Curator of the Dhaka Art Summit, leading the critically acclaimed 2014, 2016, and 2018 editions. Campbell has developed the Dhaka Art Summit into a leading research and exhibitions platform for art from South Asia, bringing together artists, architects, curators, and writers from across South Asia through a largely commission based model where new work and exhibitions are born in Bangladesh. In 2018, she was appointed curator of Frieze Projects in London. Her writing has been published by Mousse, Frieze, Art in America, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) among others.

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A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt

“We have this vision that we can create something priceless and that has other ripple effects. We have this emotional economy in the Dhaka Art Summit, which includes artists, galleries, our team, people that just really want to make something happen. None of what we do is rational, this makes absolutely no sense, but it creates, we can create, this magical experience for people that can have a wider impact than what could ever be measured.” - Diana Campbell Betancourt

What are the projects you are working on that excite you most and why? The next 2020 Dhaka Art Summit. It's our fifth edition and we received a grant from the Getty Foundation to bring together twenty emerging art historians and five senior faculty to look at Comparative Art Histories between South, Southeast Asia and Africa. I think that this idea of connecting our histories and bringing people together that try to catalyze change outside of Western paradigms is very exciting. An artist friend of mine shared that basically in the tropics air moves from east to west. I think that it's also very interesting to just try to reframe how we look at movements of knowledge and ideas. The other big project, which is tied to this, is that we are opening our first permanent space in Bangladesh in Sylhet- a 45 minute flight from Dhaka. It is a big construction project and I'm having to figure out how we balance our work on the festival and the permanent space which will be a sculpture park and residency program and exhibition program revolving around our collection and because they are separate projects, how we make them complementary and not competitive.

Where do you notice current shifts pointing at a more healthy and balanced way of working in the arts system? I think part of this is also creating an environment that leads people to approach DAS with humility - realizing how much they don't know and catalyzing the formation of groups of people who try to think and learn together outside of existing frameworks. It was a great experience to be at The Met in New York in January and seeing the Bangladeshi artist, Rashid Choudhury's work installed in the permanent galleries across from Sol Lewitt’s work. I like this approach- which does not keep South Asian artists within geographically defined galleries. 9


Dhaka Art Summit & Noor Photoface


A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt

It’s a slow process but South Asian artists (as well as other artists from the Global South for lack of a better word) are starting to be given the same kind of attention that Western masters have been. Of course it will take time but I think that, as more institutions start to do this, it's a shift in that direction. Which is also why we are focusing our energy on engaging with a younger generation of emerging scholars (such as the Met’s Shanay Jhaveri) because generations will shift and we are part of that. It's about creating the conditions with which people can think in a more expanded manner than narrow-minded western centric institutions allowed in the past.

Some arts professionals notice how different roles are more and more melting into one another, and they are concerned about how sustainable it can be for a person to take on so many different aspects. What is your perception about this issue? I think the role of a curator as we see it today is relatively new. I was spending time with this artist who is also a curator and a producer, Asad Raza. He produces work for artists such as Tino Sehgal and Philippe Parreno, he is a very good independent curator, and he also has his own artistic practice. He was saying how hard it is because certain people's minds have rigid boundaries — working to try and keep these separate but connected parts of his practice from coming together when in fact they feed each other. We are now seeing a lot more artists curating (the upcoming Documenta is a case in point). It is not always done well, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this throwing an artist in the deep end without a support system, but I do think that curators have a lot to learn from artists and there have been some great artists curating biennials, and I think there is a need to be more of this kind of porosity. While I would define myself as a curator, I have to be take on other roles in order to realize the kind of shows I want to make in Bangladesh. I have to be the registrar, I have to be the conservator, I have to do all the logistics around it. So I think it's really quite a luxury to just be able to be a curator and have other people execute stuff for you, and as budgets get cut I think that you will see more of a need for curators with more practical expertise. I guess that as things keep getting done over and over again, you have to find new ways to do things or new ways to look at things. I guess it's a natural progression, but I do think that part of what curators are being asked to do, at least in my experience, is taking on more of the producer role, which might have something to do with funding cuts.

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Dhaka Art Summit & Noor Photoface


A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt

Today there are a lot of cross-sectoral collaborations involving the arts. How do you look at these opportunities? In Belgium, where I live now, there is this great festival which is called the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, or also the Manchester International Festival would be another example where you have dance, food, architecture, visual arts and theater all coming together and it's really incredible. You need fresh perspective, so when you have people from dierent disciplines coming together that way, you often have phenomenal results. As a viewer, I really enjoy these things. As a practitioner, for example, I'm now working on a show about a Bangladeshi architect, Muzharul Islam, and I'm inviting artists to interpret some elements of his buildings that speak to his political and architectural ideology. Bangladesh is known for its architecture, there's a lot of artists who work with architects that are inspired by architecture. There's a bit of a fetish about that at the moment, I have to say, but at the same time it's really interesting to see the way that artists conceive of space and what architects can see with space and allow them to come into dialogue, and also working on an ambitious exhibition design component that will allow the viewer to feel that they have experienced a Muzharul Islam building by navigating through the show. What do you like most about your work? I just love spending time with artists, with their crazy ideas. I think it's a great feeling to have the trust of this incredible community of brilliant people. Sometimes it can get lonely traveling all over the world and having to be all these places, but at the same time, if you look at it the other way, that anywhere you go there is someone there that has a crazy idea that you can work on and realize together, it's actually very exciting. I like to push the boundaries of what is considered possible - and I build dynamic cross-cultural teams to do so. Right now I am working on a project with the Polish artist, Monica Sosnowska, and it's monumental, concrete river that is a walking path, it's the biggest work that she has ever done. She came back to do another site visit and we were standing on a viewing tower in a swamp forest when the water levels were low, and then we realized that actually as water levels drained the way that the natural landscape looked like it was very similar to her river, and actually that was not where the reference point came from, because the proposal was originally made for Poland. It is just really interesting to work on these projects with artists, see how they take dierent turns and bring them to reality. I've been really lucky, maybe because the context of Bangladesh is so unique and interesting, it's super challenging. We have 120% tax on foreign art, we don't have conservators, we don't have registrars, those jobs just don't exist because there aren't museums to support that, so it's really diďŹƒcult logistically, but at the same time, the context is so interesting that, almost every artist I've wanted to work with, I've been able to work with because our work together is something really special that can't happen anywhere else.

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Dhaka Art Summit & Noor Photoface


A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt

Bangladesh is a place that is very much about community and it’s a privilege to be a part of this community and to welcome artists into it- and I realize we work with most artists across several editions of DAS- it’s not a one time engagement. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world, with half the size of Germany and twice the population of Germany, and when we have the Dhaka Art Summit it has huge visitor numbers and we are the highest daily visited arts festival in the world. We had over 300,000 people come to the last edition in nine days. That doesn't really speak to the quality of my exhibition, it actually speaks to how people engage with culture locally. When I do a project like this, it is actually visited, seen by and influences people. I don't think art should be used as propaganda and I shouldn't instrumentalize art that way, but I had this light bulb go off in my head that actually some of the ideas I share and the summit are quite radical, and if I had 300,000 people talking about that in a public space we would probably all be arrested. This is something fragile that we must protect — and it is a privilege to have built such a platform to share ideas urgent to our times.

What are the qualities that enable a team to play at its full potential? I think for our team it's that we have a calling that is, clearly for us, not about money. At the Dhaka Art Summit nothing is for sale and all of us, we could make so much more money if we were working on something else. We have this vision that we can create something priceless and that has other ripple effects. We have this emotional economy in the Dhaka Art Summit, which includes artists, galleries, our team, people that just really want to make something happen. None of what we do is rational, this makes absolutely no sense, but it creates, we can create, this magical experience for people that can have a wider impact than what could ever be measured. We care about our local audience - and we try to build the best festival that we can for them, our primary audience. We are working in a different space that is not about a commodity economy, and if you are not on that page, working with us is never going to work. There are two ways to see this. The people who were involved in this summit are very much like a family, that could also be read as being cliquish. We work with hundreds of artists, hundreds of people, but the kind of core people that keep coming back to this are those that have those same kind of feelings. That's because we share similar values, these values of coming together and being able to create something not quantifiable and priceless, even if it's only for a moment. It is very utopian. I also see that when we talk about generosity. My head of administration, Sazzad, he is from a village in the south, he doesn't get to go home very often. Today, for example, it's technically supposed to be his day off, but he is in Sylhet (the area where our permanent space is being built), with an artist. He is excited to be there to see this project realized. He doesn't see this as a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice, and he is very generous with his time because he has the drive to see this artist’s vision realized. So when we talk about generosity, it is actually generosity on micro levels too. It has ripple effects.

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A conversation with Diana Campbell Betancourt

Can you think of three or five keywords that mostly resonate with you, your impressions and feelings about what we just talked about? Imagination, because I think to be able to imagine something different, to imagine the world in a way that is different from the way you experienced it, is a really empowering thing for anyone. Whether you're an artist or a villager or a farmer, the imagination is super important and it connects people across class, race, religion, all divides imposed after birth. Responsibility, as you have to look at the world and respond with your ability to make an impact, and you have to also think about what the consequences of what you are doing are. Generosity. I guess this was a piece of advice I got a long time ago, but I think that if you surround yourself with people who are generous with knowledge, if I tell you everything I know, you are going to tell me everything you know, then we know twice as much, if not more. Collaboration, because I think that no one can do anything by themselves and the art world is far too individualistic, and I wish we could look at it more like a theater production or film production. Movement, which I guess you could see in many forms. I think that artworks also have to be moving. You have to move someone. If we are going to do something, how does it stop you in your tracks and make you think or move differently? How do you create that kind of emotional engagement that takes us away from being robots?

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ClĂŠmentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University curated by Daniela Veneri

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Clémentine Deliss. Photo courtesy of Jana Hoffmann.

Clémentine Deliss is a curator, publisher and cultural historian. She studied art practice and semantic anthropology in Vienna, Paris, and London and holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London. Between 2010–2015, she directed the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, instituting a new research lab to remediate collections within a post-ethnological context. Exhibitions she curated at the Weltkulturen Museum include “Object Atlas - Fieldwork in the Museum” (2011), “Foreign Exchange (or the stories you wouldn’t tell a stranger” (2014), and “El Hadji Sy - Painting, Politics, Performance” (2015). “From field to factory” she curated for “Hello World. Revising a Collection”, National Galerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (April-August 2018). From 2002–2009, she ran the transdisciplinary collective Future Academy with student research cells in London, Edinburgh, Dakar, Mumbai, Bangalore, Melbourne, and Tokyo. She has acted as an expert consultant for the European Union and is a member of the Scientific Council of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. In 2017-2018 she was Visiting Professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts Paris-Cergy and has an International Chair at the Laboratoire d’Excellence des Arts et Médiations Humaines, Université, Paris 8 and Centre Georges Pompidou. She is currently Interim Professor of Curatorial Theory and Dramaturgical Practice at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Faculty at Large for the MA in Curatorial Practice, SVA, School of Visual Arts, New York, and Mentor for the 2019 Berlin Artists Programme.

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Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

“My original concept for a museum-university, and the one that I still strive for, is carried by a new architectonic structure that enables people to study different subjects based around historical collections. The Metabolic Museum-University in its formulation in Ljubljana doesn't work so much with collections. Instead, it says, hey, after six weeks, what is left of this biennial? It's not fresh anymore. So maybe we can use visual thinking and the different senses to take over the void space surrounding a sculpture or a painting.” - Clémentine Deliss

How did the concept of the Metabolic Museum-University emerge and evolve? For a long time, I have thought about my work as a curator as being connected to the identification of organs. I produced the organ Metronome between 1996 and 2007. The reason I called it an organ was in relation to independent publishing initiatives at the start of the 20th century that were also called organs. For me the term indicates that this is something essential, vital, not cosmetic, not just there to produce small readerships or to make money. It's utterly contingent on relationships and on the moment. When it no longer has that kind of functional necessity, then one changes the platform and experiments with another organ or medium of transformation. I see an institution as something subjective. An institution is built from the desire of a group of people who want to work together. In some cases, too, institutions have been built on collections. I have begun to look at the ethnographic museum as a corpus, like a body. This makes it more interesting to try to connect different aspects of it, as if they were organs. There is a visible and an invisible part of this body, an epidermis of functions that you see on the outside. This is the public face of an institution, but that which happens backstage, behind the skin, often has everything to do with what we don't know about: like what exactly is in the collection, or the fact that the artefacts in these collections have no documented authorship. There are museums, which like organic constructs, are necropolitical, they are interested in the subjugation and control of the life and death of their own collections. This has led to me writing about the museum as a metabolic system, a system of interdependencies, of humours, of different functionalities ranging from high visibility to expulsion, but also regeneration.

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ClĂŠmentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

When I began teaching at the University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe I was very excited and I still am. I don't work purely with curatorial students, or young people who want to become curators. Neither do I work purely with visual artists, but instead with a group that has already studied art theory, media theory, media art, product design, communications design, scenography, and exhibition design. They are both theoretical and applied in their approach and interests. I suggested to them that might like to get involved in creating models for a museum-university, in this case, the Metabolic Museum-University. The notion of a museum-university is something which I've been working on since 2013 and the ďŹ rst manifesto that I wrote on the post-ethnographic museum. It is based on the constate that there are three institutions today that have a civic role to play in the arts: the art school, the museum and the university. You could add the biennial to make that a fourth institution. At the moment they seem to me to be quite exclusive. The art school is still probably the freest of these three institutions and the most vagabonding. Structures such as the Bologna agreement act to tether expectations, and there is an increase in controlling mechanisms within arts school. One of these is the fact that they are have become geared towards the professionalization of artists and are much more career-oriented than they ever were. The second institution is the university and that is gated. With some universities you can walk in freely, but a lot of them are on a campus and if you're not part of the student body or faculty, you don't just walk in! There will be gates at the entrance, and these physical gates are also political and economic. If you migrate to Germany and you don't have the right exam from high school, you cannot study at university. If you're a professor and you don't have the qualiďŹ cations that are necessary in Germany, you cannot do research or teach. I see this is a central problem right now. Finally we come to the museum, which has become remarkably normative, right down to the way artworks are hung, the constructed timing of an exhibition, the periodisation of installing, the manner one is allowed to engage with collections, and how the public is treated and responds to this. It's frightening to see how many museums are not prepared to take away the shop, to reprioritize their space, to introduce an apartment for a residency, or simply bring in other furniture, larger tables and chairs and more places to sit down. This is about being responsive to the ergonomic condition of hermeneutic unfolding that can take place within the museum. That is the potential of the democratic intellect within the museum. So my idea is that you need to actually clash these institutions together and do something that many years ago I used to call a process of transvesting within institutions. You change the activity and the visibility of what you do within each institution, in order to make it transform. You don't try to cure a museum with a museum. Instead you remediate it by introducing an outside interlocutor: the university or in some cases the house.

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Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

The Metabolic Museum-University (MM-U) is a situation, which we're going to test out in Ljubljana between 26th July and 2nd August 2019. The MM-U team at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design has built furniture that is there for members of the public. Visitors can sit down, have a table in front of them on which they can put anything they want, but also a computer and a projector. The Metabolic Chair enables the person seated to spam the hang, to actually beam other sensorial material between the gaps and the void that is created by exhibition hangs. That is where you have space: between one painting or one installation and another. We hope to see what happens when the public engages in a very different activity, animated and triggered by lectures, performances, exercises and rehearsals, and what we call “Stimuli”. Every visitor is a student, and a student in this condition may well spend the whole day, if not a whole week with the MM-U. In any case, they will definitely engage in a completely different approach with artworks. This is a temporary squatting of an exhibition space. But it doesn't say, we're destroying the curatorial plan, and it's not iconoclastic. It isn't there to screw up what the artists originally wanted and how they asked for their work to be installed, whether they be living or dead. It's much more about breaking chronologies, introducing new visual thinking processes, and testing out what happens when the civic space of a museum is used or even usurped for higher education that is both formal and informal. There will be seven days, so there'll be different Organs of the Week. We have Lungday, Tongueday, Eyeday, Brainday, Skinday, Liverday, and Heartday. The question of the organ and the question of the museum-university combine to create a metabolic system, which should hopefully allow for a certain circulation of ideas, generated through this process of visual thinking and ergonomic engagement.

Do you feel that this can be considered an experiment for challenging and changing the art biennial system from the inside? Yes. The concept of the museum-university has come out of the question of what to do with ethnographic collections. I look at the problematics of the diaspora today, at the fragmentary and complimentary conditions of people in the world, and I notice that so many young people are not only from different backgrounds and cultures but are also studying diasporic disciplines. They don't necessarily study just sociology, but something combinatory like cultural studies or curatorial studies which are guaranteed to include different elements from different places. The diasporic form of studying reflects both the human being and where they are in the world. It generates a kind of disruption and change, a transformation of studies and a reformulation of disciplines. I think this is really interesting. I wonder what type of institution can provide a home, a sheltering structure in the political sense of a place where one can go to express, without condition, new non-exclusive interpretations of things one doesn't know so much about but are in a process of decolonial commoning.

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Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

My original concept for a museum-university, and the one that I still strive for, is carried by a new architectonic structure that enables people to study different subjects based around historical collections. The Metabolic Museum-University in its formulation in Ljubljana doesn't work so much with collections. Instead, it says, hey, after six weeks, what is left of this biennial? It's not fresh anymore. So maybe we can use visual thinking and the different senses to take over the void space surrounding a sculpture or a painting. If we go into a dark room because there's a video being projected in it, then our chairs will have small lights. All this encourages one to accept that people have the right to educate themselves over longer periods of time in the museum. I think that the manner in which we use our human bodies, our intellect, our emotions and our physical, corporeal sensibilities inside a museum has become an urgent issue. I don't like the way people walk through museums. It's no different from the way you scroll on Instagram. The timing is problematic, the commercialism too. So to change these institutions from the inside is to begin to understand what kind of outside infrastructure might be necessary. It's a process of identifying what could be done and what ingredients we need for a new type of institution. It's complex because museums and universities have colonial and racist connotations. Why not just find a new word for this institution, but I can't yet because I don't yet know what the hermeneutic and ergonomic necessities are for it to work. Hence, the attempt to create a clash between the two historical venues by placing questions surrounding the collection and its meanings, or potential meanings at the center of our focus.

What are the values and principles that guide your work? I like working with artists, I really do, and I like to work with other areas of knowledge production, both transcultural and transdisciplinary. I'm a strange kind of curator in that I work in a very independent way. When I teach, I try to encourage the students to feel that they have a right to their own emancipation. And that I'm not just teaching them what curating is but showing them maybe that it goes beyond exhibition histories. I try to motivate them to work in different media, developing different forms of engagement with artists. I like the early phases of curatorial work. I like it when you begin to develop something with an artist and everything is much more vulnerable and less clear. In many respects, I ride the same methodologies and practices as artists, and my independence makes me unusual in that way. I say what I feel and what I think is right. I have to maintain an active faith in what I'm involved in. When I tell you that I don't want to curate a biennial, it's because I don't have the persuasion necessary for that structure. I would like to do a large-scale project, but I'm not sure I want to do so in the manner that they've been conceived so far. I'm more engaged in setting up scenarios for concept-work with artists and generating ideas with artists prior to production. A lot of the time, I try to identify places where there is potential freedom of movement. I'm not sure that the emphasis on audience has given a great freedom of movement to the development 25



Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

of art practice. Yes, I think there are immensely important things to be done with audiences and with publics and I think that art has a social function and a political function. But I think that there are also other areas that have to be kept within a sheltering structure. One needs places where complex and less definable processes and projects can be developed.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of curators, art managers, cultural institutions, artists and events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? I think that right now, there is a problem in that too many curators are accepting to do biennials on the assumption that they will be able to re-articulate and manipulate the funding, the locations, the expectations, the publics, everything associated with the existing identity of this event. It would be more interesting, I feel, to encourage the development of alternative infrastructures in curatorial practice that are more responsive to the problematics in art practice at the moment. Right now we are facing a polarity that is not resolved by any means, and that's the polarity between works that are clearly compatible with the market, presented in rooms, on walls, and that fit within the normative framework of a private gallery, a fair, or a museum. And, at the opposite end, there are works that have more socio-political or experimental content that take on shapes and forms which are open-ended, maybe time-based and these formulations of practice cannot be easily hung in a gallery. They don't follow the same path, even if the artists are unclear as to whom their audience is, and therefore what kind of context and what kind of infrastructure they require to show these works. I think this is a problem we face at the moment and I wonder whether it's collectives or whether it's curators who can encourage the development of new infrastructures and that don't rely on pre-given model, which is colonial. You cannot dissociate biennials, like the majority of museums, from colonial history. This is something that concerns me at the moment.

If you were able to change two things in the areas of responsibility of art curators, cultural producers and cultural institutions, which two things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? If I was able to change two things in the areas of responsibility of art curators and cultural institutions then it would be to set up a forum where questions surrounding new infrastructure and forms of production would take on a central role. The audience has to just wait a minute until this new infrastructure and this means of production have been discussed.

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Testing out the Metabolic Chairs at the museum in Karlsruhe.


Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

Thinking of the relation between the art system within the expanded social field and the social and political function of art, what do you think is missing today? What is the essence of this function? I feel nervous when I'm asked to identify the social core of art or the political function of art. I don't like the feeling that comes with the identification and naming of politics in art or the social function of art, but maybe this is my personal weakness. Often artists need to intervene where politicians or publics don't or can’t. Artists set up spaces, create other ways of publishing, alternative modes of engagement. Even if this is just to understand how best to engage with each other, that in itself is already really important. Around the global turn of 1989, I asked many artists to whom they were addressing their work, and in most cases they didn’t really know. Later in the 1990s and 2000s, the answer came that their art was for a wide audience, and I think that's another reason why biennials became so productive and front of stage. I feel strongly that the backstage is equally an arena of the political, and that you don't have to make visible work to create social and political expression within art. The only question then is, what is it? Can you identify the person with whom you are able to dialogue backstage? A person who can become a trustworthy interlocutor, and with whom you can share your concerns? I think this is the most complex issue at the moment, knowing with whom you can exchange as yet unformulated concepts in art and in curatorial practice. This is what I call the prelusive, in other words something ahead of visibility and ahead of production. This exploratory condition should not be confused with the violence of colonialism. So the question is, how do we make an exploratory drive possible today? And how do we locate the words, the images and the structures and systems with which to nurture the unforeseeable?

