() NEW LOOP () circled around how to experience art in new ways, and if the museum can act as a space for creating new meanings to both already existing works but also new creative practices of spectatorship.
In an ongoing process with contemporary dancers Oda Bjørholm and Sebastian Biong the LOOPS (A-B-C) used performance as an engine for research and tried to relate to systems of power, history and value, but using it as a method to flip the imbedded meanings around to accomodate social situations and conversations.
The work consisted of 11 ”performances” and happened from the 30/07-02/09 2022. It was a part of the opening exhibition ”I Call It Art” at Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo which was curated by Geir Haraldseth and Randi Godø.
Costumes were made in collaboration with Marie Søe Plougsgaaard
Photodocumentation by Rickard Aal, Annar Bjørgli, Frederik Plum,
Geir Haraldseth, Håkon Traaseth Lillegraven and Myself
As a handheld guide to the performance series I made this publication in collaboration with Jessica Williams and Hverdag Books, and her work present at I CALL IT ART which was titled "pile"
"pile" was an installation/performance/workshop in the museum. During August Jessica was present and producing publications with four of the exhibiting artists in the same show. The other artists she made publications with was Kirsty Kross, Hanan Benammar and Petter Buhagen.
THE SPACE & ITS DOUBLE exists as a gathering of conversations, texts and ideas we had in the process of creating NEW LOOP, whilst also being a way of trying to portray "a whole" or overview of the work - as none of the spectators/participants would be able to view it in its entirety.
The publication is printed with RISO in an edition of 100 copies. The editions have three different covers, and one of three different 5 colour set A3 posters
inside, and two of four different red vinyl stickers.
THE SPACE & ITS DOUBLE
Welcome to this publication! It exists as a handheld companion to the work ()NEW LOOP() which was developed as a part of the opening exhibition “I Call It Art” at the new National Museum of Norway, in Oslo 2022. I was Invited by curators Geir and Randi in 2019 and have been planning the work since. So, for about three years. The funny thing is - without a museum, without the collection present, and without you, the visitors, there is no artwork. So, the physical aspect of inserting our bodies into the space itself had to be pushed to the opening days of the museum. Where everything was the most NEW and the MOST exciting. The process until then, was visiting the building, whilst it was being made ready for the public. I have visited the museum a handful of times before the opening, each time the spaces had developed, and so much had changed. Witnessing all the various steps the architecture underwent, you could really feel how much potential an empty space possesses.
One key aspect of my involvement in the show was to present a work that could offer an audience something sociable in the format of a guided tour. This tour however, would produce an alternative experience, within these newly built grand halls. It’s interesting, because in its “newness”, the site feels very familiar. In that it emulates the structure of being a museum both in its design and in the way of exhibiting the works in the collection, which are all very much canonized within western culture. So it's a modus we know, disguised within a shiny new building.
The question then for this work, was to research these well known works of art in this specific context anew. But also furthermore, can we in this new museum, also become a new kind of spectator. Visiting the building with new ways of moving through the spaces, speaking about the works and creating meetings. Going beyond what we have previously expected of the museum as a site? What if we challenged ourselves to play, perform, react to each other and meet new people. If this place is not just a site for showing art, but also for us to engage and see each other. A clean slate for different cultural, socioeconomic, political backgrounds. What potential could we work with? Because I mean, what is the point of making a new mega-scale museum with artefacts and historic relics in 2022, if we cannot meet around them and contemplate not only their existence but more so their relevance in relation to our present.
When we enter an exhibition space we are used to trying to understand the works, but what if that closes us off to having other kinds of experiences in these spaces? It could be bodily, social or even more emotionally intimate ways of seeing and relating to the works. We often forget ourselves, as the rooms are already staged with works of grandiose scale, historical value or immense expense, to which our bodies seem secondary. This could be a reason for why we feel, when entering as visitors into the exhibition, that we have to move with care; slowly, quietly, as if not to disturb the aura of the works or the other visitors maneuvering around the space.
For the last couple of years I‘ve focused on how we experience art, both as a spectator and as an artist. It seems like these two ways of seeing or rather performing, have become split. We are stuck in a restrictive binary: applying either the label “artist” or “spectator” onto our foreheads, projecting either exclusive or excluded feelings onto either side.
Because of these predetermined roles, we tend to forget about the strategic design of the museum itself. The museum accommodates us as visitors for viewing works, and presents a collection as a body and also as history. One example is the use of museum design tools such as wall texts that state year of production, titles, and the various circumstances to which the work of the artist was produced within. We can call this a very specific choreography that we are following, and therefore inherently accepting the history of this space, similar to that of giving a standing ovation at the theater. The choreography of spectatorship is based upon the continuous relationship that we have towards art institutions as spaces used to rehearse, train and even dictate the body’s movements.
Now would be a good time to introduce you to the notion of the double. We can see the double as a coin - two sides within the same space. On one side we encounter the exhibition, presented with a given narrative. On the other side, there’s the stage, to which we as spectators or actors have the ability to produce our own narratives.
So, NEW LOOP became a process of creating new narratives within researching and investigating the structures of both viewing and experiencing art. Both as a visitor and also as being part of an artwork, as an artist. When performing our bodies become living sculptures onsite, suddenly relating to the old, newly installed, works of the museum’s collection.
As a way of going around the different modalities of “how we could experience art in new ways'' Sebastian, Oda and I have had many conversations around the museum, contemporary art, performance as a material, and how to set a performative work in relation to both the site and it’s audience. We have been structuring the conversations in different triangles, trying to create contrasting dialectics or in this case trialectics for us, so as to not fall into the same traps, building different perspectives for our tours to take form. The first triangle was the colours RED - BLUE - GREEN. Secondly we had three characters APOLLO - DIONYSUS - HERMES to guide us in different directions. After that it became more abstract and metaphysical with triangles such as: FANTASY - SITUATION - STAGE, CREATOR - RECEIVER - OBJECT, MATERIAL - MACHINE - STRATEGY, EYE - HEART - BODY and the last is just a dialectic for now but if you find a third companion for AESTHETIC - MESSAGE, please do let me know. It’s hard to say if Sebastian, Oda or myself knew exactly which parts of the triangles are ours, but as a way to create conversation and build actions within the museum halls it was the perfect generator.
A part of experiencing the collection in the new museum was also about looking at the distance between the works and the bodies present in the rooms. Why as a spectator do we feel so distant from the artist who produces the work that we encounter? Perhaps it can be explained in one word: void. The communication of an artwork within the museum’s context often leaves behind the stories and processes the artist went through in order to produce the work itself. However, many of these stories don’t make sense to an already conditioned Western art public. By that I mean the “public” that has already been conditioned before even setting foot inside the museum. This public believes that the production of art happens under these circumstances:
So, what happens when the artist decides to present a new loop? To disrupt the risk-free satisfaction of a weekend visit to, I don’t know, The National Museum in Oslo. Well, the audience will encounter something unintelligible to them, and will by default have to maneuver with whatever they have and navigate within this specific NEW LOOP.
Using performance as a medium to cut systems we know of up and glue them back together anew, we were both able to rephrase what it means to be making and receiving the art within the walls of the museum. Working with the gap in between the public as spectators or as actors within the space, we needed to apply tools that could breach the void. The space in between is closer than it seems.
I return to the notion of “the double.” We find ourselves on the side of the coin with the already given narrative; the exhibition used to stage history, power and value. What if we now see ourselves as actors in this space, and the performance we execute as something that could actively change our ways of being within this side of the coin? What kind of shifts in power would there be?
The NEW LOOPS were thus always meant to be