What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention? There is one other question and this relates to the state of art publishing at the moment. One of the works that Luke Willis Thompson is currently showing at GAMEC is a letter that I commissioned as part of a project called “Organs & Alliances”, which I initiated last year between Paris and Leipzig. It included a series of offline printed contributions by Paul B. Preciado, Luke Willis Thompson, Tom McCarthy, Lydia Ourahmane, and younger artists and students that I was teaching in both locations. The central question was focused on how to create a trans-border infrastructure for art production. In the end, the group of art students in Paris and Leipzig pooled their money and bought an old printing press, a version of the late colonial Tiegel. The idea was to literally move the machine from Leipzig to Paris, stopping in certain locations that were not necessarily art locations, such as slaughterhouses, hospitals, migrant centers, and to print there, to offer a service for people who were on site. We produced a limited edition folder intended to fund the movement of the machine. Thompson’s contribution was an offline letter to Art Forum in which he explains what happened to him, when a collective demonstrated

29


Clémentine Deliss and the Metabolic Museum-University

against the installation of his work for the Turner Prize in 2018. He's half indigenous Fijian, half New Zealander. And in his work for Organs and Alliances, Thompson doesn't attack or respond to the collective, but to the way that this action was uncritically reported in the art press. The superficial reproduction of unresearched material is happening all the time today. Art magazines think that they're doing something important, but actually it's the same news everywhere. But what is the role of art publishing in relationship to the polarity between the market and more socially engaged work? What has art publishing done to unpack and support a more generous approach to the different practices that might be emerging at the moment? I'm very happy that you're doing Rondó. Perhaps a system of interviews is the best thing to do right now: to evoke a sense of presence.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? I’m interested in concept-work. Concept-work encourages an indeterminate and unforseeable process of poetic and ideational thought by working with assemblages, be these situations, artefacts, or artworks. Concept-work is bound by three key terms: risk, recursivity, and remediation. With risk, one seeks to push conceptual thinking to the edge. Recursive by nature, the model adapts and corrects as it moves forward. Through remediation, it seeks to heal and transform complex and contentious amalgams of materials and their interpretation. It seeks through patient dialogue to unblock the current impasse that greatly defines relations between artists and curators by developing a new infrastructure that extends beyond the existing and standardized formats of regular art events.

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Luke Willis Thompson’s contribution to Organs & Alliances


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Voices from the

Bonavista Biennale curated by Daniela Veneri

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Will Gill, The Green Chair, 2017 (installation view). Fabricated steel, life-size. Site-speciďŹ c sculpture commissioned by Bonavista Biennale. Photo: Will Gill.


A conversation with

Catherine Beaudette 35


Catherine Beaudette

Catherine Beaudette is a Canadian artist, curator and professor at OCAD University. She is the founder of Loop Gallery in Toronto, 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects and Bonavista Biennale in Newfoundland. Born in Montréal, she currently divides her time between Toronto and Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. Her practice stems from both places where she collects objects, artifacts and specimens to form the basis of her drawings, paintings and installations.Combining elements from the natural world with evidence of human activity Beaudette’s collections offer alternate taxonomies through which to consider the world around us. Beaudette has attended artist residencies in Spain, Serbia/Montenegro, Havana, Dawson City, Banff, and Fogo Island. She received her MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in 1998. Beaudette won the RBC Canadian Painting Prize in 2000. She has exhibited nationally and internationally since the 1980’s.

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

“The Biennale features a large variety of artwork- from painting or photography to multi-media indoor and outdoor installations. Most of the local people didn't know what a biennale was and couldn’t even say the word, but now everybody, every fisherman with a Newfoundland accent can say Biennale. Because the artworks were so different, like a chair on an outcrop of rocks in the ocean, or red trees planted upside down on the beach, people began to think, oh, that's what a biennale is!” - Catherine Beaudette

What was your initial intention when you started working on the Bonavista Biennale and what has changed since then? The Bonavista Biennale originates with 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects in Duntara, a small fishing community like many such fishing communities around the world. In 1992 the Cod Moratorium put a stop to all cod fishing in Newfoundland; people moved away and houses were abandoned. I first came to Duntara in 2000 and every year since there was another empty house and fewer people. I bought one of the empty houses for really cheap and started a gallery and museum for all the artifacts I was collecting since everyone was throwing out their old fishing tools that their grandfathers used. It was also a way to bring artists to the area, and soon I expanded with 2 Rooms Artist Residency. Each summer 10 to 12 artists live in the residence house two at a time for three weeks. They make their work and get to know the people in the community. I thought that, here in the village where houses were empty, if I could attract artists and they too might want to buy an old house. It was a way to balance the out-migration. This has slowly happened over time, artists come, they love it and they want to come back. Some have bought houses in this and other communities on the Bonavista Peninsula. Then one day I thought we could do this on a larger scale, and that is what became the Bonavista Biennale, not just in my community but in communities all around this Peninsula. The Peninsula has many similar communities with under-used or empty buildings; old sheds, fish stores, fish plants and other historical structures. The Biennale activates these cultural spaces engaging the public in new conversations. Art as an economic stimulator or art for social change, that was my motto. I still run 2 Rooms 37


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

Artist Residency which started small without any funding. Bonavista Biennale became a much larger project with support from local people and government agencies. It’s an attempt to turn things around, to bring hope and jobs to people on social assistance and to attract more visitors and new residents to the area. There are other new projects, businesses and cultural organizations that have opened up on the Peninsula and together we are creating a vibrant cultural destination in Newfoundland. It was ambitious and tricky to start a biennale in this area with little art awareness and no art infrastructure. It was a good way to reuse, re-present and restore an industrial or historical space, an that was appealing to the cultural minister and tourism development people who saw the potential for increased tourism, offshoot businesses and commerce using culture as a platform. We are a nonprofit charitable organization and the Biennale is free to the public. Our goal is to put money in the pockets of people with hotels, restaurants. all the places visitors can spend money on the peninsula. This was very successful in 2017 especially for a first venture, and that's why we're going ahead with the second Biennale in 2019. How did the local community respond to this initiative? I'll talk about 2 Rooms since that was the beginning. The house/ gallery was painted in three vertical colors, it looked different. People weren't sure what to think but they knew I was an artist and collected artifacts. I have a collection of a thousand old things that belonged to people from here so that made it a little bit interesting to them. I hired a local student as attendant, I hired a housekeeper to clean the artist residency, and gradually their parents and friends dropped by. They were skeptical at first but they liked having artists visit their town, and some of the artists involved local residents in their projects. Over time they've accepted the concept. The Biennale has a bigger impact; we hire more local people, many who have no employment, no art knowledge, women in their fifties, some are students, some are fishermen. We offer them training and they meet people who visit from around the world. It’s a great experience for everyone. And they all helped to spread the word spread the word! You have one person working for the Biennale, their friends dropped by, and gradually people started to see that it was a lot of fun. Support from local organizations has increased for this Biennale; many are asking how they can be involved, offering exhibition space and billeting for artists. Over time we've built a lot of trust. We spend time and effort talking with locals and doing our own kind of public relations. The Biennale features a large variety of artwork - from painting or photography to multi-media indoor and outdoor installations. Most of the local people didn't know

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Reinhard Reitzenstein, Waiting/Watching/Waiting, 2017 (site-speciďŹ c installation). Conifer trees, oil, red ochre pigment. Photo: Brian Ricks.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

what a biennale was and couldn’t even say the word, but now everybody, every fisherman with a Newfoundland accent can say Biennale. Because the artworks were so different, like a chair on an outcrop of rocks in the ocean, or red trees planted upside down on the beach, people began to think, oh, that's what a biennale is! Once they realized it was fun and art didn't have to be paintings in a white cube, they used social media and spread the word. Now they’re looking forward to the next Biennale and the excitement and people it brings. Newfoundlanders love visitors because they like to show off their beautiful landscape and share their culture. The Biennale has become a well-received event that is worth waiting two years for.

How many artists and how many people are you expecting this year? We have 21 artists, most from Newfoundland and other parts of Canada, some are indigenous, and four are from the United States. They will spend a week on the Peninsula. In terms of visitors we had well over 1500 unique visitors, which may not seem like a lot to you, but for us in a remote area, it is. Visitors fly to an island that is often fogged in, or take a ferry and drive long distances careful to avoid any moose on the road. It takes an effort to get here, and we expect more people this time due to increased publicity and the word has gotten out in the art community. We anticipate well over 3000 unique visitors, and thousands more who happen to be passing through. I wanted to comment on the artists’ accommodation because that's an important part of how we network within the community. All the artists are billeted in people's houses in different communities where they get to know each other and experience Newfoundland food and culture first hand. We mostly billeted the artists for budgetary reasons, and to save the hotel beds for the tourists. We hadn’t anticipated the bond they would form between them, so it’s been a nice sort of byproduct. Another way we've engaged local residents is by having clusters of Biennale Sites in different communities, encouraging Biennale visitors to visit all the towns along the route.

What is the focus of the 2019 edition? We start with a theme and then select artists whose work could fit. We try to embed the theme within an aspect of the history and culture of Newfoundland. That doesn't mean artists have to make work about Newfoundland, rather the work resonates with the theme. Some of the artwork is newly commissioned for the Biennale; other work is pre-existing. To engage with the history of Newfoundland

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

and its location on the Atlantic Coast, we came up with the theme of ‘flow’ spelled FLOE to suggest the migratory and trade routes of nature, people and goods on the North Atlantic Ocean. Many settlers who arrived in Newfoundland from Ireland and Scotland then moved to the United States in the 1800’s because they couldn’t make a living on the island. Since Newfoundland didn’t join Canada until 1949, they had no allegiance to that country and went south instead of west, crossing the border into the States of Maine and Massachusetts U.S.. Today many Newfoundlanders still have family and relatives living across the border. Our theme includes the floe of traffic and trade between Newfoundland, Europe and the Caribbean; cod, slaves, rhum... Although Newfoundland is an isolated island, it's also on the major trading routes between Europe and North America, so we have focused on this idea of the North Atlantic Ocean as the highway. I travelled to Maine and Massachusetts for studio visits with artists we wanted to include. Our goal is not just to show Newfoundland artists, but to position them within an international context. I could see that in the future, we might consider the broader Atlantic basin. We have also given important consideration to Inuit and Mi’kmaq artists whose indigenous ancestors were here long before any settlers arrived, or borders were drawn. The theme is what holds the work together; it is the conceptual framework behind the exhibition. When you visit the different venues, you will see continuity between the ideas behind the work and the site in which it is exhibited. We don't just plunk the art down in any space available; we seek a dialogue between the history of the site and/or its present use and the artwork, matching art to site. This can be tricky but it's also part of the draw, the part I love. In my own art practice (I am more artist than curator) I think a lot about composition in my paintings and installations of objects, I like to move things around looking for the relationships between the parts. This is what I do at 2 Rooms Gallery. It's what I've done as a professor, working with different artists and artworks searching for dialogue between them.

What are the main differences in the approach to curatorship when you are an artist curator and when you are just a curator? I should start by saying I've always been interested in DIY (Do It Yourself movement), and motivating students and artists to step outside their studio and think about the dissemination of their work, rather than only relying on the commercial market. Artists have a lot of skills as makers, producers, communicators, writers and self-employed business owners. Artists are multi skilled. I consider myself a problem solver, whether it's within a painting or how I’m

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Barb Daniell, Plant Totems, 2013-2017 ongoing from PLEXUS (installation view). Mixed media sculptures. Media including: 2.4 m (8’) spruce slabs, acrylic paint, peony stalks, plant ďŹ bres, papers, pantyhose, mesh produce bags, found wood, synthetic shoe insoles, cow parsnip stalks, willow twigs, sanding disks, metal. Left to right: Black Totem, Grey Totem, White Totem, Birch I, Red Totem, Birch II, Birch III. Photo: Barb Daniell.



Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

going to install the objects I collect, it's always about solving the problem at hand. In fact the beginning of this project that is 2 Rooms and Bonavista Biennale, was about problem solving. There was a big problem, my town was dying. They actually still relocate villages in Newfoundland, it's called ‘resettlement’. The government steps in and says ‘ok everybody, you're all going to move, and there will be no more services here such as electricity, water or snow removal. This happened mostly in the 1950’s but the practice continues to this day. I was actually worried about my town and thought how can I use art to problem solve here? That's how I started this project, it was to solve a problem. As an artist curator I may respond to the process more intuitively than intellectually. As a starting point I might think more about how an artist’s work functions in a space. The relationships aren't always cerebral, they might be more visual and lead me towards the intellectual. Because the process is different for an artist curator than for a more academic curator, you can think far outside the box, there are no limits. You can bring that boundlessness to curating and anything is possible. This is the reason we have done some pretty crazy projects and we have some crazy projects about to happen this year. I see my job as facilitating the artists’ ideas and imagination. To do that, you don't go to the limitations first, you do the opposite and try to make it happen, then you might see what your limitations are. It creates a very open way of selecting artwork, artists and even sites. Initially I drove around looking at empty buildings like the old fish plant that had been empty for 15 or 20 years, and thought we should use them, work with what’s there. I think there is a certain amount of artist's initiative that I bring to this project. The idea of re-using these obsolete buildings, not everyone thinks in those terms but as artists we do because we're always interested in spaces. It’s really just a vision that comes out of one’s experience as an artist. I do see this project as an extension of my art practice, and I bring the same kind thinking to it; process oriented, problem solving, intuitive, imaginative and visionary.

What parameters do you consider for evaluating the impact of the Biennale? We're a very small group and have worked together since the first edition of Bonavista Biennale. Our project managers have measured the impact by gathering statistics and tracking the number of visitors. We do follow-up interviews with each employee, with the participating artists, and with the site owners. The artists are always happy to come here and that's one story. But the success of the event is measurable on the peninsula. Also, this isn't that big an area you can feel the energy and the presence of people in a shared experience. It’s palpable. 44


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

Many of the artists have never been to Newfoundland before. They work through the many challenges and details of creating their work in their studios, working from a distance. When they finally arrive in Newfoundland, they fall in love with this beautiful place and its friendly people. Part of the success comes from bringing in artists from away. Those artists then go back to their world talking about the experience and spreading the word. Artist are communicators and they can be great spokespeople. One of the artists in the 2017 who normally charges a fee much higher than we could afford, said ok I'll do it for your regular (lower) artist fee because I think this is such an interesting project I want to be a part of it.

What is most important for you when working in team? I think communication is key. We communicate daily and have regular phone meetings and conference calls. Most of the year we are all in different locationsNewfoundland, Toronto, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. With such a small team, each has specialized areas of responsibility. As artistic director my job is to oversee the project as a whole without micromanaging the parts. There is no need since everyone is doing what they do best, and they are very good at what they do. Together we ensure that our communication is open, our facts are correct and the details are taken care of. Another important aspect is the varying nature of what we do and trying to maintain an air of enthusiasm and innovation in the process. Things change every day and we are making it up as we go. That can be exciting or scary depending on your perspective. Nothing is ever the same- each artist is different, each site is different, the artwork is always new and everything changes all the time. There's a lot of thinking on your feet as I call it, and that’s part of the fun.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution of the role of curators, art managers, cultural institutions, cultural producers, artists, and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? There are a few things to consider here. One is the idea of art for social change. Art is about ideas, it's about problems and issues in the world such as climate change. Here in Canada there's a lot of discussion about indigenous communities and decolonization. Art is really about the world, so how can we let the artworks speak to broader audiences and perhaps speak a little louder? What's changed a lot in my time as an artist is the advent of art fairs and the increased commercialization within the art world. Although I enjoy going to art fairs, they can over emphasize

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Dil Hildebrand, E Unibus Pluram, 2017 (installation view). Acrylic, resin and nylon ďŹ bre and sand on acrylic panel. Photo: Brian Ricks.



Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

the commodification of art. I see events like the Biennale as parallel opportunities for new conversations and new audiences. There's no commercial aspect to the Biennale whatsoever, nothing is for sale and art is somewhat restored to its earlier purpose: visual communication for the people. Many of the residents in this area have had little exposure to art. They may be familiar with a landscape painting or crafts such as a model boat or knitting. The Biennale has broadened their outlook about what art is and what art can be, encouraging them to look at and think about the world in new ways. There is a boundlessness to art, limitlessness possibilities of perception that I believe can open people's minds to new thinking. The students working for us who are mostly from small fishing communities gain exposure to people and ideas from around the globe. Suddenly the world is bigger than they thought, and their dreams expand. ‘Imagination driven opportunities’ or magical thinking is something I'm interested in nurturing, particularly in young people. I am interested in the concept of artist driven initiatives. Speaking personally I prefer to focus less on marketing and more on content, using artist driven and content driven marketing. This is something I am conscious of in how we represent ourselves, I try to tone down the hype and go deeper into content and context. I see the opportunity for artists and the content of their work to drive the promotion behind the show. Social media may be a sufficient form of marketing- it’s free, it has a life of its own and it's democratic. I’m open to the idea of spending less money on very expensive advertising and let the people speak through these platforms instead. It might be one way to reduce costs in a challenging funding environment! Everything doesn't require a huge price tag, there are new systems and technologies that can facilitate artist driven initiatives. I may be overly optimistic, but then who would have thought we could create and an international caliber art biennale on the edge of the continent… DIY can extend to how you exhibit the work, the type of venues you access, the kind of projects you are able to create, it’s generally thinking outside the institution. Institutions are important and we all dream of having solo shows in large galleries and museums. That will always be a vital part of how we experience art, and there’s still room for alternative experiences. Art has a valuable function in society and some of these ideas are attempts to restore its reputation. Artists are generally self-directed in their studio work. We come up with ideas for artwork, we spend a lot of time working independently and sometimes with collaborators or a production team. How then, can we apply this independently driven studio process to the dissemination of art? How do we extend our studio practice to operate as a platform in the larger world? I see that as a chance opportunity. 48


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

Perhaps to conclude this question I will go back to my own art practice. Working in this way as curator and arts organizer reflects the changing nature of my art practice, which is more interdisciplinary. Curating is an extension of my practice; the research I do for it and for the Biennale are deeply connected with many overlapping concerns. How I present and contextualize contemporary art is a parallel activity for me.

If you were able to change two things in the area of responsibility of arts curators, cultural producers, cultural institutions, what two things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? That’s a good question, perhaps with more collective and community based ways of working. If I go back to the commercial art world for a moment; it's a fantastic reward for any artist to receive a big solo show. It’s also a competitive process. Whether for an exhibition, a grant, a professorship or an award, competition is built into what artists do. How can we, as an art community, support and honour all these rewards with an understanding that what's good for our friends and colleagues is good for us. Advancement for one artist is advancement for all artists. More is more! Communication and respect between different statures of artists is an equally important aspect for me as a curator and artist. Learning to think more as a community and less as individually ambitious artists might be a good place to start. When artists lead on collective projects, take responsibilities for all that needs to be done, they gain an objective perspective that comes from stepping outside the studio and giving back.

What are three or five keywords that you feel represent the essence of this conversation and what emerged for you in this interview? Boundless, creative, stimulating.

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Peter Von Tiesenhausen, Island, 2015 (installation view with artist). Video. Photo: Brian Ricks.



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An interview with

Reinhard Reitzenstein

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Reinhard Reitzenstein

Reitzenstein, the eminent Allegorical Minimalist has inverted trees and our perception of humanity’s relationship to the natural world since the mid 20th century. After emigrating to Canada in 1956 he studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He is represented by the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto and shows internationally. Reitzenstein explores interconnections between nature, culture, science and technology. Reitzenstein works in several parallel areas: he works outdoors on large scale tree-based installations, and often includes sonic elements in collaboration with Gayle Young. Indoors he creates sculptures using cast, spun and welded metals, wood, glass, photography, digitally processed images and drawing. He travels and exhibits his work extensively, often speaking about contemporary cultural issues in his public lectures. His work is part of numerous private and public collections in Canada and abroad: The National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Lutz Teutloff Collection in Bielefeld, Germany, CONAC, Caracas, Venezuela, Canada Council Art Bank, Art Gallery of Hamilton, University of Toronto, et al. Reitzenstein has been an instructor in sculpture and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Guelph from 1980-1998, at Brock University 1991-94, Queens University 1997 and Toronto School of Art 1998-2000 and Sheridan College 2000. He has served as the Head of the Department of Art Sculpture Program at the University of Buffalo since 2000.

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

“A lot of the work I do is motivated simply because it's creating a sort of a consciousness of trees, arboreal practices and the notion of the survival of forests. Without trees we clearly don't have oxygen, we do not have an opportunity to share life or even enjoy life to the fullest… even though it's something we're really aware of, it's also something that we constantly seem to overlook or take for granted. I simply want to bring that into our consciousness more effectively.” - Reinhard Reitzenstein

What projects are you currently working on that excite you most, and why? There are three simultaneous exhibitions happening currently. One of them, that I'm collaborating with my partner Gayle Young, who is a composer, we are putting a sound sculpture together down near New York City in a place called Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. I'm also currently artist in residence for a full year at a place called the Art Gallery of Hamilton in Hamilton, Ontario, where I am their inaugural artist and residence so I get to play and work and show works and projects for the period of a year, which keeps me extremely active in terms of what I want to do next. The other exhibition is in Buffalo, New York, at a place called Hotel Henry, which was I think North America's largest psychiatric hospital in the 19th century, that revolutionized psychiatric care by also having a hundred acre farm attached to it where patients were learning to work through their trauma by being in touch with the earth, and that hotel is now something developed by an organization at Buffalo revitalizing the old psychiatric hospital. So now it's turned into this very luxurious hotel, which has a very active art program. At the Buffalo Arts Studio there is another exhibition where I have suspended a 12 meter long tree from the ceiling, it's covered with about 15 kilograms of bees wax, so the whole atmosphere is aromatic, filled with bees wax and accompanying the tree in the adjacent area is a column work also composed of tree parts and hundreds of tiny trees glued to the column. The column 4 meters high. Most of my work is about trees. On one level I just don't care about anything else anymore, or so it seems. 55


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

What principles guide your work? A lot of the work I do is motivated simply because it's creating a sort of a consciousness of trees, arboreal practices and the notion of the survival of forests. Without trees we clearly don't have oxygen, we do not have an opportunity to share life or even enjoy life to the fullest… even though it's something we're really aware of, it's also something that we constantly seem to overlook or take for granted. I simply want to bring that into our consciousness more effectively. I think that a tree is iconic and connects to us directly… it's something that crosses audiences. You don't need a highly coded theoretical position to access the significance of trees and forests. As our research into trees and forests expands for instance, we're learning that trees actually communicate to each other, that they are acoustic communities, they literally send 220 hertz signals to one another through their root systems in particular when there are various kinds of crises occurring within a forest whether that be drought or insect infestation. It's the idea that we're in communication, we're in relationship with this larger world around us, which is related directly to the quality of life for everybody, every species. A lot of the work I show is made of actual dead trees. I really want people to physically meet and confront and absorb the fact that there's a dead entity in their midst and that death is palpable and that death is really problematic, rather than trying to produce pretty pictures to create dialogue.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? My most important objective is to create a relationship, to create communication. Ultimately my main goal is not to create isolation. It's really important to me that things are accessible, accessible not through mediocrity, but accessible through identification, through relational thinking. Everything I do is less about creating a finished noun, like presence of an object, but an object or a series of objects that create a relational way of communicating so that you're in process together. That for me is most important. I think the forests and the trees are so significant simply because if we're not surrounded by them, we're encountering them frequently and we are in a constant kind of relationship. So for me it's especially relational thinking there's also the capacity to lend support and create a dignified a relationship.

How do you choose which collaborations to work on? Whoever asks, whoever asks me seriously. The explanation for that is also simple. When people ask you for something, they are looking for the possibility of building a relationship of some kind. I don't say no, I don't like to say no. I think when people reach out, there's a reason for it and that means that there's something to learn and there's something to share and grow from, even if it turns out to be a disaster…

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Waiting/Watching/Waiting, 2017. Installation and photo by Reinhard Reitzenstein


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

What did it mean for you to participate in the Bonavista Biennale? I have a strong relationship to Newfoundland. It's also an island and there is something magical. Islanders are also people that I find generally more generous, really resilient, self supportive. They're really good at community and collaborating. Doing something in Newfoundland for me was really a great opportunity to continue my relationship, because I know the land quite well. I have over a period of many years created a number of projects there, but I've never done anything like I did there this time. In a tiny fishing village to be able to freely place these inverted trees in a semicircle along this natural Barachoise, was really something I never would have expected and it couldn't happen anywhere else, it's very distinct and unique to the place itself, and the culture was so ridiculously receptive to the idea. I was startled, not only that there was no resistance, there was a full embrace of the project and even the fact that they promoted the project. The local folks in the village were just so incredibly supportive I couldn't believe it, much more than in a urban center where people are much more likely to be critical and ask different kinds of questions rather than embracing something outright. I guess it comes from the fact that I wanted to do something unique in their place and they basically just trusted me to go ahead and do it. That kind of trust was really quite wonderful because it is also liberating when you know you have support, and if there's a sense of innate trust, that support becomes even deeper and you have automatically a relationship, which I thought was great and I didn't expect that. I expected a lot of resistance and I didn't get it, and the work is still there and people are still enchanted by the piece. Also, I think you enrich smaller communities on a higher, quicker, more intense level than you would in an environment where it's normal to have extreme activity or ambitious activity. The work is no less ambitious, certainly the work I do is very ambitious, but it opens up different kinds of communications and different kinds of communities, and the surprises are always there. I've never underestimated in my audience. Which of the feedbacks that you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you and which surprised you most? In 1973 I spent three weeks underneath a tree. I dug a hole around the base of a huge, mature tree and I dug down over a meter deep and I revealed all the roots with my fingers and little spoons and spent three weeks underneath the tree every day. I was underneath the tree and watching how they move, their root system. There was a rock in one spot, and while human beings would probably see a barrier or an interference in it, would burst it or destroy it, the roots of the trees just wrap around it and I think they get stronger and more firmly rooted into the earth. I thought that strategy of embrace informed me unconsciously from that point on to the idea of rather than resist or destroy, embrace and get stronger.

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Waiting/Watching/Waiting, 2017 (detail). Installation and photo by Reinhard Reitzenstein.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

If you can embrace obstacles and make them part of how you move in the world then how you move in the world just becomes more succinct and more multileveled too. People kept asking me, why would you do that? And I said, well, we're walking on the earth and these roots are underneath our feet all the time, that dance that's happening under the ground is this high network of communication that we don't see or witness. I wanted to go there and see it, and from that point on I started turning trees upside down so that people get to see that crazy dance, which is not crazy at all, it's very deliberate and quite magical. I'll tell you one incident in the 80s. I made a piece on a very small island in the middle of a land claim for an indigenous community in Ontario, it was a sponsored project where artists from the province of Quebec and Ontario were living and working together for a summer. It was a residency and sculpture festival and we were dealing with making very large scale works. I made a 30 meter wide circle of inverted trees that stuck out of the ground about 10 meters. They were huge trees and it was an enormous process. Almost 30 people were involved in making my work with me. Imagine this the circle of inverted trees with the roots above, it was really quite archaic looking. When the government officials from Quebec came to see the work, the cultural minister walked past the periphery, walked into the inside of the circle and she turned to me and she said, Why is it so quiet in here? That government official felt the difference of the way this environment was engaged, she herself felt a remarkable shift in awareness from the outside of the circle to the inside of the circle. And also I worked very closely with the local indigenous community around that work, because it was a work that was critiquing the land claim issues that were at work at that point, in its history, and the project itself created an intense dialogue. That was the first project I did where I was using inverted trees, it was 1987 and it basically changed my life as an artist completely and changed the way I did everything completely. That's probably the most memorable thing because it was fully transformative and it worked on so many levels that even the indigenous community welcomed the fact that a white guy would even consider creating dialogue around land claim. When it comes to the project that I did at the Bonavista Biennale, that has the echo that goes back to 1987 and whenever I work outdoors, wherever I go, if there are indigenous communities locally, I try to communicate with that community to ask permission to work on their land.

How can arts make an effective social contribution today? I think in our time where we've become so fully globalized, instant communication is basically ubiquitous, what happens through that instant communication is that we limit ourselves to digital communication as a result. I'm one that obviously embraces this and it’s important to me too, however I'm a proponent of the tactile, the visceral, physical world that I think is absolutely key to stay connected. So I think that where art becomes significant in our time is to bring these aspects into relationship. 60


Maple (detail). Artwork and photo by Reinhard Reitzenstein.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

Do you think that the instrumentalisation of art is a risk in our time? There are a number of factors at work. In a post colonial world there are all kinds of internal issues around the implication of action. I'm always a believer that if your intentions are clear, then the motivation is honourable. However, when thrown into a particular cultural context that may be in question or that may be suddenly not what you think it is, or it's perceived to be different than what you intend simply because of the charged environment that you're entering into, if the environment has been victimized in any way, as artists the consciousness that we have to come at things with now are so multilayered and so impossible to predict, because you can't predict someone's response to a work if the work is perceived according to a particular personal history. Every time a curatorial exercise comes into focus, that exercise is charged with the unknown and generally how things are received, because things are received in different contexts, in different ways, in different times. One of the reasons I use trees is because they are ubiquitous too and necessary for us all. They don't have a cultural bias. They have environmental strategies and environmental adaptations. The level of awareness of risks that artists have to carry with them when they are engaged in a curatorial context is huge. I love that consciousness that we have to be aware of many things simultaneously, but at the same time it's intensely limiting. Creativity is great when limits are clear because then you have to improvise within that. If you fail it's because you just are not using your imagination. Anytime people fail it's not so much the context but it's the failure of the imagination to be able to find other ways to deal or to communicate or to relate. Artists are becoming in many ways very highly developed diplomats. On some level we are cultural diplomats of course and we have to try and create clear communication so that we don't misunderstand each other or misunderstand our intentions, but intention, clear intentionality is central to all of this. And intentionality means you have to be informed, it's not intentionality by sense of purpose, but also an informed intention. You can't just blindly go into something without doing some of the research.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? My own life partner, she and I started collaborating in 1978, we met because she's a composer, and I wanted someone to write music for my installations. Then I have a small crew of people in my studio that help me. There is also an artist and good friend named Gareth Lichty, an excellent artist but also a fabulous installer, that's an important person in my life. For 37 years I worked in a foundry with a friend and fabricator/foundryman, named Bill Jurgenson, and with his help I was able to make all my bronze works. That collaboration was a long collaboration, but he had to close the foundry and now I'm a rethinking what I'm doing with the, those materials. Collaboration is really key. My friend and and technical assistant, Chris Siano, at the

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Maple (detail). Artwork and photo by Reinhard Reitzenstein.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

University in Buffalo, NY, where I teach is a key collaborator and fabricator. My son Lorne has grown up working with me and has assisted me in countless ways over the years. These good people are key collaborators. Of course there is also my commercial gallery representatives of 30 years in Toronto, The Olga Korper Gallery and more recently Indigo Art and Resource:Art, in Buffalo, NY.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution or transformation of the role of curators, art managers, cultural institutions, artists, and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? There are two things that are happening that I'm a little nervous about. One of them is that the auction houses are starting to take over. They're kind of pushing contexts to the margins a little bit, pushing dealers out of the way, and they're pushing biennials a little bit further too. They're kind of establishing a hegemony of a value, on different levels they are escalating value on a different level economically, and the drivers are usually people who can afford to push the parameters quickly. Art has become ever more commodified and at a level that we never imagined. Even though I love the fact that artists get a ton of money, and it's about time that we are appreciated for what we do because we do make a difference to the quality of life, no question, at the same time what makes me nervous is the degree to which the manipulation of a market can literally privilege those who can afford to play at that level. What are they protecting? What is art being used for really? Is it hiding other things that we don't know about and we might find out about later, are wealthy people using art in order to support their own interests, therefore driving up the value and creating an untouchable investment environment? As artists, we are less and less concerned with making things and more concerned about community action and experiential actions and so on, we're dealing with information transfer and information exchange, so we are communicating more directly. Consequently, the global village idea is what's actually a warning that Marshall McLuhan said: Once we create a global village we're also talking about the amount of double talk, and the amount of all kinds of things that are not so nice happening because we're so closely in touch. So there is a warning there. The more global we become, the more there are rumors and rumors become divisive as well as connective. On one level, in terms of the market there are far too many artists and it is possible that it can't keep up anymore. I used to know all the players and I don't know all the players anymore, it's so global…so vast. The problem is, what are you gonna do with all the art that's being produced? It can’t all be collected or stored, we can't even restore it all. So it's interesting that so many younger artists are getting away from making things and trying to do these other kinds of actions with communities and with each other, under disadvantaged communities or communities that need a voice. Those are really honourable options in the world that we're swimming in

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

now. I think it does create an anti environment to the constant accumulation of things. As a professor, I also see the contrast, which is that a lot of my students do want to get dirty, they want to carve again, they want to cast, they want to fabricate, to make, to use their hands again. So there is an interesting kind of a contrast, while we're working in a new direction we're also retrieving this tactile world that I'm a great proponent of.

If you were able to change two things in the area of responsibility of artists, curators, cultural producers, cultural institutions, what two things do you think would create the most value and beneďŹ t for all? I don't like the idea of two things because that's a binary, I'm Cartesian enough to know that you get locked into a binary. I'm always interested in a third element, which is the less predictable element, because if you say something on one hand, you can counter it in contrast on the other hand, but that doesn't create dialogue. I mean it is dialectic, but at the same time it's also something that can be frozen. Two things are not enough and my feeling is that when you look at three, you look at a more inclusive possibility. On the one hand, more direct communication, and by more direct communication between artists, curators and so on, I mean let's not limit ourselves to a thematic envelope that a curator would create and that envelope has no room to push it around or to move it around if it becomes like a grid that's laid over. One of the things I found frustrating with working with some curators is that it's not about you, the artist, it's about the curatorial intention, and if you can't participate in a group exhibition that's being put together, well you can be replaced. It's not a commitment to the artist, it's a commitment to an idea. I think that one of the strengths of being an artist is that the perspective of a personal view could be respected more deeply rather than the curatorial intention only, the envelope that the artists are slipped into so the artist becomes the means by which the curator can justify their intention only. It's not about the artist pushing that curators intention. I ďŹ nd that that approach to curating creates more problems than solutions, because it disenfranchises artists in some sense. It's not a negative, it's just something that I've noticed. That's the problem with binary, ideas that you're either in or you're out, you either agree or you don't. What about the third option? The third option being, what could we do to make it possible? If we can't do one or the other, what can we do? What is the shared interest that drives us? Is there that third element of a shared interest possible? At which point the curatorial and the institutional directive can be changed. It can shift, it can move, it can be more malleable.

On the next pages: Feel the Buzz (before beeswax). Installation and photo by Reinhard Reitzenstein.

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? There are a couple of things. One of them is the notion of collaboration, that is really key because what we really understand now, I think beyond Darwinism, it's the fact that it's through collaboration that we survive. The rise of collaborative strategies in art practice I think is a really healthy sign. It shows that it's through communication, collaboration, that we do survive. We enhance each other's strengths and weaknesses rather than trying to pretend that it's all competition based, which I think is ludicrous. Competition is the disaster, creativity is really the key, and the failure of the imagination is how things do become disastrous. I think of collaboration, cooperation and the idea of collectivity, which again goes back to my initial point around enhancing communication. We understand more about each other on the global level. Once we have dialogue and are freely able to exchange our ideas without even making a judgment or without making a limit to what we say, we try and hear each other, the commonalities through cooperation and collaboration is what creates a true relationship. That's to me the beauty of something like Bonavista Biennale where you're dealing in activities that create a great community by virtue of the collaborative spirit of something like that, and it's crazy when people feel included how much more energy you produce. If people feel excluded, the energy gets limited really quickly. A great curatorial mandate would now be let's go post Darwinian and ďŹ nd out the strengths within collaboration. That's why I work with the forests, because they talk to each other all the time, they make room for each other, they create nutrients for each other, they do whatever it needs in order to survive. That's a collaborative community much more so than we are yet.

What is one cross-sector collaboration that you ďŹ nd successful, inspiring or interesting and why? In a culture that's not my own, because I live in Canada, I've experienced a lot in my work relationships to indigenous people, that are redressing and rebuilding their own culture in the midst of postcolonial environments. I think one of the inspirations for me is how resilient indigenous communities have proven to be. Colonial powers assumed that they could completely eradicate indigenous nations‌ yet now we are seeing how resilient they actually are and how resourcefully indigenous cultures in my country have collaborated in order to continue to be vital. Resilience shown within individual familial collaboration and across nations, As a collective culture we all must collaborate to create a context, a platform, for indigeneity to have a voice in general in the larger culture. I guess what I'm seeing is this huge meaningful development of identity through indigeneity, the original communities of North and South America reasserting

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

themselves by understanding that the only way to move beyond the postcolonial is to use the colonial context to strengthen themselves, education and all the things that colonials brought in terms of institutionalized behaviours, those institutional behaviours have now become a conduit for those voices to create meaning and to create validity and identity. That's probably to my mind, the strongest thing that I see.

What artistic proposals currently catch your attention and why? I think most importantly I'm finding the kind of playfulness that I'm seeing in object making currently really quite delightful. It seems to be letting go of these kinds of rigorous, theoretically postured positions around illustrating a theory. We suffered for a long time in the puddles of postmodernism… of becoming illustrators for theoretical positions and really not generating theoretical positions through the work itself but becoming supporters of/with a preexisting theoretical position and the accompanying perplexing postulations. I'm really, really delighted by the playfulness that people are taking to object making, to intermedia work, to the liberation of classical media, even to the classical media suddenly has a relevance again, they've become ingredients within a larger exercise where the cross-disciplinary practices that we're now more familiar with have the capacity to play more open and believe with a variety of things.

Is there anything else that you would like to add? I don't really have a tremendous amount more to add other than the fact that don't give up, don't ever give up. Let your imagination guide you rather than any kind of ideological or theoretical position be your guide. And also the poets. I am a great advocate of the fact that poets are the sculptors of language, and since I'm primarily a sculptor, to my mind poetics is an invitation to hang onto the means to more open cross-cultural communication, to enhance imagination, to create catalytic relationships. I think the poetic mindset is the healthiest mindset ultimately, that's sort of how I feel. Playfulness and imagination as well are what I find really important. If we don't play, we're dead. If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right, and it doesn't mean you're not serious or you don't have any focus, it just means that if you don't love what you do…if you are not passionate about what you do, why bother doing it? When that happens, time doesn't exist and all that stuff falls away.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Fun, forests, imagination, play, trust.

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A talk with

Marieke Gow

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Tineke and Marieke Gow

Marieke Gow was born in St. John’s Newfoundland in 1985. Her parents had owned property in Trinity since the 1970s, but it was in the early 1990s when her mother bought and renovated an 1840s salt-box house and converted it into a “living museum” B&B experience, that Trinity became a more prominent place in Marieke’s life. Her family’s business thrived and eventually expanded from a B&B to an Inn in 1997. Tineke named the business Artisan Inn to reflect the importance of artisans in the area and the experiences she offered to attract both residential and off island visitors. This included hosting artists in residence and painting classes, photography, poetry and heritage embroidery workshops and live performances in the Inn’s restaurant, the Twine Loft. Before making tourism her full time job, Marieke completed a BA at Memorial University of Newfoundland, a diploma at Marie Victorin Cegep in Community Development and Cross-Cultural Relations and completed her sommelier training at Algonquin College. In 2019 she and Tineke were co-awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador’s Tourism Achievement Award.

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Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

“It is essential that each stakeholder is given the opportunity to identify what their desired results from a project are, but they also have to be committed to achieving the results that other participating stakeholders are looking for. I have been part of a number of projects where my business or community might not directly benefit equally to the other stakeholders involved, but as a result, those same people and groups show up and contribute to the projects that do.” - Marieke Gow

What do you like most about your work and the place where you live? The tourism industry on the Bonavista Peninsula is predominantly seasonal which allows me the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the winter. Exploring other destinations has confirmed for me what a special and unique place our region of Newfoundland is. I see everyday when interacting with guests that it is truly a transformational experience for them. I love being given the opportunity to help curate their experience and help them discover people, places and experiences they may have otherwise missed.

What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context offer? We live in a remote corner of the world with a relatively small population. This makes it difficult to improve certain government services such as transportation and access to medical care. The cost of living can be high with a limited number of well paid year round jobs available. This certainly poses a number of challenges, but it also means that those who have chosen to stay and those who have chosen to move here, are motivated by a love of place. The result is a dedicated population of hard working and creative individuals who are willing to work together to ensure our region thrives. While we once heavily relied on the fishery, we now have shifted our focus to tourism. The rich history, culture and natural beauty of this place gives us plenty to work with and a competitive advantage. With our focus being so heavy on preserving these three key elements of our destination, incorporating art allows us to create an innovative and exciting experience for visitors and locals without compromising the long term sustainability of our natural and cultural resources.

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Artisan Inn Trinity, Summer. Photo courtesy of Marieke Gow.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

What is your involvement in the Bonavista Biennale? During the last Biennale we worked with the organizers to host a performance at our restaurant the Twine Loft. This was part of an event the Biennale called the Trinity Trio that offered 3 events in one day. A bird sounds workshop in the Holy Trinity Catholic Church by Sara Angelucci, An intro by Elizabeth McIntosh at the Lester Garland Building (a Trinity municipal historic site) to her painting and artist residence at Fogo Island and a musical performance by celebrated Newfoundland Folk singer Pamela Morgan on our waterside deck. How we will participate this year is still to be determined, but that is the great thing about the Biennale. Individuals, communities, businesses and not-for-profits can all participate in ways that suit both the Biennale and themselves. Some can make their spaces accessible for a full month and others can do so for a few hours or days.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the Bonavista Biennale? The Biennale is introducing the Bonavista Peninsula as well as Newfoundland and Labrador to an audience that might not have previously considered rural Newfoundland as a choice travel destination. It would not surprise me if some people who discover the region through the Biennale decide to invest more time in the area or even decide to move here. The exhibits do not only drive people to visit a variety of businesses, museums and natural attractions, it also incorporates abandoned or underutilized spaces helping others see the potential in their development. Finally the awe inspiring creativity of the Biennale reinvigorates and redefines our perception of what this place is and what it could be.

What is most important for you when involving different stakeholders in the realisation of a common project? Creating a diverse pool of invested stakeholders has been the key to much of our peninsula’s success. Some of our region’s most notable projects like the Hike Discovery Trail Network, the Discovery Aspiring Geopark and the Bonavista Biennale have thrived because of combined input and efforts by our local governments, not-for profits, private businesses and passionate community members. It is essential that each stakeholder is given the opportunity to identify what their desired results from a project are, but they also have to be committed to achieving the results that other participating stakeholders are looking for. I have been part of a number of projects where my business or community might not directly benefit equally to the other stakeholders involved, but as a result, those same people and groups show up and contribute to the projects that do.

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Bonavista Biennale - Pamela Morgan in Concert at the Twine Loft. Photo courtesy of Marieke Gow.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

How can arts and culture contribute to the life of a local community? For any community art and culture is key to creating opportunities for people to gather in a positive way, share ideas and enlighten one another. This is important for a variety of reasons. Advancements in technology has made life much easier than it used to be, certainly for living in rural communities, but it also has its downsides. It results in passive communication that often lacks depth. Technology has learned to present us with what it thinks we want to see, but this limits our access to other points of view and concepts. It has also eradicated the need to leave the house to complete daily tasks that also allowed us to socialize. Creating opportunities for people to gather, especially around something that generates conversation, ideas and debate leads to stronger communities as different demographics get to understand one another better. There are also great economic benefits. The Bonavista Peninsula has created an atmosphere where art and culture are celebrated and, as a result, artisans and entrepreneurs are choosing to make it their year-round home as a base for creating products such as soaps, salt, jewelry, textiles, ice cream, pottery and beer to name a few. These products are made partially and sometimes completely from locally sourced materials. Not only are they creating year-round employment for themselves and others, they are essential players in our tourism industry, lending themselves to the visitor experience and enhancing the appeal of our destination. Jobs are being created, buildings are being repurposed and our younger generation is learning that self-sustainability is not about lacking something or making do with what we have, but instead, recognizing what makes our resources special and worth protecting. If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts, cultural and local institutions, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Without a doubt it would be to see more investment from our government, both provincially and federally in art and culture as an integrated component of our health and social services programs. While some may argue that money should not be spent on the arts when there is not enough for health and social services in the first place, making art and culture a part of their strategy would likely reduce overall financial pressure on the government in the long run. There is mounting scientific proof showing that art is good for one’s physical health. Some medical professionals are beginning to encourage lifestyle changes incorporating art, music, dance and exercise before considering medicating certain symptoms. Loneliness can also take a physical and mental toll on people. Many elderly people who may not have family to care for them are losing their few remaining opportunities to socialize when they are forced to go through self-check out lines or adapt to a world where people prefer to communicate via text. Community focused art and cultural programs give those that require company and socializing an opportunity to do so. These programs can also facilitate a younger generation to form relationships with older community members who may be fairly able bodied but still require help with certain tasks like snow shoveling, grocery shopping or occasional transport. 77


Art exhibit at the Artisan Inn's Twine Loft - Photo courtesy of Marieke Gow.


Voices from the Bonavista Biennale

With a large population of baby boomers nearing an age where they can no longer be completely independent, such programming could save a considerable amount of money on social services provided by the government.

What forms of artistic proposals and cultural programs currently catch your attention and why? I think the newly opened Union House Arts in Port Union, one of the Biennale’s participating spaces, embodies so much of what we are discussing. Union House Arts (UHA) is a new community artspace operated through the Sir William F. Coaker Heritage Foundation. UHA is committed to supporting work being produced by artists and craftspeople in Newfoundland and Labrador through place-speciďŹ c dialogues and collaborative programming in Port Union. It bring professional artists to our area to both create and exhibit work accessible to the community. I particularly like their concept of Makers Night that encourages community members to come together and work on their own project of choice while socializing with others and interacting with artists in residence.

Can you think of three or ďŹ ve keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Pride of place, innovation, connection, sustainability.

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Artisan Inn - Photo courtesy of Marieke Gow.


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Impressions from

Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture curated by Daniela Veneri

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Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture. Photo courtesy of Stanislava Angelova.


A conversation with

Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva 84


Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva. Photo courtesy of Reneta Georgieva.

Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva is an art historian, critic and curator. One of the most recognizable faces of the contemporary art scene in Bulgaria. Over ten years she has been working as a gallerist in Sofia and has emerged as active critic and author of independent projects. She has extensive experience in organization of exhibitions, festivals, events in public space. She attended courses and residencies in Germany, Austria, USA, South Korea. Her interests as art theoretician encompass both the most up-to-date artists and trends on the art scene, as well as the period of the 1950s and 1960s and the problems of socialist realism. She works with numerous public institutions and non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria and abroad. She is one of the founders of the first independent curators association in Bulgaria. Prior to her position as artistic director of “Plovdiv 2019” she participated in the team that developed the cultural strategy of Plovdiv Municipality 2014-2024.

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Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

“In my everyday work, I'm trying all the time to define the cultural interests that we are seeking in this whole program because there are many factors that influence the project. We are constantly discussing with different institutions, different parties, with media and other partners, and my main principle in my whole work here is to defend the cultural content of the project and to provide some good conditions for its implementation.” - Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva

What are your most important objectives as artistic director of Plovdiv 2019? I think I will have to take some time to analyze my objectives when this project finishes in 2020. For now it's a very intensive run. For me it was a very big challenge to find the proper system and to actually first start building a team responsible for this project, then I had to learn more about it because it is a new experience for us. We didn't have any European Capital of Culture in Bulgaria before. We had to learn a lot about the initiative itself and its regulation. During the preparation process we had to find a solution to how to adapt these initiatives to the local conditions, because every country has specific conditions like the legislation, administration, especially when it comes to spending public money. Such kind of organizational aspect was one of the biggest challenges for me from the very beginning. My background is in curating and it was very interesting to find some curatorial approach to such a huge cultural program, which is dealing mostly with the communities, with participatory projects, with alternative spaces, open air cultural events. At the same time I wanted to put a certain order in the whole selection of projects, to have a certain logical selection and to make it visible. Every European Capital of Culture has a preliminary program with which it participates in the bid, and so we are obliged to follow these preliminary programs during the whole process of preparation. My role as artistic director was somehow to find a way to implement all the ideas included in this preliminary program, and this is not entirely a curatorial or an authorship project. At the same time, as an art professional I wanted somehow to use my experience and approach in a curatorial way. Despite the fact that we had to do the whole program and process through open calls, because this is the Bulgarian legislation and we were not allowed to make any commissions for this, I was trying to keep a certain thematic red line of

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Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

the program in the whole project during the selection and the communication with partners. Now I see that when the projects are implemented, things works more or less, that there is a certain logic, that we keep working on clear concepts for this program, and although there are very different kinds of arts it follows its own logic. Anyway I feel that to clearly analyze my important objectives I will probably need to have more distance from the whole work, after this event will be completed.

What principles are guiding your work? In my everyday work, I'm trying all the time to define the cultural interests that we are seeking in this whole program because there are many factors that influence the project. We are constantly discussing with different institutions, different parties, with media and other partners, and my main principle in my whole work here is to defend the cultural content of the project and to provide some good conditions for its implementation. This is my role in this case, and my team of artistic and project managers is working on any problem that arises. We try all the time to do the best we can so to provide the best conditions. As I mentioned, there are existing concepts at the basis of the program and this is also something that I pay attention to, like citizens participation, decentralization, expanding the notion about what culture is today. These are also principles that are very much present in my own work.

How did local community respond to this process? The whole initiative that started with the bid to the process to become Capital European of Culture was initiated by the local cultural community, and the first reactions have been positive, also of course when the city was selected. There was a big enthusiasm in the whole cultural and artistic team here in Plovdiv but also all over the country. Plovdiv is a very well-known cultural centre in our country and this title actually provided a better visibility at a European level, something that many people really appreciate in Bulgaria. We gave a lot of opportunities for inclusion in this program, and all the active actors and organizations involved here in the city and in Bulgaria somehow are participating in the program of the European Capital of Culture, all of them have been more or less involved in this program and in the process of preparation in the last five years, not just this year. There is also criticism towards this initiative, also from cultural organizations and players, because of different reasons, mostly because of the administration and sometimes for the hard working conditions.

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Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Stanislava Angelova.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

Part of this new challenge has been to implement this project for the first time in Bulgaria. All the institutions are facing big difficulties in accepting it and adapting their work to this project somehow. Some of our partners really face difficulties with the implementation of their ideas. This is pretty common for a European Capital of Culture. Every city that has this title has both acknowledgment and also criticism. I find that actually this has been an occasion to activate the whole local context, that here is very much involved in this initiative, and a European Capital of Culture somehow rises the sensitivity about some of the problems, some institutional mistakes and administration issues. I think that through the whole experience everybody who is involved felt a very strong connection with each other. Even the criticism and heavy discussions that we sometimes have are important for our learning and knowledge. Which of the feedbacks that you received have been particularly meaningful for you and which surprised you most? As many European Capital of Culture, we have a consultant team, which in our case is coming from Essen and the Ruhr European Capital of Culture 2010. Our German colleagues consulted us during the whole process, and that was for me the most helpful feedback. The other important feedback came from the so called Family of the European Capitals of Culture. We meet twice a year with former, current and future Capitals of Culture and we share about experiences, problems, issues. The feedbacks that you are getting from your colleagues are definitely very helpful and very reassuring sometimes even for us, because you see that, even though we are in different parts of Europe, we often share the same problems and the same issues and sometimes some of our colleagues are able to give us better solutions than those we have. Thinking of feedbacks from the local community, there were very surprising moments, sometimes positive and other times not so much positive. For example, there were plenty of very active actors and participants in our program that we didn't expect and this was a positive feedback. The project was for them obviously something important and so they responded very actively and positively and they became involved in it. Other feedback is very much critical, and for us it was helpful because sometimes it helps us improve things, when it is not just pure antagonism. We are generally very much open to receive any feedback. For Plovdiv 2019 we are supporting institutions and we encourage our partners to participate by giving them funding for the full implementation of the project. We tried to find a common floor around the main concepts and ideas of the program and we are not making big curves because of the feedback that we have received from partners of the local community. 89


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

What is at the core of the identity of the city of Plovdiv? What are its specific features? Our whole program is structured according to the specific features of Plovdiv and the special identity of the city. The most specific aspect of Plovdiv is the multi cultural and multi ethnic profile of its citizens. We have a lot of different ethnic and religious communities, since centuries. That's why one of our program platforms is called Fuse, because of the fusion of these groups of people and their positive interactions, which is something that we try to encourage with our program and we have achieved really very positive results so far. Another specific feature is the multi-layered cultural heritage that we have here. Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, it's an 8,000 years old city and whatever you see in the city centre has many historical layers from the past. This is something that we try to present in a different way with the contemporary culture, to show some models of how culture and art could be effective in reviving some abundance and forgotten treasures that we have in our city. We have, for example, a platform called Transformed and also have a special platform dedicated to contemporary arts and culture. We have very good artistic and cultural traditions here, but we also have big contributions for the development of contemporary art in Bulgaria, and with Plovdiv 2019 we try somehow to upgrade the tradition and to involve international and local artists on a wider scale. This is also a slow city and the relaxation, the slow living, enjoyment life, are something very distinct. When you step in the city you perceive this general feeling of relaxation, so we have created another platform called Relax, exactly because this time of leisure is something very characteristic for Plovdivians. It is a special atmosphere, typical only for this city in Bulgaria. As a European Capital of Culture, we try also to present the Bulgarian national contributions to the European culture. We have small cultural community centres, which are very much active in small villages and towns in the region, and they are also presented in our program. Also the Balkan identity is a very important presence in our project. What do you like most of the work that you are doing? I love the new things that I actually learned during my whole work as artistic director for Plovdiv 2019, it was for me a real academy completing my experience and it has really enriched me a lot. Learning new things is just something that I love in my work, being involved in completely new networks for me so unfamiliar, is

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Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Stanislava Angelova.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

something that I really love and gives me the opportunity to open up my own perspectives and also to help other people open their perspectives. This is something that I really appreciate.

How do you think this experience will influence your role as a curator in the future? I don't know yet, we will see. I'm sure that you it will influence my work. My approach is already not so much elitist and I notice that I pay much more attention to the audiences, their reactions. I know that this is something very important for a cultural or artistic project, the approach to the audiences and the communication with them, it's something crucial. For sure this will influence my future practice, but to be frank I don't really know where I'm going to go from now on. It's not clear yet.

What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? This is a very big question. I don't feel comfortable about this topic because it's huge. Generally I think that cultural projects and artistic projects are not able to influence very much the social and political issues, they could point them or they could not. What I notice is that there are not many artists and curators, especially in Bulgaria, who are keen to get involved in some societal issues, some communities issues. Projects are rather more philosophical, in most of the cases they are rather more historical and introspective. Here we have lots of projects with communities but we cannot catch up all the lapses we have in the social policy. You don't address all the historical mistakes with cultural projects. This is something that needs to have a wider involvement and responsibility, you cannot expect from a cultural or artistic project to find a solution. Of course when it comes to very prominent international art forums, like biennials or other kinds of big international exhibitions, artists are possibly enabled to be heard, but I don't know who actually listens to them because people with power who take important decisions are not very often engaged with the arts. This is also part of the experience that we have with Plovdiv European Capital of Culture, because for the first time political institutions and personalities are getting involved in finding solutions for cultural projects, which is of course something different, it is like finding crossing points between two completely different roads.

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Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Stanislava Angelova.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

What is happening in Plovdiv right now? We have had, for example, 200 artists travelling who came here from all over Europe to Plovdiv, and they gathered for the first time in such a big group in one city. All of them representatives of a network of traveling theatres called CITI, they came here and built three camps in three different neighbourhoods in the city. They stayed for a whole week in Plovdiv and the experience with them is been something completely unusual, different and very exciting, powerful, and it happened for the first time here. We opened the Opera Open Festival, which is an open air musical festival and a stage on the ancient theatre in the old town, a completely different kind of experience. We also have four very good exhibitions of contemporary art that are going on in the moment in the city centre. We had a theatre premiere of a puppet theatre, a new production by a small independent theatre produced especially for us. We have had a medieval festival with reenactments of different historical ages. Every weekend there is a children's city, which is based on the Youth Hill in Plovdiv, where kids with their parents are building a city according to their visions on how cities should look like, and it is something very inspirational to witness. There is a big crowd of kids building the whole infrastructure by themselves. These are only a few examples of the intensive program that we have at the moment. My colleagues and I are running all the time from one event to another. For every event it’s like living in a different city, in a different world with people from all over the country, from the region and from all over Europe. It's really exciting. Is there anything else that you would like to share? With Plovdiv 2019 we try to somehow represent the European values by using the means of arts and culture, which makes it both a political and a cultural project. It's very much complicated and it's hard to judge without having the whole facts, without making enough efforts to investigate the whole picture of such a complex project. I am very happy that we have this in Bulgaria and in Plovdiv now because I'm sure that our experience, even the arguments that we had with the administration and institutions, will be somehow helpful for the future cultural development of the country, somehow I think this will also help the progress of the cultural politics of our country. And this is what is my focus right now, to give some kind of feedback about the experience, some recommendations about how things could be improved for the future. Of course I will need to take my distance and think of this whole experience later, to reflect on my future work. Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Culture, whole, program, time, experience. 94


Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Stanislava Angelova.


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Magdalina Rajeva and the Mobile school Stolipinovo

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Magdalina Rajeva

Magdalina Rajeva, architect. Born in Sofia (Bulgaria), Magdalina Rajeva received her Masters’ Degree in Architecture from the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia. She runs her own architectural studio “ArchPoint” in Sofia with numerous projects in different fields - Interior Design, Residential, Public and Industrial Buildings. She is devoted to the idea of developing young people’s awareness of architecture, city and sustainable development. In 2011 she co-founded the Children Architectural Workshop, a non-profit organization, meant to inspire and emotionally engage children in architecture derived activities. Since the beginning of 2018 she has been running a two-year project “Mobile School Stolipinovo” part of the cultural program of Plovdiv 2019. Representative of the Union of Architects in Bulgaria in the UIA working program `Architecture and Children` since 2014. Alternate UIA council member 2017-2020 (region II).

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Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

“Another basic principle in our work so far is the respect and recognition of the individuality and uniqueness of each person. We know that our work in Stolipinovo is to teach children skills that will help their personal development and social integration, but at the same time we are also learning from the local community. Encouraging intercultural values and diversity makes our program extremely lively, flexible and consistent with everyday life in the neighbourhood.” - Magdalina Rajeva

What projects you are currently working on that excite you most, and why? Since the beginning of January 2018 we have started a two-year educational project, “Mobile school Stolipinovo”, part of the cultural program Plovdiv 2019. The focus of the project is on educational initiatives through architecture, art, science and play with children from 6 to 16 years old in the neighbourhood of Stolipinovo – the biggest roman district in Bulgaria. The aim of the activities is to equip the children with cultural and social capital and self-confidence to socialize outside their segregated community, thus overcoming the barriers of exclusion. Acquiring skills for cultural expression is seen as a powerful tool for empowerment and breaking of the social segregation. The open format of non-formal education directly implemented in the communities, where the children live and the involvement of the parents, interested locals and schools is a key element for the project success. With the ongoing field work of an anthropological team we succeed to reach and collaborate with children and parents who face the greatest struggles. One of the things that excite me most in this project is to find how to engage the locals in the working process, in order to integrate and respond to the priorities and the needs of the community, as well as to pass on our experience and knowledge to future trainers from the community. We believe that the development of a professional network (teachers, artists, social workers, volunteers, representatives of the local community) and their training for artistic educational work with children will yield sustainable results. We want to generate opportunities for the multiplication and spillover of the project results through series of presentations and an international workshop which will be organised this autumn in Plovdiv where different organisations working with children living in poverty are invited.

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“Mobile school Stolipinovo” - Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Magdalina Rajeva.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

What values and principles are guiding your work? Right from the beginning of the project, we have focused our work and efforts on helping the most deprived children. Our team of anthropologists working in the neighbourhood for the last 3 years has chosen a location to conduct our exercises so that we can reach as many children as possible who do not attend school and live in extreme poverty. Working on the street, in the immediate vicinity of the houses where children live, allows us to give equal opportunity to everyone to be involved in the educational process - from young children aged 2-3 to young people aged 16-19. At the same time, our presence directly in the neighbourhood allows parents to get acquainted with our activities and actively engage in the process. The family is one of the most important institutions among the Roma and its participation in the education of children is crucial for their success. Another basic principle in our work so far is the respect and recognition of the individuality and uniqueness of each person. We know that our work in Stolipinovo is to teach children skills that will help their personal development and social integration, but at the same time we are also learning from the local community. Encouraging intercultural values and diversity makes our program extremely lively, flexible and consistent with everyday life in the neighbourhood. What excites you most about your work for Plovdiv 2019? The positive atmosphere is the thing that excites me most about my work for Plovdiv 2019. Their team consists of young, smiling and enthusiastic people who, despite the bureaucracy, managed to work and realize the rich program of the European Capital of Culture. It is always a pleasure for me to communicate with them and to share my project experiences. The Foundation also has a very well-developed network of contacts and helps to connect people and organizations with common goals and ideas. What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context offer? Stolipinovo is a quarter in the eastern part of Plovdiv, on the south bank of the Maritsa River. It is the largest Roma district in Bulgaria with nearly 40,000 people Christians and Muslims. We can say that Stolipinovo is a town in the city, where the inhabitants of the rest of Plovdiv rarely walk. The widespread view is that the neighbourhood is dangerous and the law is not respected, and the information disseminated in recent years by the media focuses mainly on rubbish and emigration. For a year and a half, my colleagues and I are in the neighbourhood

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“Mobile school Stolipinovo” - Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Magdalina Rajeva.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

every week and we work with the children directly on the streets. People gradually have become accustomed to us and realized that every week we will be there to teach children art. And they gradually began to trust us and offer us help. I have never felt in danger. It is true that at times garbage takes over the meadow where we work, but it is also true that people are trying to collect it in certain places, but nobody comes to get it out of there. One of the challenges we face during our work in Stolipinovo is related to not understanding Bulgarian language by most children. Many of them do not go to school and are not accustomed to established rules and order, which creates difficulty during our workshops. Over time, I can say that we are gradually managing to meet these challenges and we already have the recognition of the parents. Working in Stolipinovo gives us a chance to meet children who are not bored and who really need us. They expect weekly workshops with great anticipation. In keeping with these activities, many of them reveal skills and artistic talent that give them self-esteem and desire for development.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? The project “Mobile School Stolipinovo” could not exist without the network of partnerships we have developed. Our main partner in this project is the team of anthropologists from the association “Discovered spaces” association that helps us collaborate with children and parents. Their ongoing field work before and after the workshops with children give us a useful feedback for the program. We also have a chance to exchange knowledge and skills with our international partners of the ATD - Fourth World network and create opportunities for replication of the best practices in other parts of Southeast and Central Europe with similar problems. During the last year in order to improve the communication between the school, the children and their families we started to conduct every week workshops in two schools in Stolipinovo where in collaboration with the teachers we developed an architectural program for children as an extra curriculum activity. From the very beginning one of our main goals was to engage the locals in the working process, building their capacity for creative educational work with children. That’s why for us the parents, the craftsmen and other people from the community who participated and helped us during the workshops are one of the most important partners in this project.

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“Mobile school Stolipinovo” - Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Magdalina Rajeva.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the work you are contributing to in Plovdiv? The Mobile School Stolipinovo is a step towards removing the boundaries between social, ethnic and minority groups. We see an opportunity to bridge the gap between Stolipinovo and the rest of the city thus unleashing the hidden potential of the local residents. Initiatives related to the presentation of project results and products created during the activities will take place this autumn in other parts of the city and the country in cultural and educational institutions. As part of the project our partners from “Discovered spaces” and “ATD - Fourth World” are organising an international workshop in September in Plovdiv where different European organisations are invited to participate.

What is most important for you when working in team? In this project I have the chance to work in a team that includes people with different education, life experiences, and backgrounds. For me, working with these people over the past two years has contributed greatly to my personal development. I think the most important thing in this case is that each one of us puts soul and heart in what we do.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts curators, cultural producers, cultural institutions, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? I think that burdening the cultural institution with thousands of documents, letters and signatures makes the structure heavy and ineffective.

What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? Artistic interventions in the city environment with active collaboration with locals. Art directly engaged with social challenges.

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“Mobile school Stolipinovo” - Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo courtesy of Magdalina Rajeva.


Impressions from Plovdiv 2019 European Capital of Culture

What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why? For me including architecture in the children’s education is a successful cross-sector collaboration. It is important to communicate architecture to children in order to increase their attitude towards the built environment and to develop their understanding of different cultural tendencies which affect it. It is believed that by building young people’s personal relationship with the city where they live from a childhood age turns them into responsible adults in the future. Active citizenship is educated gradually. The creation of a positive attitude towards the cultural heritage and an awareness of the relationship between human activity and changes that occur in urban areas would help children understand their role in determining the appearance of cities and the right to require quality urban environment.

Which artistic proposals currently catch your attention and why? Christo and Jeanne-Claude “The Floating piers”. Olafur Eliasson "The Weather Project" – it is not new but it's one of my favourite.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Involvement, community, integration, partnership, collaboration.

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Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale curated by Daniela Veneri

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Leah Gordon

Leah Gordon (born 1959 Ellesmere Port) is a photographer, film-maker, curator, collector and writer. In the 1980's she wrote lyrics, sang and played for the feminist folk punk band, 'The Doonicans'. Leah makes work on Modernism and architecture; the slave trade and industrialisation; and grassroots religious, class and folk histories. Gordon’s film and photographic work has been exhibited internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Dak’art Biennale; the National Portrait Gallery, UK and NSU Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale. Her photography book 'Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti' was published in June 2010. She is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; was a curator for the Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; was the co-curator of ‘Kafou: Haiti, History & Art’ at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; on the curatorial team for ‘In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art’ at the Fowler Museum, UCLA and was the co-curator of 'PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince' at Pioneer Works, NYC in 2018 and MOCA, Miami in 2019. In 2015 Leah Gordon was the recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean.

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Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale

“The Ghetto Biennale is attempting to momentarily transform spaces, dialogues and relationships considered unthinkable, un-navigable and unworkable into complex, transcultural, creative platforms. The Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince creates a 'amorphous, chaotic, de-institutionalised space' for artistic production that attempts to offer, artists from wide socioeconomic classes, a vibrant creative platform. The Ghetto Biennale is about challenging and hopefully transcending ghettoization in all its forms.” - Leah Gordon

What are your most important objectives as curator of the Ghetto Biennale? On one level we try not to have objectives as they can be subject to and conceal our own conscious and unconscious neo-colonial agendas. They can also mislead and betray as agents in neo-liberal funding criteria. Finally objectives can block the unexpected so perhaps then the ‘unexpected’ might be considered an objective. The Ghetto Biennale has had many shifting and evolving agendas, many of them contradictory, which makes it difficult to locate, articulate or historicise a sole foundational discourse. Artists in the contemporary Caribbean art world, especially but not exclusively, are obliged to become organisers as well as producers due to the lack of viable institutions to support education, networks, visibility and distribution. Hence, André Eugène's practice, besides producing sculptural art objects for exhibition and sale, also corresponds to traditions of social art practices of North America and Europe. After conversations with him and other Atis Rezistans on issues on mobility and exclusion, the term Ghetto Biennale emerged. The concept of the Ghetto Biennale has its roots in strategies of material and symbolic appropriation. Atis-Rezistans use recycled materials but it has never just been a re-appropriation of imported junk. They also appropriate figures and symbols from Haitian culture and history. Moreover, Eugène sees the appropriation of bourgeois art world institutions as central to his practice. In 2001 he named his yard and atelier, a Musée d'Art. “Usually it’s the bourgeoisie that make the galleries, the museums. I organised myself in the ghetto…We made a sort of gallery, a kind of museum…usually it’s always the bourgeoisie who make the galleries. I want to have a gallery and a museum…This is the reason why I have given my studio the name, E. Pluribus Unum: Musée d’Art.” This already established tradition of appropriating the designations and formats of Western art institutions and queering them with specificities of the locality was also key to the establishment of the Ghetto Biennale. The Ghetto Biennale is attempting to momentarily transform spaces, dialogues and relationships considered unthinkable, un-navigable and unworkable into complex, transcultural, creative platforms. The Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince creates a 111


Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale

'amorphous, chaotic, de-institutionalised space' for artistic production that attempts to offer, artists from wide socioeconomic classes, a vibrant creative platform. The Ghetto Biennale is about challenging and hopefully transcending ghettoization in all its forms. One of my personal starting points for thinking about what shape and meaning a Ghetto Biennale might embody was one of the original strap lines of the first Ghetto Biennale: “What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed?” The line is a transmutation of a quote from a book about the maquiladoras in Juárez, Mexico. The original quote, by Gloria Anzaldúa, states, “The U.S.- Mexican border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds.” (Anzaldúa 1987, 3). I was interested in the Ghetto Biennale to see what new practices, processes and relationships could emerge from these, often uncomfortable, entanglements. A second point of departure was a quote in an essay by John Kieffer about art and political engagement. He discusses the possible political dynamics of a “'third space'...an event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds” (Kieffer 2008, 5). This quote proposed a positive perspective on a difficult and daunting prospect of bringing together people from widely disparate economic, cultural and gendered backgrounds. Whilst the Ghetto Biennale potentially had all the dangers and pitfalls of creating neo-colonial and neo-liberal power relations and avowing various forms of exploitation, it was important to see that there could also be the possibility of a third position of relationships which were neither exploitative nor paternalistic, and perhaps even a space for art which was neither institutional or commercial in the narrowest sense. Another inceptive strapline for the Ghetto Biennale has been ‘A Salon des Refusés for the 21st century’. Due to visa restrictions, the Haitian artists feel that they are denied access to the globalised art scene that they both see on the Internet and had heard about from their contemporary collaborations with Haitian artists from the more prosperous classes. The way in which they make work, and learn and share their skills is very different than the contemporary Western art school model as they use a local neighbourhood-based apprenticeship system to disseminate skills. This difference to what is considered a conventional European and North American centred art historical education, has often forced them into the unwelcome category of 'outsider' or 'naïve' artist, attributed to them by Western audiences. By holding the Ghetto Biennale and inviting international contemporary artists, Atis Rezistans were refusing this positioning and embracing a repositioning by their association with contemporary international artists.

Inviting international artists to visit Haiti was a way for the Haitian artists to plug themselves into global art networks and to experiment with multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary collaborative practice. As the Haitian artists’ agenda was more far reaching than the actual event itself, the Ghetto Biennale could almost be described as a Trojan horse in that it also functioned as mechanism for creating the networks necessary to gain access to major Western arts institutions.

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Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale

How has the vision for the Ghetto Biennale evolved over the years? The vision, to a certain sense remains the same. Our process has evolved and the team has ossified and strengthened. Also many of the visiting artists have now returned for the third, fourth or fifth times so there is more of a sense of a global community…some more privileged than others of course. Since its inception in 2009 the Ghetto Biennale has welcomed and hosted over 300 visiting artists from over 25 countries including Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Sweden, Trinidad, the UK, the USA and Zimbabwe. The open call to artists has been translated from English into Chinese, French, Kreyol, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish to further widen the potential demographic of the visiting artists.

How and why did you choose the theme of the 2019 edition? The question should be why didn’t we choose it earlier! We are always searching for a theme that would evoke local and global interest. The, often marginalized and overlooked, Haitian Revolution has become more globally recognized within academia, philosophy, political studies and the art world. Most Haitians are adept and intimate historians of their former revolution and already produce works of art and culture that relates, however obliquely, to the revolution.

On what parameters do you base your evaluation of the impact of the Ghetto Biennale? The networks created through the Ghetto Biennales have enabled over 20 members of Atis Rezistans to take part in residencies in Brooklyn, Vermont, Los Angeles, Kingston, Venice, Goteberg and Copenhagen, and gain visibility for their work at exhibitions in both commercial galleries and institutional museums, based in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nottingham, Milan, New York, Miami and the 54th Venice Biennale. But in the last few years global mobility for the majority classes in Haiti has considerably decreased so for the younger artists travel possibilities are becoming far more limited.

How do you choose which projects to work on? Interestingly we had no pre-established admission criteria before we started working our way through the proposals. It was a instinctual process whereby organically the criteria became clearer the more projects we both rejected and accepted. Mostly we choose what was physically and materially possible in the neighbourhood. Quieter simpler projects were privileged over louder more

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Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale

spectacular works. I wasn't sure how much disruption could be stomached in the neighbourhood, which has a local historic tradition of crafts, wood carving, furniture making and car repairs. Work that needed to carry on regardless of the Ghetto Biennale. We have also tended to privilege projects that attempt to engage with Haitian history and culture, with the inherent structural inequalities of the Ghetto Biennale or with the material dilapidation of the site. From its inception, there have been many artists proposing relational projects. This has sometimes created tension as the often-unequal social contracts between the stakeholders often unraveled the utopic aspirations of some social practice projects. The concept of collaboration has at times been misused and misunderstood. Sometimes collaborations have become, paradoxically, an unconscious device to avoid confronting the divisive power structures within the working conditions of the site. But there have been many relational projects which have been very successful such as the XKLUB catwalk project, Lee Lee’s Sacred Soil project and Tom Bogaert’s ‘Sun Ra Ra’ which have usually listened more deeply or embraced Haitian cultural practices.

What is exciting you most about your work, and why? Getting the chance to make my own work as an artist.

What are the most important values and qualities you look for when working in team? I don’t look for anything in particular. It just coalesces in a most magical way what it’s right. A good sense of humour is very important.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of curators, art managers, cultural institutions and artists? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? I was in a folk punk band in the 1980s and the ethos was that you didn’t have to be skilled at music, or even able to actually play an instrument, to be in a band. This is the same ethos that Atis Rezistans and myself, bring to the Ghetto Biennale. The punk rock and punk folk movements were reactions to the slightly bloated, at times pompous, self-satisfied, overblown progressive rock and folk scenes of the late 1970s. Whilst the first wave of Punk was very quickly commercialised, it did spawn a second wave which generated a dynamic movement of independent and alternative music market models which took control of the production, distribution and venues. This would be extremely exciting to discover in the art world. I now feel that the art world is becoming increasingly professionalized and is excluding the majority classes from all parts of the globe.

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Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


Leah Gordon and the Ghetto Biennale

If you were able to change two things in the area of responsibility of arts curators, cultural producers, cultural institutions, what two things you think would create the most value and benefit for all? To stop feeling as if you are addressing immigration, migration, forced mobility and enforced immobility by commissioning art works that merely address these issues and fight to increase class mobility within the art world itself.

What is one successful cross-sector collaboration that you find inspiring or interesting and why? Works that have either acknowledged, critiqued or embraced the materiality of the art works in the Grand Rue have also felt extremely appropriate. Wooloo’s project, iGHETTO, creating a face-off between the wealth of MAC hardware brought to the Grand Rue by visiting artists against the sculptures in Kombatan’s space, dually critiqued the economic inequalities of the event and the poor materials of the zone. Hiroki Yamamoto held everyone’s attention during a lecture about Arte Povera and his explanation of a Modernist approach to impoverished materials. Also many artists arrive in Haiti with a desire to engage with the religious culture and has led to an aesthetic of the altar. Some could consider this impulse as prurient or a form of neo-colonial ‘othering’, but on the whole I have found that the artists that wish to engage with the religious aspects of Haitian culture to have grounded their work with deep research and a critical approach such as Ebony Patterson’s Jesada, Alberto Danelli’s, Concrete Art Militia # 1 and the project based on US magical traditions by Lazaros.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Class, mobility, chance.

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Ghetto Biennale - Photo courtesy of Lazaros


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Voices from the

osloBIENNALEN curated by Daniela Veneri

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Oslo, Norway. Photo: © Iffit Qureshi


An interview with

Eva Gonzรกlez-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk 125


Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk Photo: Richard Ashton / © osloBIENNALEN

Eva González-Sancho Bodero has been director and curator of several art institutions and initiatives: MUSAC, Leon (ES) [2013]; FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon (FR) [2003–2011]; and Etablissement d'en face projects (Brussels, 1998–2003). She has curated numerous projects and exhibitions, usually involving the production of new work. González-Sancho Bodero was also co-curator of Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF) 2013 (alongside Anne Szefer Karlsen and Bassam El Baroni), and curator of Dora García: Where characters go when the story is over? (CGAC, Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo, Spain, 2009). Over the course of 2015–2017, González-Sancho Bodero worked as co-curator together with Eeg-Tverbakk, developing and concluding OSLO PILOT, an experimental two-and-a-half-year research project to conceive the format for the first edition of osloBIENNALEN. Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk co-initiated and was the director of Kunsthall Oslo from 2010–2012. He was project manager for Artistic Interruptions – Art in Nordland, Nordland County from 2003–2005 and was co-curator of the 2004 Nordic Art Biennial Momentum, Moss (alongside Caroline Corbetta). Eeg-Tverbakk was deputy director of the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo from 2000–2001; co-curator of the 1999 Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF) (with Tor Inge Kveum); exhibition manager at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki in 1999, and director of the Otto Plonk Gallery in Bergen from 1995–1998. Over the course of 2015–2017, Eeg-Tverbakk worked as co-curator together with González-Sancho Bodero, developing and concluding OSLO PILOT, an experimental two-and-a-half-year research project to conceive the format for the first edition of osloBIENNALEN.

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“A biennial in public space and the public sphere would need to involve itself in new art production, while reflecting on what already exists or has taken place. It also means operating beyond established definitions of temporality and permanence, production and participation, ongoingness, activation, or perhaps even disruption, of public space. This requires special thinking about the parameters of the art field in relation to society.” - Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk

What are your most important objectives as curators of the Oslobiennalen? To set up a structure capable of offering artists other ways of approaching work, production and intervention in public space and the public sphere; this includes exploring and critiquing the parameters that prescribe the public space/sphere.

What principles are guiding your work? The desire to create a model that can – if only partially – respond to the nature of public space, which is determined by its contingency and all sorts of other parameters, which are complex and must be examined in each specific case. The application of a series of ethical principles, for example realistic payment for the work – both material and immaterial - involved in production, and the provision of optimal working conditions. Participation in the local arts scene, as a pre-existing context and backdrop to the Biennial.

What was your initial intention when you started OSLO PILOT, and what are the main insights that you collected as the project unfolded? What has changed since you started? In 2013, an announcement made by the City of Oslo Agency for Cultural Affairs sought a curatorial team to conceive the format for a first Oslo Biennial of Public Art. OSLO PILOT was our initial response: a research-based project carried out between 2015-2017, to provide a definition, vision, and modus operandi for an art biennial in public space. From its inception, OSLO PILOT initiated manifold collaborations with 127


Oslo, Norway. Photo: © Iffit Qureshi


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artists, poets, curators, writers, and other specialists working in diverse fields. This enabled us to explore new ways of creating a critical framework and a long-term strategy for future production. It also offered a chance to engage with Oslo’s existing art scene, to gain a better understanding of its interests, dynamics, and inner workings, and to involve artists and cultural workers in the processes and events of the forthcoming biennial. OSLO PILOT produced approximately 40 projects during its two-year lifetime. These included large-scale works of art, performances, interventions, research-based projects investigating the ongoing urban development that characterizes the city, and a symposium. In addition, OSLO PILOT initiated much research focusing on the life cycle of the artwork in public space, generating new considerations of temporal specificity in a field that has usually privileged examinations of site. OSLO PILOT initiated four lines of investigation: Reactivation, Periodicity, Disappearance, and Public to investigate the phenomena of time and temporality. These interrelated areas of enquiry were conceived as open-ended problematics aimed at outlining considerations too often overlooked in art vocabularies formulated around (public) site on the one hand, and exhibition on the other. The four terms – each underpinned by a reflection on time –were explored directly or obliquely in all works produced and presented during the pilot project and are also reflected in a publication consisting of 38 previously published texts spanning the past 80 years, and 19 newly commissioned texts exploring ideas about art in the public realm. OSLO PILOT allowed us to reach our main goal: to gain knowledge and understanding of the object and subject we were asked to work with and for: public space. It quickly became clear that we couldn’t limit this to the physical space of the city. Public space stretches into other mediatic realms, so our project needed to encompass both public space and the public sphere. It also became clear that we needed to pay careful attention to the contingency and varying parameters – marked by time, temporality – to which public space is subject. A work of art in public space is not set against a neutral background but is obliged to stand in relation to a constantly changing context. Access to it cannot be guided by the same means employed in the art gallery or museum. A biennial in public space and the public sphere would need to involve itself in new art production, while reflecting on what already exists or has taken place. It also means operating beyond established definitions of temporality and permanence, production and participation, ongoingness, activation, or perhaps even disruption, of public space. This requires special thinking about the parameters of the art field in relation to society.

On the next page, above: Performance of ‘Intet er stort intet er litet (Nothing is big nothing is small)' by Julien Bismuth. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN. On the next page, below: Birkelunden park, in the east Oslo neighbourhood Grünerløkka. The pavilion, built in 1926, is the starting point for the performance ‘Intet er stort intet er litet (Nothing is big nothing is small)' by New York based artist Julien Bismuth, produced for osloBIENNALEN First Edition. Photo: Niklas Lello / © osloBIENNALEN.

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How and why the dimension of the public space became central for your vision? The brief was to define a new model for a Biennial of art in public space. We immediately extended the concern beyond the physicality of the initial frame we were invited to work with, and set a concept for a Biennial in and for the public space and the public sphere. As curators, we have both been concerned with public space and the issue of art production in earlier projects. Formulating a definition and a vision for a biennial in public space, one that engages with the particularities of the city’s public ambit, also means designing an institutional framework that embraces the instability that characterizes public space both as a premise and as an artistic possibility. One of contemporary art’s distinct qualities is its non-confirmative relation to the formats within which it operates. As a system, art deals with contingency as a matter of course, whereby everything is possible but cannot be foretold with certainty. Contingency is also one of the dominant characteristics of public space, often caused by conflicting social and economic interests. Public space is—and should be—the place where the existing order is contested. The unforeseen and precarious nature of public space will perhaps best be met by embracing these premises instead of fighting them. Public space cannot be thought of as an extension of the conventional exhibition space. First and foremost, there is the question of the term public. Who says the works, objects and situations we encounter in the space of the city are “public”? Would it be more public, or less public, if the works were purchased for public collections and kept indoors in a public museum? Or does the word “public” refer to the outdoors, the city, urban open spaces? Or does it refer to the audience – the citizens, the users of public space, the public? And is public space really public? What is at stake when we call the city streets “public space”? In fact, public space is defined by a complex matrix of legislation, cultural conventions, and social interactions, which have developed over centuries and are subject to constant evolution and modification with no end in sight.

What specific challenges and opportunities does Oslo offer? There are hundreds of Biennials in the world, but only a few taking place in public space. This is a challenge in itself, especially in light of the transformation the City of Oslo is currently undergoing. This biennial represents another step in Oslo’s long tradition of major art projects in the public space. The brief we received from the City involved a series of components that were not for us necessarily interconnected: “The first Oslo Biennial of Public Art,” as it was termed in the initial announcement (which we changed to “Biennial of art in public space”), encompassed a range of ideas and possibilities: the biennial as event; art in public space; the city itself as a place, an urban community, and a site for artworks and experiences.

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Ed D'Souza's ‘Migrant Car’ parked in front of Eddie King's Furniture and Upholstery Workshop in Grünerløkka, Oslo. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN


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Of course for us public space does not only consist of physical features, architecture, urban design and other artefacts; it involves communication and social interaction, different publics and spheres—the press, mass media, and social media—operating beyond spatial arrangements. Public space is a field where many agencies, identities, and interests constantly meet and are made visible. It is therefore characterized by shifting realities, constant negotiation and renegotiation. It is the backdrop of multiple human or social events and activities, both foreseen and unforeseen, routine and extraordinary, that take place in regular rhythms and cycles, or as isolated outbursts or catastrophes. Public space is characterized by changing conditions, complexity, and unpredictability. A biennial in public space demands new approaches and premises for art practice and curating, capable of encompassing the full potential of art in the public sphere. Oslo could be the subject matter of works of art, with its historically configured internal relations, as the main urban centre in Norway and as a node in a global network, subject to macro processes of urbanization and adaptation.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? Artistic and cultural institutions operating in the art field, but also libraries, universities, school programs… What parameters are you considering for your evaluation of the impact of the Oslo Biennalen? It is hard to measure the impact of a Biennial in public space. The usual ways in which art events, exhibitions are evaluated – how many people attended, target groups – do not apply. Many members of our audience are random passersby going about their everyday business, perhaps not expecting to view a work of art on their way to the bus stop. To respond to this situation, we needed to think about how we could provide information and monitor the reception of the works by this unknown audience of passersby, although this is not easy and it remains to be seen how effective our strategies prove to be, and what feedback we receive. Having said that, an important and positive outcome would be for us the legacy that the Biennial leaves behind. We want the biennial to leave something permanent in its wake, in terms of long-term resources. And to establish a relationship with the vibrant art scene that already exists in Oslo. This is why, for instance, we set up the biennial headquarters in a building with enough space to accommodate artists’ studios, which are let to Oslo-based artists on subsidized leases. This has placed the biennial’s nerve centre in close contact with local art production and allows many opportunities for an open informal exchange between the biennial staff, biennial artists and locally-based artists about all sorts of shared interests and concerns. We are also setting up a film production unit and radio station, which we hope will continue to run as resources for art and artists long after the biennial has come to a close.

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Øystein Wyller Odden's ‘Power Balance (Composition for Piano, Alternating Current and Orchestra)’ performed at Oslo City Hall during osloBIENNALEN. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN


Marianne Heier, 'And Their Spirits Live On', performed at the former Museum for Contemporary Art as part of osloBIENNALEN’s 2019 opening programme. Photo: Kristine Jakobsen / © osloBIENNALEN


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What excites you most about this project? Outside the more controlled environments of museums or art galleries, the conditions of public space will inevitably alter our experience of art. Viewed and understood within this context, the meaning of an art intervention in public space is essentially time-related, a fact that makes it difference from art displayed in more specialized and controlled exhibition environments. It will be conditioned to a greater or lesser extent by the fluctuating and volatile life of the city, and so become highly mutable. The issue of art’s ephemeral or eternal nature will come to the fore. In other words, to make art in and for the public space is to engage with the precariousness that both defines and threatens our experience of it. As curators, our understanding of public space is not that of an enclosed and defined physical space—square or park—waiting to be furnished with a work of art. Public space is not just a possible site for exhibiting art. It is a concrete situation, a context, and a material for making art, with particular properties that the work of art may engage with or fail to address.

What is most important for you when working in team? OSLO PILOT and its outcome, the development of Oslobiennalen First Edition 2019-2024, has been the result of our work as a curatorial tandem, a long journey that started back in August 2014. We have designed a new working model, which has now been put in motion. Creating new ways of working has been a real challenge and a tremendous opportunity for us as curators. OsloBIENNALEN FIRST EDITION 2019–2024 is not a themed Biennial. Instead, it has been designed to foster ways of making art in public space, ones that would be as diverse as the audiences. We needed to think about how art in public space is made, produced and displayed, how a collection of art in public space might be run, how we could approach the challenges of outreach, information and education aimed at an unknown audience of passersby. So this first edition has involved designing and setting in motion a new institutional model capable of supporting the production, display, public outreach and possible formation of an art collection in public space, and the launch and ongoing development of a series of art projects realized within this structure.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of curators, art managers, cultural institutions, artists and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? Increasingly, the curator has to act as both curator and art manager, taking many things into account. This involves real risks and can be exhausting. The curator takes on a role that engages in the creative thinking behind the construction of each project and this demands time, careful research and sensitive analysis.

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Visitors listen to Øystein Wyller Odden's ‘Power Line Hum (Composition for the Organ in Oslo City Hall)’ at Oslo City Hall during osloBIENNALEN. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN


‘Oslo Collected Works OSV.’ by Jan Freuchen, Jonas Høgli Major and Sigurd Tenningen. Photo: Niklas Lello / © osloBIENNALEN


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If you were able to change two things in the area of responsibility of arts curators, cultural producers, cultural institutions, what two things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Artists and curators mainly need sufficient time to develop ideas and projects. Time is the real political commitment. This is part of our statement. Institutions should offer more time and better working conditions if they are to host good quality projects. We often have to accelerate the different processes involved in our work, including thinking about and producing art. What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? Those that encompass an awareness of people’s capacity to act. What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why? We have just started and it is too soon to speak of success. But the work initiated via different branches of libraries in Oslo might have strong, rhizomatic repercussions among Oslo communities and neighbourhoods. Which artistic proposals currently catch your attention and why? Most of the works that we are supporting in the Biennial, of course. osloBIENNALEN is not only about the City. It poses broader questions about the nature of public space, and ways in which art can intervene in it, and about relations between art, artists, their work and the rest of society. In this sense, the biennial has adopted a specific interpretation of the term “public” by presenting projects that often have to do with co-authorship, co-production, collective memory, in some cases completion of the work by the audience, group practices, and with proposing possibilities for action. What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention? How much money the Biennial has cost. We are glad you didn’t. Value for money is hard to assess in a project of this nature, whose outcomes are partly immaterial and unquantifiable and may only become clear in the long term. As said before, part of our intention is to leave a legacy in terms of future potential, infrastructure and long term cultural policy. Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Commitment, artists, city, time, transformation.

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Installation view of 'The Vigeland Park’ from 'Seven Works for Seven Locations' (series) by Hylnur Hallsson. Photo: Asle Olsen / © osloBIENNALEN


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A interview with

Marius Grønning 142


Marius Grønning

Marius Grønning, architect (ENSAPB Paris) and PhD in Urbanism (IUAV Venezia), is an associate professor of urban and regional planning at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Faculty of Landscape and Society. He has practical experience within architecture and consultancy in urbanism and planning. He is teaching place-making, comprehensive land-use planning and spatial ideas in urbanisation processes, and his research is focused on the spatial dimension of consciousness, possibilism, anticipation and innovation. Grønning has led the Norwegian Housing and Planning Association (Norsk BOBY) and the Norwegian Association for Planning Education (FUS). He has contributed in several artistic collaboration projects, especially in the context of urban development and public spaces in plans, or in academic areas like the teaching programme in this field at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO).

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“Consciousness is about the awareness, the conscious awareness of the self and the world around. So it has to do with perception and it has to do with experiences of the self as a phenomenon and the world as it appears to us. But consciousness also has other forms of content and organization, beyond the experience with a phenomenon.” - Marius Grønning

How did you become involved in the Oslo Biennial? What is your relationship with it? I am an architect myself, an urbanist and planner, I don't come from the art field. I am not part of the curatorial team but I have been collaborating with Per Gunnar for a long time, and he is very good at involving different kinds of competencies when he works with complex things like urban space, so he has many times involved me when dealing with issues concerning urban development. For me these collaborations have been about how different practices influence spatial processes that are part of urban development. We have had a lot of dialogues about the development of this biennial. There is a lot of expectation today that art becomes a tool of cultural policy, allied with strategic thinking, and I try to develop a reflection outside of that frame because I think it is very reductive and creates frames that are not in line with the evolution of art theory. I think there are very important questions to ask about art as an instrument or as a value in general, and maybe as a practice. The important thing is to give space to art as a practice which is part of enriching society, sometimes at the expense of strategies, because it can make things very «inefficient». I am a city planner and I think this complexity of different spheres that are interacting with each other is very interesting and important to explore and to learn more about. So I see it as relevant to develop a theoretical perspective and methodology that can inform the way corporations and institutions communicate and think. It all started with a network where I got into contact with people who were concerned with art in public spaces, more than 10 years ago, led by Public Art Norway, a Norwegian state institution for art in public spaces, that realizes art on behalf of the state and in relation to state projects. I wrote something about urban development that these guys at Public Art Norway read, and they invited me into a reference group for a conference held in the city of Trondheim in 2007, which was called Organizing Art. Trondheim was a pioneer city who developed a particular

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model for producing art in public spaces at the municipal level; it was, I think, the first bigger Nordic city that invented a financing scheme that made it possible to fund art which was not part of some kind of other building project. Per Gunnar and I were both speakers at the conference, and we got to know each other and started to exchange a lot of ideas. We later started to collaborate on projects that involved urban development and the realization of art projects that comes along with the development in public spaces and the exterior of buildings. From that time, with Per Gunnar we have had a kind of continuous reflection together, so when he started the pilot project for the Oslo biennial, together with Eva Gonzalez-Sancho Bodero, they brought me into an editorial board, and we also had informal discussions about how to think about a biennial for art in public spaces in a city like Oslo. After the pilot project we had a lot of dialogues and they assigned a responsibility to me, based on their parallel program of symposia. Here we structure a kind of thinking based on documentation and reflection of the experiences, in order to develop awareness and methodology for the biennial as a municipal institution. I was asked to take the responsibility for the first chapter, in this series of symposia, which will take place now in October and which is about «art production within a locality». It is about looking at the relationship between art production, artists’ work processes and facilities, and the encounter with the local context and with the concrete physical, urban spaces – how to deal with locality, which is a major issue in the biennial. This biennial does not have a restricted space for display, but defines the whole city, its organized structure in public spaces, as a site for art. And so I ended up with this responsibility of documenting the experiences of the art projects and developing methodology for dealing with locality, for receiving artists and introducing them to the Oslo context. There has been a long process since I first encountered the field of art in public spaces, one which actually changes things in the Norwegian context, how we work with art and how we think about it. What are you working on that you are most passionate about, and why? I've been spending a lot of time, the last seven-eight years, teaching planning for people who are going to become planners, working for Norwegian municipalities or consultancies. I have an academic background from France and Italy and I'm bringing that luggage with me into the Norwegian context. After having developed the teaching and making experiences with students and the context of governance and local development, I now find myself asking quite fundamental questions. It doesn't sound like research because it's really at the core of what planning and urban development is about. Lately I've been writing together with a colleague, Daniel Galland, an entry for an encyclopedia (Wiley & Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies) on the topic of Spatial consciousness. It is a topic at the center of spatial planning, but also important for many other disciplines, for architecture, for art, for geography, and also for psychology and politics. What we are concerned with is that planning theory has increasingly been focusing on

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A mapping of symbolic context as an indication for art strategies. Directive for art in public spaces, an attachment to the land-use plan for the Bjørvika area in Oslo (around the opera house). 2nd edition 2013. Co-authors: Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverrbakk, Marius Grønning, Anne Beathe Hovind. © Marius Grønning


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particular mechanisms in planning and decision making. It has become a discipline of communication, viewing the planner as a kind of a mediator, and it has lost some contact with its origin, which was about how to govern spatial development. So we are concerned with bringing space back to planning theory, from different points of departure. For me this is very important because, as an architect, everything starts with space. Architects, however, often respond as designers today, more than scholars and practitioners of space and spatial organization. So in relation to this kind of overall project of bringing space back to planning theory, I'm involved with research on several topics, which are all of a fundamental character. One of them is spatial consciousness, which has an implication for the spatial processes of urbanization, basically what we deal with as planners and architects. It relates to the social and spatial role of cities in ongoing processes, and needs to be reconceptualized in relation to globalization, economic development, climate change and so forth. Another concern of mine is the corresponding formation of the city as an idea. The idea of the city itself is being redefined in these processes. And one important question, I think, for research and practice within this field, is the possibility of a kind of intellectual autonomy in the conception of what we are planning and building, and a recognition that the idea of the city is not just a result of dominating interests and driving forces. Therefore I think conceptions and ideas actually come back as an important topic of study today. This is why spatial consciousness has become a theme, and a notion to write and think about. Along with space, another concern of mine is of course the topic of time, of temporalities and the anticipation of urbanization and urban development. So looking forward, always in a spatial dimension, because this is another thing that has happened: that we talk a lot about participation, about democracy in these processes, without appreciating how they concretely impact spatial arrangements, how they are deploying in a spatial dimension. Finally we talk a lot about innovation, both as a response to crisis, especially economic crisis, but also as almost a necessity in front of important changes – of climate, of demography and so forth. In this mindset innovation is very often in response to something that seems like a threat. I think it's important to get back to a kind of a positive, optimistic approach, one that is more attractive to a large population, that can attract people and make them take part in changing things, define their own roles. We can point out new possibilities, but it's important not to stay within these paradigms of ecology, climate change and macro economy. I'm not saying they are not important, of course they are important, but it's also important to get back to the dimension of space, which involves heterogeneity and multiplicity, and to try to think about innovation in the specificities of a spatial perspective. My recent activities are focused on these concepts. Also the collaboration with the art field, and with Oslobiennalen, has been renewed on that basis. The work of spatial consciousness is recent, it came out earlier this year, and the curators asked for that to be a concept that can develop the thinking around the Oslo biennial, which has to do with public space in Oslo. 147


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Can you share a little bit more about what is your perspective on spacial consciousness and how it is related to individual and collective awareness and to the arts? Spatial consciousness is an abstract notion and you always have to explain what you mean when you use it. I think it's an important topic of discussion in our time because in a pluralist society, you cannot move on with the idea of space according to just one authority imposing its own perspective. Our spatial order does not come from a tamed space, from the unique point of view of an authority, but from a vital space of multiple trajectories, coexistence and interaction. And I'm not using the word authority in a negative sense, because I think authorities are, in democracies, about public interest, about interpreting and advocating public interest, from the point of view of democracy and citizenship. So for me authority is not at all a negative term, but authorities need to redefine their approach to space, because space itself is subject to contestation and different ideas of organization. So space is a very complex dimension in decision making, in the representation of interests, in a democracy. In our elaboration on the topic, which was very much a collaborative and shared one, Daniel Galland and I had in a way different roles and it developed as a discussion between us. We developed the reflection in three parts, where the first one is about recognizing how consciousness relates to space. Based on some initial references to philosophy and studies of the human mind, like psychology or neurology, we built a perspective that has come out of an encounter between two different points of view. Consciousness is about the awareness, the conscious awareness of the self and the world around. So it has to do with perception and it has to do with experiences of the self as a phenomenon and the world as it appears to us. But consciousness also has other forms of content and organization, beyond the experience with a phenomenon. Experience is influenced by intentions, which shape the way the world around you is presented to you, from your interests or needs- Language and the representations also give consciousness content and organization, based on concepts, syntagmas, diagrams and so forth, providing different ways of describing, expressing and communicating experiences. By these theories, which are consolidated in philosophy, we started to look at what they mean in disciplines that deal with space, like human geography, architecture or planning, and we started to build a conceptual structure to explain that our notions of space, like place, city or region, are conceptions embedded in our culture. They come not only from our individual experience with a city or a place, of their content and organisation, but from the experience of our entire culture, with its modes of representation of the phenomenon, fixed in our language. So when the phenomenon is changing, when society starts to develop new needs in how human settlement is to be organized, then suddenly you can have conflicts between the intentionalities around urban space and the experience with it, conveyed by the same concepts and diagrams. So we put intentionality, representation and experience into tensions with each other as a way of describing what the notion of spacial consciousness might contain, and from there we dealt with it from a planning perspective. 148


Co-curators (Marius Grønning and Tone Hansen) of the exhibition Utopia Bærum at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter 16 October 2016 - 15. January 2017. An exhibition based on the historical account (by Grønning) of the evolution the suburban area of Bærum in the Oslo region (where the art centre is located) as a framework for five artworks using the local context as material. Artworks by: Marte Aas, Lise Wulff, Youmna Chlala, Apolonija Sustersic, Amy Franceschini. Photo courtesy of Marius Grønning.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

The next step was to explain how spatial consciousness does come about. Here we were looking at the relationship between planning as a discipline and the institutional system it is part of, because planning is based on regulations, on authorities, on cartography, and a number of instruments related to procedures of decision making, control of property and land-use. This way you can explain how the basic tools and concepts of contemporary planning systems are reflecting a kind of awareness or consciousness about social and spatial processes that came out of different moments in history. There is something to be aware of in that observation, because it means that our theories and instruments of planning are always in a delay, because our methods and instruments come from problems of the past, say, from industrialization for instance, and from dealing with the social and urban issues of industrialization in a spatial dimension. As those experiences gave us our apparatus of planning and the ways we are representing space, the means by which institutions and corporations are communicating around spatial processes. In other words the representational content and organisation of space is embedded in our culture through institutions and their instruments and practices. But we are now in front of new issues and new processes that deploy in a spatial dimension. New tensions between experience, intentionality and representation, which through this notion of spatial consciousness actually ask us to think about the relevance and actuality of our institutional system, the way institutions address and represent a space, intervene in cities and territories. When we looked at that historically, we also saw that spatial consciousness it's not like in a lot of planning literature, not something that actualized only through decision-making; it's actually paramount to the institutions and the planning system. So, in today's processes of globalization, we need to ask ourselves fundamental questions, about living conditions and the sustainability of our activities in relation to a communication that takes place on the new, planetary scale. It forces us to reconsider the theoretical geography of spatial planning, because the part of the world that has the kind of institutionalized planning systems that planning theory has been coming from, is a very small part of the world. It's mainly from Western Europe and North America, so there is a new geography of awareness and consciousness to take into consideration, and entirely new points of departure for thinking about spatial phenomena and processes and how to govern them. This is the final part of how we structured that research: what is at stake when you talk about spatial consciousness. It's basically the possibility to govern territories and to plan and organize space which is at stake, how to legitimize the institutionalization of governmental tools and how to think about the relationship between governance and citizenship in different contexts, which in different parts of the world are following different evolutionary paths. But we are, from an optimistic perspective, bound to learn from each other because we are becoming more and more integrated on a global scale.

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What values and principles are guiding your work? I was educated as a professional; not a scientist, but an actor who performs by means of ideas and skills. I think that in our culture something has changed which in a way reduces the agency of professionals, takes something away from them, and I'm not sure if that is all good. I think that it's important in education to get back to the responsibility professionals; that you are not just somebody performing a task within a framework that is determined and regulated by others; you are responsible. So what has changed? We have stronger institutions, rules and frameworks around everything that happens: tools for controlling development, financing, timelines and productive processes, what can be built and not. They are certainly a progress, but I think they may be dangerous too, in the sense that it is not a good evolution of our culture if professionals are in a way becoming less responsible for how they think and what they do. In developing pedagogy and knowledge within the field of urbanism and spatial planning I think the values and principles that used to characterize architects and urbanists, who were also scholars and thinkers, are important to get back to, in order to contribute to reason and critical reflection among these actors in society. I'm referring to planners but this is true for any professional; they all rely on autonomous thinking around what they are doing. I think we need these frameworks and institutions, of course, they are very important and they are important to make decisions and govern our society, but I think professionals should take part in defining the frames and providing the premises for how institutions evolve through their practice. I think in our Western European setting, we just came out of a time where we trusted governments and their institutions. Too much maybe, because you can see today that the governments and institutions are not always trustworthy, and not all over the world, and part of that confidence also leads us to neglect our individual responsibility. So, I think that we need to get back to human sciences and focus more on the role of each actor, each human being. That is how I develop my research and I try to make it relevant for students who are going to become professionals. I think that it informs a lot of my observations within the art field also, that there is a division of labor between professionals, between artists and curators, which is quite new. They are professionals with different roles, which reconfigure the art field. And it's an opportunity, something very interesting, but something to look at from a critical perspective also. Would you tell me more about the Oslo Biennalen from your perspective, what excites you most about it? In one word, what I think is very exciting about the project is its radicality, that it is really identifying, making an effort at least to identify, the central concepts that structure our thinking and practice of biennials, which is an important effort in

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Co-curators (Marius Grønning and Tone Hansen) of the exhibition Utopia Bærum at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter 16 October 2016 - 15. January 2017. An exhibition based on the historical account (by Grønning) of the evolution the suburban area of Bærum in the Oslo region (where the art centre is located) as a framework for five artworks using the local context as material. Artworks by: Marte Aas, Lise Wulff, Youmna Chlala, Apolonija Sustersic, Amy Franceschini. Photo courtesy of Marius Grønning.


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order to renew the relationship between art institutions, cultural policy and public space, especially on an international or global level. It requires a questioning: how can it make art visible on a global scale, and at the same time break art production down to a local scale and interact with the city of Oslo in an articulated way. So, there are many things that people are now asking questions about: why is the biennial five years? It's an interesting question, I like very much this radical stance of the project, that they are looking at the periodicity and the city, they are looking at how it deals with the public sphere and then how things emerge and disappear when you are infiltrating into the tissue of social relations and urban space. And I think from radicality you can actually reorganize the theoretical core of what you are dealing with and move towards a paradigm shift, new beliefs, new models. This, I think, is a real effort to try to innovate something that is well consolidated even if with a lot of varieties. The Oslobiennalen is creating a possibility, a breach allowing new practices, new ideas and new identities to emerge, and new experiences of art.

Did you notice any changes in particular since OSLO PILOT started? I think it is too early to answer this question. It just started and it is not organized like most biennials, or at least the biennials that I know, that are almost as festivals that take place for a few months and repeat themselves every two years. So this is something more able to respond to the processes it is trying to interact with in the local context. How is the biennial interacting with the local context? What is happening to the relationship between an art institution and the citizens if it goes on for a longer time? I think that the idea, and then the implementation of that idea, has reached a state of maturity. But I think we need to be a little bit patient to see that spirit in the art projects and people’s experience with them.

What challenges and opportunities does the local context offer? Since the biennial is not trying to maximize attention, to make something very intense like a major exposition, I think we need to be a little bit patient. But I think that they are starting to challenge a lot of people and their understanding of the relationship between cultural policy, art and space. So maybe we see the beginning of a kind of cultural project, but we'll need some time to see it mature. I can only have expectations to that because it's audacious and, as I said, radical. So, you can't expect that you know much about the results or to see the real results immediately. What we can see is that it has been perceived very differently on two different levels, or maybe three. I think on an international level, in the communication and the dialogue between curators and art institutions, there has been a lot of interest in it, very positive reviews for its conceptual framework and its organization. The

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local artistic community has been a bit colder. Maybe it just has to do with expectations, I'm not sure, but the tone has been different. It has been more critical, not always very constructive, not always on a very high level either. It has been focused on some details of the organization, and it is important to take that seriously; it cannot fail on that level. How the local art community, art centers, art institutions see it is essential. If they don't see it as a contribution, as a resource, then of course it's a failure. So, I hope to see the biennial get beyond its first impact and evolving into something specific which is not in rivalry with other activities, but something that people will see as a contribution. The last level is the population. Because this is an art biennial that has the ambition of taking place in public space it's addressing an audience which is not art experts or regular art audience. It has been a little bit silent, it's not trying to attract a lot of attention, it's trying to pop up, surprising people so that it's a real experience when it happens. But in order to become an experience for a large audience it maybe also needs a specific communication strategy.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today? This is a typical question in relation to art in public spaces, almost unavoidable, but which very often lures you into a kind of argument where you expect there to be some kind of social benefit from art. I think it's a trap, and I am concerned not to fall into it. Social benefit is of course not negative. My point is that legitimizing art solely on that basis might limit many possibilities. I think the Oslo biennial is avoiding the argument of the purposefulness of art, the compulsive social contributions or producing social benefits. It's at least trying to avoid it, possibly with success. Today we often hear artists promote their own work through the argument of enhancing citizen participation in local situations, and they almost talk about themselves as place-makers. I think that can be dangerous because place-making is political and full of antagonism and conflicts. As a planner or somebody working along a spatial strategy you have to be prepared to take that responsibility, handling those conflicts, and you are taking economic, social and institutional risk and responsibility. As a place-maker you are assuming a role as a vehicle of public interest, and I think that requires very specific competence that artists should not pretend that they possess. I'm not saying they do not have any of that competence, they might, but I think they also have a different role. I think it's important to get back to the question of what the artistic reasons or logic or arguments are when art is being presented to the audience of a local community. On the other hand place-making itself is a result of strong driving forces, economic ones, the demographic ones, cultural ones, as well as political strategies and policy instruments, and these forces tend to override artistic considerations. They sometimes bring strong demands concerning art and tend to dictate instead of internalizing the specificities of artistic work. And the artist in all of this becomes very weak, because the strongest argument they resort to is that they defend the autonomy of art, which is in direct contradiction with being a place-maker. I think the biennial is an interesting arena here, and maybe an important one to think about how you can bring art and art production closer to social groups that 154


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otherwise do not have access to it. At the same time we should recognize art production, art as a kind of practice that has its own reason, that has a role in society which is not the same as economic or social development, but rather about the spiritual, cultural, technical craftsmanship and aesthetic expression and experience. That is one dimension of society which should have its place, it's part of a social continuity, heterogeneity and evolution, and I think we are making a mistake if we are unwilling to recognize it. I think that “social contribution” is a dangerous way of phrasing it, because it sounds like art needs to be socially engaged in order to be art. We often find a polarization between art as a promotion of economic or political interests, on the one hand, and art as activism or an expression of citizenship and democratic participation on the other. I think it's important to get back to the art field itself and the evolution of aesthetic practice and discourse, and look critically and reflexively at how it relates to urban development, place-making, public space and so forth, because it is often an element in the development pattern. This is actually what triggers some kind of personal engagement for me, where I think there is something important to pursue. It’s the social role of an academic to look critically at what is going on, and contribute from that angle to the development of conceptions and practices.

What is most important for you when involving different stakeholders in the realisation of a common project? Paradoxically I think it's about the learning, rather than the aesthetic result. I think we have to think of different kinds of learning processes because art in public spaces very often comes along with some kind of development process, where you have a policy, where institutions follow some kind of spatial strategy to develop arts in a targeted way, where actors come into relation with each other, sometimes into conflict. And I think one important consequence is that everybody has to understand each other's mindset better, reframe the situation on the basis of interaction and learning. They need to understand more about art: developers need to understand the heterogeneity of art, they need to develop their language around it, and the general population will have more experiences with art. The way they perceive art, their expectations towards art will change from these experiences. They need to be prepared for that also, which also challenges a lot of artists. You enter a new and different arena when you take art out of the white cube of a gallery or museum, where everything is facilitated by a perfect frame around the artwork, one that erases the relation with the rest of the world. Art in public spaces is in a very different condition because it is not in an abstract environment, it is in a very concrete one where all kinds of interactions start to happen. I think that to be an artist in this environment means to be a quite different professional compared to what you are as an artist that displays your work within a white cube, because in public space you have a collaboration with a curator, with various institutions, you have to deal with public authorities, developers, neighborhood associations and 155


Structure and Strategy Plan for the Oslo Harbour Promenade 2013. Co-authors: White Architects (project leader), Rodeo Arkitekter, Marius Grønning Arkitektur & Urbanisme. Š White Architects


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single individuals. It becomes necessary to handle the encounter between these different actors, institutions and mindsets, these different cognitive frames where actors see things differently, leading them to interpret the situation in various ways. And I think the curators and art institutions today have an important role in professionalizing the involved actors, and in contributing to a kind of reframing where people start to understand each other's point of view through the process. This evolution in art production has a major impact on how you communicate art. What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? One thing that I think characterizes art today is how aesthetic ideas are traveling. I think we're no longer looking to just one place and to a top of the hierarchy. I think different parts of the world are mirroring each other, communicating experiences in a different way that generates new identities, new practices and networks within the art world. So suddenly you can see something that would come out of South America happening here in Oslo. It doesn't have the same purpose or sense, because here public spaces are more or less open and safe and public authority means something different. And the notion of democracy is different, there is no worry about saying what you think, about claiming your identity, whether it's social, sexual, political or whatever, which is very different in other parts of the world and which is a backdrop of many of these aesthetic expressions. So I think that African art, South American art, Asian art, Middle Eastern Art, is in European art, North America art and the other way around, to use some generic categories. They are looking at each other and mirroring each other in new ways today. Is there anything important to mention that I did not ask you? I come from Oslo and I stayed abroad for the first part of my grown up life, mainly in France and Italy. When I came back after this artificial break something had happened. I think Norway is in a very interesting situation right now, which is favorable for making new experiences, for creating new narratives about modernity and globalization, because it's a dynamic and yet quite stable society. It's right now in a good economic situation, with an egalitarian way of thinking and with a strong network of welfare institutions making it resilient and able to handle changes and transitions. Social integration of migrant populations seems to take place without major episodes of violence and without unsurmountable tensions. There are of course both tensions and violence as everywhere else, but I experience this as a happy moment in Norwegian history. It's a country that was always in the periphery and now there is more attention to what is going on here. Things are changing fast. A lot of new identities are emerging and being Norwegian means something very different today than what it meant 30 years ago. I think there is an optimism which is particular now. It's a good place for experiencing globalization; it is good to be in Norway right now, it is dynamic in a way that most people benefit from. A lot of it

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has to do with economic development, of course, which has its downsides such as increasing disparities. But I would like to put forth the positive in this process: its experiences of integration are interesting. It is certainly interesting to have an art biennial who tries to address these socio-economic, cultural and spatial processes, who tries to propose itself as a mirror for collective self contemplation within the art sphere. I am looking forward to follow that experience, on the backdrop of fast societal changes which creates new identities and new social groups, new interactions, new cultures, and to observe art as something that takes place in that process.

Can you think of three or ďŹ ve keywords that you feel can well express your impressions and feelings about our conversation? We are discussing fundamental questions. It's nice to be able to do that. In scholarly literature and art critiques things are increasingly specialized and articulated, so sometimes we are scared of getting down to the basic issues and principles of what we're talking about. I think a premise for putting forth radical ideas is that you have an interest in the fundamental questions, and then to see the possibility of addressing and discussing them. A keyword could be radicality, which has to do with fundamental issues. In times of change we need to ask fundamental questions. Another one is awareness. And maybe emancipation, not to say critical thinking, because it has become something almost automatic to criticize capitalism from an almost external point of view. I think critical thinking is about understanding which frames you have around you and whether you should work with them or against them. And once you can see and understand them, then you can identify your autonomy, or even try to free yourself from them, so, I dunno, spawning emancipatory ideas and behaviours or thinking‌. what else? Responsibility. Professionalism. These key words come together and are in relation to each other.

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A conversation with

Carole Douillard 160


Carole Douillard French-Algerian artist, born in 1971 in Nantes (France) from a Kabyle mother and a French father, Carole Douillard is graduated from the School of Beaux-Arts, Nantes, in 1997 and from the University of Franche-Comté, UFR Science de l’homme et du language (DU in Art, dance and performance) in 2012. She’s part of the research laboratory ACTE at Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne run by pragmatist philosopher Barbara Formis. Artist and performer, Carole Douillard uses her presence or that of the interpreters as sculpture for minimal interventions in space. Situated on the edge of the spectacular, while taking care to avoid it, her work calls for a redefinition of the spectator, the space of performance and the power struggle between the contemplated object and the person contemplating it. Her work is plenty part of the first Oslo Biennial 2019-2024. In fall 2019, before going back to Oslo, she’ll develop a 3 months research project in California on performance and contemporary gesture. In 2018, she realised a performance film (Idir) with the american filmmaker Babette Mangolte which consists on a politic and poetic reenactment in Algiers’s street of an historic Bruce Nauman’s performance from 1967 (Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square). This fall 2019, Idir will be exposed at the Musée d’arts of Nantes (France) and at Lace (Los Angeles). Before that, her projects have taken place at the Lyon Bienniale (France), the Ferme du Buisson (Noisiel, France), the Musée de la Danse (Rennes, France), at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), at Centre Pompidou (Paris) the Mac Val (Vivre-sur-Seine, France), at the French Institute in Algiers and Oran (Algeria), at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (Madrid, Spain), at Wiels (Brussels, Belgium)... A first copy of her performance The viewers was acquired in 2014 by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (France) and is now performed at Oslo’s Biennial. In 2012-2013, she was artist researcher within the cooperative of research at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art of Clermont Métropole (university year 2012-2013) and regularly collaborates with Laboratoire du geste – Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. Alive, her first monograph was published in march 2016, its authors are Chantal Pontbriand, Janig Bégoc and David Zerbib (Ed. by Christian Alandete/Cabin agency - Les Presses du Réel, Fr). She is the co-founder with Entre-deux (ML Viale & J Rivet), Manon Rolland, Oro/Loïc Touzé, Fabienne Compet, Isabelle Tellier of think think think, a platform for research in performance (Nantes, France, 2014). She also regularly teaches performance art in European and north Africa universities and art schools since 15 years.

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“That immaterial space where the interaction happens is my space, it's something which is really a question of seeing, feeling, something very impalpable, delicate, very human.” - Carole Douillard

What projects you are currently working on that you are most passionate about, and why? There are two projects I am working on. One is a three months research project that will take place in California from October 2019 to January 2020, and it is based on the history of performance and questions in contemporary gesture and collective rituals. I will do research in three cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palo Alto, to work with some of the leaders of the performance art from the 70s. At the same time I will continue to work on the Oslobiennalen. Initially I was invited to join with one performance, The Viewers, that has been already shown in May and June and will continue to be proposed until October, and that was conceived five years ago, then they also invited me to work on a new project, that I will begin in January or February 2020. After the residency in California I will head to Oslo, and at that point I will be able to re-answer to the Oslobiennalen with new ideas in mind, new propositions.

What values and principles guide your work? Deceleration, attention, economy of gesture, minimalism, conceptualism, link between performance and audience, link between theory and action, link between action and documents, are what comes to my mind in first place. I work on the relation between actions/performers and their audience and on the political way to inhabit public spaces. By public spaces I consider the streets of course but also museums and art places which are scales to operate in. I think that the main direction of my work consists on paying attention to what is going on between a performance and its receivers. That immaterial space where the interaction happens is my space, it's something which is really a question of seeing, feeling, something very impalpable, delicate, very human. Then I work a lot on what is to decelerate, to just be here and now without thinking about what we're going to do tomorrow. It's a question of really being concentrated on what is happening just now. 162


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I also work on the relationship between the history of performance and contemporary questions. In fact, I love to be conscious about what art history and artists produced in the past. For me it's a way to follow themes and other artists, to dig, to continue to research on issues that some people already began to work on. I love to continue to think about ways to pay attention to deep questions and go deeper on subjects. I think I am mostly working on attention and depth. With depth I also mean a deep relation between people, and this is something very important for me. There is a very philosophical, and quite mystical sometimes, question about what is “being” and i feel a necessity to share this interrogation. Performing is my way to find a balance in this very complicated world, because if I do not transform my sensibility, I will die. Artists don't have any choices. We must do what we must do. I feel it like that. Sometimes it's very difficult, but it's my destiny.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? My objective is to be a poetic and political observer, in the noble sense of the word. I think that artists are essential to societies, and that their sensibilities are a mode of resistance in a foolish absurd capitalist world. As an artist I feel like an observer, and that means that I'm always into a certain space and time but at the same moment I feel like I am also in a second space, a bit near myself or near the scene I am living. I'm always in a double position, as if I was living but also at the same time observing what's going on inside me and also in the space around me, what's happening with all the people who are participating in the scenes, how people react to each other, how they manage the space together. It's always like having a double position, being in the space between living and observing life, and this is the space where my imagination works. Artists are good observers and they create with their sensitivities.

What does it mean for you to participate in the Oslo Biennalen? It is a really great experience, a very deep one. The connection with the curators is really excellent. The way we work together is quite ideal, because they are really listening a lot, they follow the work in a very authentic way. The all project of the biennial is really interesting because it's a very political one, it asks questions about what it means to be a citizen, what it means to be living in a place in a given time. For me this question is very exciting and allows a lot of answers, it gives a lot of opportunities to work with. I feel like I have a white card to work there in Oslo, I really free to work and the quality of our sharing with the team is really high. I also love the fact that this biennale will last five years, and this is really interesting because it means that I don't have to work in a rush. I love to have the possibility to 163


To Hold, moon, Photograph 120 x 90 - Carole Douillard, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist.


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take the time I need, I don't want to be an artist who produces fast for the market, I'm not interested in that at all. I am actually interested in the process of creation, which is firstable a human process. What I really love of this biennial project is that it offers me a real possibility to take time to “feel”, “think” and “do”. It is a very rich way of working and it's the first time I can experiment such a way to work in such an international high level context. I feel lucky to be part of this. What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context of Oslo offer? It offers the opportunity to develop my work in a way I did not think before, particularly with The Viewers, the performance the curators proposed me to develop in the Oslobiennalen context. This performance was originally created for the Palais de Tokyo's indoor space (Paris), and for me it was more like a sculpture or installation inside an art institution. Presenting this action in Oslo’s urban space made me understand that the public space is a really meaningful place for art, as it operates on the work as a scale. This shift from the museum to outdoor spaces leads me to have a more profound reflexion on how contexts operate with artworks. Also, the way the curators want to develop the biennial on time is really particular, it's a new way to think the rhythm of a huge art proposition and it is really interesting. The necessity to articulate the work and the context is the most interesting challenge of this project, along with the long time window that we have to work with. I know that if I want to to begin a certain work in one year I can then continue with it for more three years, and that's wonderful. You are going to work with people for a long time and so to know them better, and this means that the work that is being produced will have a life-long impact for me. For example, I would like to go back to Oslo and live there for several months. Living the daily life there is also a way to respond to the project and being involved with it. What excites you most about this initiative? The idea to develop a work in space and time without any obligation related to the concept of «event». As an artist, it is a luxury to take the time to imagine a work that can take its shape in a subtle relation to space over a long period of time.

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'The Viewers' by Carole Douillard at Oslo Central Station. Photo: Inger Marie Grini / © osloBIENNALEN


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What kind of impact do you see emerging from the Oslo Biennalen? It is maybe too early to answer know. I believe in the human impact of the all biennial on the people/audience who are going to live these experiences. Seeds will surely grow in every person involved. I think the immaterial trace will be the most important impact.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today? For me art is a necessity, it's obvious that art always had a social contribution. The meaning of art has always been to make people think. Culture is necessary to question what it means to be living, to be here, now, in such a world. In France a lot of projects are created to have a social dimension, institutions ask artists to invent social solutions that they don't have. I think the issue of the social function of art is a gap. I think artists are not there to solve directly social problems whether they are directly concerned by social questions. Being an artist, for example in France, is an act of social resistance. In every part of the world if you decide to be an artist you are a fighter, even because you often cannot live just with your art, it is economically very difficult to be an artist. We always ask social questions even by the way we live. The contribution of art is to maybe show people that we can choose our way of living. If we are not there to ask some questions, who is going to ask them? The social necessity of art is to continue to ask some questions and to involve the audience in the process, the cultural field is there for that.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? My main partners are the curators I work with, because they make me think and ask myself some questions in a very deep and interesting way. I listen a lot to the people I work with, they are my main interlocutors. I also have some people around me, my friends, the people I meet every day, they also make me think, including the people who have very different ideas, like political enemies, make me think, so they also are in some ways my partners. Then there are many artists, researchers, people with whom I love to share ideas and that are really nourishing me. But also pieces of art and books that open my mind. Also immaterial things like people I think about, literature, music. I consider as my partner anything that makes me think.

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'The Viewers' by Carole Douillard at Oslo Central Station. Photo: Inger Marie Grini / © osloBIENNALEN


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Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of arts and cultural players, institutions, curators, art managers, artists and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? I think that art is too much connected to the art market and money. This money issue is quite a problem because it's becoming to be the first value of everything, even for art, and I do not think that's a good thing. I am quite beginning to hate this kind of events that are just showing big art, big artists, big... We don't care. I don't care about that. I think this is not what we need. We need, I think, events and a cultural field that act on questions and challenges about how to live together on this planet, what we can do today for us and for the world we survive in. We can't continue to make art as we did in the 20th century. I don't believe in objects for example, as objects for me are from the old world, but this is my position because I'm a performer. I do not think we need these big objects, I don't need to make a big art object to have big money, to be a big artist. I don't care. I think this is the old model. That's why I also love this project in Oslo, because it is not that at all, it is a much more interesting way to think at the process, the audience and the collective way to produce art. It favors immaterial works, it is showing art in the city, offering it to an audience which is not that of art experts, it is challenging political and social positions. I would like big art events to be more involved in politics in a noble way. I think we must really rethink everything. These big sculptures or installations which take a lot of space and want to be very impressive, they seem very show business. I feel that the role of art is really to go against that.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts and cultural institutions, curators, cultural producers, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? I don't want to praise excessively the Oslo Biennalen, but I really think it offers a new way to work. I have worked for 20 years as an artist now and this is the first example of this kind that I experienced. The way Oslo's curators work with artists is for me exemplary. It is much more a collaboration than a top-down process, we share a lot, we develop together the concept of the works and their articulation within the context, it's a kind of ideal relation based on trust, it is smooth and respectful, and each of us has a specific complementary role. It's much more an horizontal way of working and to collaborate to create something together. I think this example is really very interesting for the future. I would like to continue to work like that and I hope that we will see more examples of ways to collaborate together and share the creative process.

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'The Viewers' by Carole Douillard on the roof of the Opera House in Oslo. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN


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What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? I think that the contamination between the art field and the non-art field consists now in a circulation of ideas between political actions and art actions. I think there is something closely related to the process of creation and to the process of taking decisions. That's why I also believe in performances in art as a political way of thinking and being, and that's why I said that I don't believe in objects anymore, because I think it's something from the past. For me contamination is also a way of being. In France a lot of citizens now are using actions to make the government realize something or change, there is a lot happening in the streets, in public spaces. I think that this is something that is moving from art forms to daily life. It is an impression that I have.

What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why? This question makes me think more at what influences my work. I can share about what inspires me from other professional fields. I can mention cinema, research, literature, dance... For me it all connects to contemporary art and contemporary thoughts or ways of creating. For me it is important to keep an eye on what my contemporaries are inventing, what researchers are researching on, what writers are writing on, what are the key issues that others are thinking about. Keeping an eye on what is going on in creation is very important for me.

What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention? I come from two cultures, Africa from my mother and France from my father. I think my identity is giving me a different sensitivity to work with, and this is maybe related to what I have said about living two states, being and observing, that I believe comes from my double culture. This gives me some space to work at the borders. I think catch a lot of very subtle things that people around me don't really understand. When you have two visions of something, you have a lot of keys to understand that thing. I'm really, really proud of this and working with this double eye for me is also a gift, I always try to pay attention to different facets when I work with people.

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Sleep, Performance, Biennale de Lyon, Carole Douillard, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Idir, Film Still, Carole Douillard & Babette Mangolte, 2018. Photo courtesy of the artist.


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Can you think of three or ďŹ ve keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Attention, which is a very important word for me. Sharing or collaborating. Immaterial. Space. Time.

Anything else that you would like to add? I did not mention what the body question means for me. I talk a lot about the immaterial being, but of course when I say immaterial it means human, it refers to our corporeity, what does it mean to have a body and to live in it, to be alive. Performance for me is a material way of working on immaterial, a way to question what it is to feel alive.

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Alive, Cover Poster, California-Kabylia, 1979-2016, Carole Douillard, 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.


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An interview with

MĂ´nica Nador and Bruno O.

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Mônica Nador and Bruno Oliveira, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artists.

Mônica Nador (1955, Brazil) is a visual artist whose earliest works date from the 1980s. In 2003, Nador founded Jardim Miriam Arte Clube (JAMAC), a community centre that promotes lectures, workshops, activities and exhibitions among local residents to encourage the development of both cultural and political awareness in São Paulo’s Jardim Miriam district, where Nador lives and works. Bruno Oliveira (1987, Brazil) is a visual artist and educator. Alongside Mônica Nador and Thais Scabio, he is a coordinator at Jardim Miriam Arte Clube (JAMAC). He is a researcher at MALOCA (Group of Multidisciplinary Studies in Urbanisms and Architectures of the South) and the coordinator of the cultural centre Casa 1 (São Paulo/Brazil), which offers shelter to LGBT people expelled from their homes.

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“I do not think it is a matter of the role that you have, I think it is a matter of recovering the sense of solidarity, of community. It is a matter of changing the point of view, the content, the internal thing, not only its external role. Today we are almost criminalizing the sense of humanity and this is something that I do not understand. Sometimes we can not even recognize the humanity of people, and also artists can be very selfish and self-centered.” - Mônica Nador

What projects you are currently working on that you are most passionate about, and why? Mônica: We are currently working and making stencils prints for the next show that will open on August 10th at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, “Somos Muitos”, that connected us with two projects: one is a reference center for homeless people, where they have an atelier, and the other is a shelter for transgender women. The Educational Program of Pinacoteca has been working with them and we understood it could be important to work together with this particular educator, Augusto Sampaio, that has a long experience with these groups, considering the fact that he works in a very similar way that me, formally speaking. We two are actually inspired by Indian patterns, what is quite interesting as a point of convergence. We worked with these two groups of people and we are going to make also a big patchwork for this museum, as well as paint a mural. After this project, we will join another collective exhibition in October, also in São Paulo, the 21ª Bienal de Arte Contemporânea Sesc_Videobrasil, where we will show some flags with the portraits of female thinkers and activists from Brasil. We will also be showing a some patterns I did from pictures taken by Georges Senga. I met him in 2015, when I was participating in the Lubumbashi Biennale. At that time I visited a very little agriculture village, in which women had this tradition of painting their houses by hand, with the most beautiful patterns. There is group of artists, that have created the Picha Foundation, who want to build a permanent printing workshop in this village, pretty much alike our space, Jardim Miriam Arte Clube (JAMAC). At JAMAC we have been developing a series of activities, from drawing classes to yoga classes, open and free to everyone, engaging teachers and students from public schools in the area. We also take part of a educator’s network in Jardim Miriam, that have been creating different cultural initiatives for the neighborhood such as an literary festival that is on it’s fourth edition this year.

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Bruno: I have been working with Monica Nador for 6 years now, and learning a lot from this process. As a researcher, artist and educator the opening of JAMAC as an artist practice has always been really inspiring and challenging also. How can we develop different understandings of art through the development of educational and social change processes? For the past two years I have been more engaged at JAMAC, where we have been developing a series of activities, from drawing classes to yoga classes, open and free to everyone. We have been inviting teachers and students from public schools in the area, neighbors and people from the area to visit and meet the space. We have also collaborating with an educator’s network in Jardim Miriam, that has been developing different cultural initiatives for the neighborhood such as an literary festival that is on its fourth edition this year.

What values and principles guide your work? Mônica: I live in Brazil and here the distance between “US” and the “OTHERS” is crystal clear. When I was about eighteen years old, I was enrolled in a school of architecture, but at that time we had a dictatorship here and it was very difficult to work. My school did not get the license to continue existing and I interrupted my studies there. I then studied pedagogy, followed by history, and nothing worked for me until I finally found an art school that I could attend to. Studying art was somehow easy for me because my father was a painter. He was actually a doctor and an amateur artist, and he was very involved in the local cultural scene. He was always in some cultural commission and my house was always full of artist. My parents supported me in what I wanted to do, and I believe they actually wanted me to become an artist. Under the dictatorship I did not want to make art because I did not want to paint for the bourgeoisie, as that was the experience that I had in my family with my father and his friends, but I studied art because I felt I could not do anything else. At that time I attended a school with a very capitalist imprint and there I learned that art has nothing to do with the real life: that art is something that puts us in dialogue with our artistic ancestors and our history, and that was all about it. In order to reconnect with my intentions I had to continue my studies, with my Master’s degree. At that time I met Douglas Crimp, (who has just passed away, unfortunately): when I read his texts I got really impressed. I was a painter but after reading his work I could not paint a single canvas anymore, not for at least ten years. Now I paint again but I do not think it is something important, I see it like handicraft, as a beautiful crochet towel, and I think it is okay to be like this, but I felt myself completely unuseful to the country, to the people, and I could not stand it. I have been driven by the need to change the reality of my neighborhood, to connect with other people. Because in the art scene, in Tokyo, in New York, in Rome, in São Paulo, we are all the same, but no one sees poverty, the class struggle, and no one takes responsibility for it. I think that we have the responsibility to do it, that everybody has this responsibility, and as I am an artist, not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, or engineer or architect, but an artist, the question that I asked myself

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A workshop is underway for ‘Another Grammar for Oslo’ by Mônica Nador and Bruno Oliveira. Photo courtesy of the artists.


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was how could I be part of the construction of my country, as an artist? How could I make sense to this community? This has been driving my research, the need to make sense for other people, not just for the market. For that same reason, I am very impressed by the project of the osloBiennalen. They recognized that the process is the most important thing, that art is not all about the object of art, the canvas, but the construction of dialogues. That is amazing.

Bruno: My work has always aimed at the investigation of aesthetic/ethic process and the constitution of artistic, pedagogical and essentially political counter-hegemonic devices and procedures. As a researcher, I have been influenced by Latin American artists (Monica included) that, from the 60s to today, have been proposing different understandings of art and the production of collective and shared meanings. That is, pointing to other forms of perception of the social structure and artistic production, at the same time as proposing other grammars, other practices, so that the aesthetic production (which is not limited to the production of images) can become emancipatory and promote change.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? Mônica: I have always liked to work with poor people, to dialogue with them and be with them, think of how I could make a change. I have been living here, in Jardim Miriam, in São Paulo, for 16 years now, and I moved here because I wanted to be near the local population. I always said that I wanted to make art for Brazil and it has been very good for everybody involved, we really changed things for the community in this neighborhood. I needed to bring people and art closer to each other, because there is a big gap between art and public that I really could not stand. People hate contemporary art and I needed to bring them closer to this ideas, to this possibilities of imagination and freedom. I think it is very important to break this idea of art as being very far from the public, from real life. When I started working here, I began painting houses from these poor communities. Initially I was working by myself but at some point I had resources from the from the state. It is interesting that the support did not come from the culture department but from the department of housing. Culture is something that has always been very much persecuted by governments in one way or another, specially here in Brazil. When I came here for Jardim Miriam, at the beginning people did not want to know anything about culture (and even less art), but a few years later they started understanding what culture meant, and now these people, and many of them were factory workers, have become culture advocates and activists. Now they are organizing incredible literature festivals and cultural events. It’s a very powerful process.

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A workshop is underway for ‘Another Grammar for Oslo’ by Mônica Nador and Bruno Oliveira. Photo courtesy of the artists.


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What does it mean for you to participate in the Oslo Biennalen? Mônica: I really appreciated the project of the Oslo Biennalen. It’s a beautiful opportunity, they were very open to our project and process. I participated in other biennales, but this one is truly engaging to our process, they have been hearing us, and we have been able to create together not only the structure of our work, but also the concept and the project of the biennale itself. We are creating together this other kind of institution, and it is particularly significant considering that Norway is a rich country and one could imagine theoretically distant from the themes that I work with and that are so important for us in the Global South. The curators already knew me, they came to visit JAMAC, where I also hold my studio. Initially I wanted to suggest them to involve another local artist, but they wanted me and eventually I accepted. It is important for me as an fundamental opportunity to meet people and projects from elsewhere, and also connect with other ideas, so we have the chance to create supporting networks. I want to connect Norway to Brazil. These connections are very important, specially in our political context, to find international support for cultural projects that have been so important for so many communities. Bruno: Participating in this biennial has been an important learning process, not only because of the collaboration with Mônica Nador, but also because the format and proposal of the Oslo Biennalen, the curators and the biennial team, who instigates the development of other practices and understandings of the limits of our work and the institution. We are actually performing the institution with them, proposing other dynamics for our project and workshop, other practices for the public outreach and educational programs.

What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context of Oslo offer? Mônica: As I work here in a country with such a big social gap, my challenge was to understand how my work could fit in Norway, in this other part of the world that is so different, at the top of the pyramid. It is very interesting what we perceived there. Bruno Oliveira ands I wanted to work with immigrants, but it was rather difficult to start this dialogue, and in Oslo we actually could not even talk about this intention: people tend to believe that they do not have any prejudices there, and that everybody is really well accepted in Norway. The reality was way different from that, and we happen to meet a lot of people who were not being able to talk about the fact that they were suffering a lot of different prejudices, which are different from the prejudices that we have here in Brazil, for instance, and I thought we could do a very good work thinking about this other narratives, this other perceptions of religion, gender, race, class and migration.

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A workshop is underway for ‘Another Grammar for Oslo’ by Mônica Nador and Bruno Oliveira. Photo courtesy of the artists.


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What kind of impact do you see emerging from the Oslo Biennalen? Mônica: To talk about the impact of this biennial we may have to change what we mean by art and what we understand as an exhibition. We should not expect a spectacle, its impact is as it happens, it is actually another important platform for exercising our vision by linking art and education to the same level of priorities. Bruno: To talk about the impact of this biennial we may have to change what we mean by art and what we understand as an exhibition. We should not expect a spectacle, its impact is as it happens, it is actually another important platform for exercising our vision by linking art and education to the same level of priorities. We might not presenting an exhibition, but performing an institution, performing different possibilities of art and the public space.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today? Mônica: Being in close touch with education, health and daily life. I think the most important contribution that art can exercise today is to return culture to society and bring it closer to people, not staying within the super protection of the white cube, separated from the rest of the world. I think this process is so important and we have to connect with people, with the rest of the population, and to work along this connections. I am doing the work I do because I want people to be connected with art and also to change the idea that talent is just a gift. I want to show them that talent is work, study, time, exactly as it happens for other types of work. Bruno: It is of utmost importance to occupy social sphere in the production of community senses and to propose rearrangements and reconfigurations of the understanding of education, of change and of development within a specific territory. It is essential to remember and create different understandings from both individual and collective memories and constructions, as well as their to rethink, from the field of art, the visuality and the various oppressions that compose this visual system - gender, class, race, nation.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? Mônica: One of them was Douglas Crimp, who sadly just passed away. I also have some very good friends, people who work in my same direction, like Bruno Oliveira who is my partner in Oslo Biennalen, a young researcher and artist whom also is involved in a cultural center and shelter for young LGBT people who were spelled from their homes, he brought me a much more accurate gaze on gender debate; teachers, journalists, and also the local people I work with here in São Paulo, and their own recognition is very important for me. Then there are also other artists, like Tania Bruguera, who will participate in the same exhibition I am working on

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Mônica Nador & JAMAC | Paretes Pinturas (Cubatão), 2011. Photo courtesy of the artists.


Mônica Nador & JAMAC | Paretes Pinturas (Cubatão), 2011. Photo courtesy of the artists.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

Pinacoteca do Estado; Sammy Balogi and Georges Senga, that are trying to take some development in Congo, their country, through culture; I also have been paying attention to the work of SuperFlex…

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of arts and cultural players, institutions, curators, art managers, artists and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? Mônica: I think that institutions are completely “institutionalized”, super locked. I founded this place here, JAMAC, and I call it a non-institution because we depend much more on ourselves. I think that art institutions are a reflection of life as it is and they are currently something very objectionable. I see that they put a lot of money in a kind of vampirism of the poor, that I find completely disgusting. But this is our society and artists are the same, the art world is the same. The art system is made from many different parties, and I think that when you have curators like Eva and Per Gunnar, it’s a breath of fresh air in this scene. We need to show that helping people, promoting diversity, addressing relevant issues and proposing different understandings of art is not something to be criminalized for. As an opportunity, I think that we have to connect with other peers who want to change things, because many of us are working in the same direction. We need to create a network and see what we can create together. We have begun constructing this kind of network of people who are working to change things and this can be something very powerful. And by the way, it is wonderful that there is now this Indonesian collective in charge of next Kassel Documenta, this is a big change!

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts and cultural institutions, curators, cultural producers, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Mônica: I do not think it is a matter of the role that you have, I think it is a matter of recovering the sense of solidarity, of community. It is a matter of changing the point of view, the content, the internal thing, not only its external role. Today we are almost criminalizing the sense of humanity and this is something that I do not understand. Sometimes we can not even recognize the humanity of people, and also artists can be very selfish and self-centered. This is what I think we should try to change, even if I do not exactly how, it its a continuous exercise of looking around us, looking and listening to the others. Or even better, it is very good that people from the global south, like the ruangrupa at Kassel are in charge of these big white, Occidental artistic institutions. We just hope they won’t be just working for the capital, being co-opted by the capital.

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Mônica Nador + JAMAC + Paço Comunidade | Paço das Artes, 2015 | Photo courtesy of the artists.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? Mônica: I think if a work of art that does not consider the ethical question within aesthetics, it is already outdated. And I think the work of art is always an opportunity to include, to create dialogue people, a chance of teaching something. When the artist works with many people, they have this notion that art needs to have much more people involved, although many artworks involving many people are more interested in an almost formal use of people. I think that in order to produce good works of art today you need to think in a strategic way, to distribute the money, the common wellbeing, to create difference. I think we have to do this, it is our responsibility.

What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why? Mônica: I think arts in society are a matter of health, that culture is for society what the lungs are for us, what makes us breath. I like to work with social assistants, psychotherapists, teachers, educators. I think all the integrations are very important because art cannot be just about us artists. In order to recover our sense of solidarity and community, I think you need to address ethics and aesthetics, and if you don't work these two parts together, than I think that your work is already old, it does not work for this world, for this moment, and we have to work with this world, with combination of both ethics and aesthetics.

What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention? Bruno: I believe that, in the current process of systematic precarization of cultural and educational work (I am addressing here the context of Brazilian political crisis), it is fundamental to question the working conditions and aspects that underpin the institutional work. Our experience with the osloBiennalen has been quite interesting and positive, not only because of the high valuation of work and the worker in the field of culture, art and education, but also because of the focus on the development of public sphere and public spaces (we are talking, after all, of a biennial financed entirely by public money). It is really important to ask those questions, in order to address together aesthetic and ethical issues.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Mônica: Contemporary art, education, feminism, social inclusion, mental health.

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Mônica Nador & JAMAC | Namblá Xokleng | Museu de Arte de Santa Catarina, 2018 Photo courtesy of the artists.


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Rose Hammer and Dora GarcĂŹa as Rose Hammer member

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‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, National Episodes No. 1’, performed by Rose Hammer for osloBIENNALEN. Photos: Niklas R Lello.

Rose Hammer, are, in no particular order: Kim Svensson, Emilie Birkeland, Élise Guerrier, Alma Braun, Mattias Hellberg, Niels Munk Plum, Arely Amaut Gomez Sanchez, Emil Andersson, Alessandro Marchi, Stacey de Voe, Nora Joung, Victoria Durnak, Sara Hermansson, Sahar Seyedian, Qi Tan, Ole-Petter Arneberg, Per-Oskar Leu and Dora García, and also includes the generous and gifted collaboration of graphic designer Alex Gifreu, scenographer Shiva Sherveh and theatre experts Samir Kandil and Jakob Tamm. We share an interest in: dialectical materialism, agit-prop theatre, classical theatre, Golden-era Hollywood productions, French film noir, turn-of-the-century literature, “Entartete Kunst”, histories of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, and Bertolt Brecht. Rose Hammer is the author of the work: a collective persona made of a variable group of individuals. The name “Rose Hammer” may, though not exclusively, refer to a) the hammer inscribed on Henrik Ibsen’s grave monument in Oslo b) the former emblem of the Norwegian labour movement c) the famous quote attributed to Brecht “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” d) the rose symbol which became popular among socialist and social democratic political parties in post-World War II Western Europe. So we are socialists, we are agit prop, we are Brechtians, we go for the dialectical, didactic, and collective turn. We go for formal experimentation meeting radicalism in thought.

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Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

“I believe Rose Hammer's objectives are first of all to enjoy and be satisfied as a collective of the long and sometimes arduous process of production, to discover each other subjectivities integrated in one collective subjectivity, maybe even a generational or public, common subjectivity. I think to research what notions such as public, common, collective, mean now and might mean in the future.” - Rose Hammer

NOTE: The answers provided below are given by Dora García as member of the collective artist persona Rose Hammer, who is the artist producing the project National Episodes for the osloBIENNALEN.

What projects you are currently working on that you are most passionate about, and why? Rose Hammer is engaged to produce two more episodes of the series National Episodes. The project itself is very ambitious and a big challenge for Rose Hammer, who is made of non-professional actors, dramaturges, or stage directors. We have started with a small episode, "Grini and the futures of Norway", presented in May in Perlen space, Oslo, and our intention is to work for the next two years in two new episodes, that will be presented in an accumulative manner, so that in 2020 we will present again "Grini and the futures of Norway" plus a new episode, "The Plague", and in 2021 the trilogy will be concluded with a third episode, for now with the working title "The Wound", and in that year the work will be the three episodes, presented as three acts of one single opera. Right now we are aiming at writing as well the music and the songs for the next two episodes. It is a challenge because we do not dominate these techniques, but more than that, it is a challenge because we want to construct this artist persona who is more than the sum of our individual identities, and who refuses to comply with the playbook of the "individual artist oeuvre". It is also very exciting because we are trying to do sort of archeological work in order to recover and vindicate the form of agit prop theatre, which is not exactly fashionable, and also to unravel the secrets of Norwegian identity - by an artist persona which is made of 10 different nationalities.

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‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, National Episodes No. 1’, performed by Rose Hammer for osloBIENNALEN. Photos: Niklas R Lello.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

What values and principles are guiding your work? As I was saying, collective and group work, archeology of form, activation of history, repetition as a formal principle, research, and I believe a form of empathy with the audience: after all, agit in agit prop stands for agitation.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? I believe Rose Hammer's objectives are first of all to enjoy and be satisfied as a collective of the long and sometimes arduous process of production, to discover each other subjectivities integrated in one collective subjectivity, maybe even a generational or public, common subjectivity. I think to research what notions such as public, common, collective, mean now and might mean in the future.

What does it mean for you to participate in the Oslo Biennalen? Well of course Rose Hammer is very thankful for the support and possibilities that this structure of the osloBIENNALEN offers; such an ambitious, clearly non-commercial project, could only happen within such a structure.

What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context offer? Rose Hammer as said is made of people of 10 different nationalities, all of them for different reasons temporary or permanent residents of Oslo. We know Oslo from many different points of view: the native, the resident, the visitor, even the tourist. Oslo is a very idiosyncratic city; through the work process, we try to find common ground among ourselves of what the local context is. In the current political climate, dominated by toxic masculinity, dumb and short - sighted liberalism, short-term thinking egoism, complete lack of solidarity, Rose Hammer believes that the Oslo local context provides still the possibility of the collective to happen.

What excites you most about this initiative? The feeling that almost everything, if well planned, is possible.

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‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, National Episodes No. 1’, performed by Rose Hammer for osloBIENNALEN. Photos: Niklas R Lello.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the Oslo Biennalen? Rose Hammer hopes that the impact will be the general understanding that art is a need of society, a vital ingredient of the collective, a long-term asset, a liable investment in sanity and health, an alternative for consumerism, and a good mental exercise that no doubt will prevent great misfortunes in the future. Hopefully it will help divert art from entertainment, to stay away from oversimplified city-branding, and present art as a form of political thought and action.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today? I believe that I answered the question a moment ago by making a statement that leads to the understanding that "art is a need of society, a vital ingredient of the collective, a long-term asset, a liable investment in sanity and health, an alternative for consumerism, and a good mental exercise that no doubt will prevent great misfortunes in the future”. Art and culture must divert from entertainment (but continue being a great pleasure, a joy to behold!), stay away from oversimplified city-branding, and become a form of political thought and action.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors? Every member of Rose Hammer is the most important partner and interlocutor for every member of Rose Hammer, then of course the curators and staff of the osloBIENNALEN, some authors like Sven Lütticken who helped us reflect the sense of this enterprise, and ultimately the public - or the passer-by.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of arts and cultural players, institutions, curators, art managers, artists and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities? Here I will answer individually as Dora García and will say that two things have changed radically in big art events in the last years: one, the understanding that not all money is good money, and therefore, the need to decline certain contributions which are made to whitewash the image of shady financial partners - and in that sense, one could say (going back to agit prop mode) that no money is good money unless it is public money. The second thing that has radically changed in big art

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‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, National Episodes No. 1’, performed by Rose Hammer for osloBIENNALEN. Photos: Niklas R Lello.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

events and international art exhibitions is the imperative to abandon the colonialist perspective of "veni, vidi, vici" that has characterised biennials for so long (international artists and institutions that create international art – looking everywhere the same - with no return, or interest, for local communities), and instead choose longer durations and durable collaborations with the local scene (which is often more cosmopolitan than the international scene).

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts and cultural institutions, curators, cultural producers, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Again here I will answer individually as Dora García, as I cannot represent Rose Hammer here, and would say: abandon the market and the speculation, the percentages and the commissions, shift art production so that it is not any more a luxury product but a practice, non-competitive, non-exclusive, educational, free for all, at the service of all. For the many, not for the few. This is my own particular opinion: I also strongly believe this does not mean, as many think, a loss of quality. A poem is always made by an individual, but it is written for everyone.

What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society? I think it is clear that time-based arts, live action, is contaminating all the arts. This is both a consequence and a cause of the politicisation of art, which is a phenomenon I celebrate: I believe everything is political, and those who want to take the politics away, are driven by dark motives.

What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why? I believe I already answer that question above: real time, durational pieces, live action, sharing the same space-time than the spectator, the audience, speak directly to them as in theater and performance, share the same spaces of community and discourse.

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‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, National Episodes No. 1’, performed by Rose Hammer for osloBIENNALEN. Photos: Niklas R Lello.


Voices from the osloBIENNALEN

Which artistic proposals currently catch your attention and why? Collective endeavours, political poetry, agitation of the audiences. We need to answer as a collective body to the abuse happening everywhere.

What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention? Maybe it is important to mention that political engagement is not contrary to, but rather companion of, love, joy, beauty, and enjoyment.

Can you think of three or ďŹ ve keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about? Commons, poetry, real time, song.

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Word clouds

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Word Clouds

The keywords

This word cloud was formed by combining the keywords chosen by the people interviewed.

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Word Clouds

The words that emerged

This word cloud was formed by combining the most frequent words that emerged from all the interviews.

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On the previous pages: Will Gill, The Green Chair, 2017 (installation view). Photo: Will Gill. - Testing out the Metabolic Chairs at the museum in Karlsruhe. - ‘Another Grammar for Oslo’ by Mônica Nador and Bruno Oliveira. Photo courtesy of the artists. - Dhaka Art Summit & Noor Photoface. “Mobile school Stolipinovo”, Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo: Magdalina Rajeva - ‘Grini and The Futures of Norway, Rose Hammer. Photo: Andre Wulf. 'The Viewers' by Carole Douillard. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN - Reinhard Reitzenstein, Waiting/Watching/Waiting. Photo: Brian Ricks - Ghetto Biennale. Photo: Lazaros - Structure and Strategy Plan for the Oslo Harbour Promenade 2013. © White Architects. Art exhibit at the Artisan Inn's Twine Loft. Photo: Marieke Gow. - ‘Intet er stort intet er litet' by Julien Bismuth. Photo: Niklas Hart, Hartwork / © osloBIENNALEN. - Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019. Photo: Stanislava Angelova.

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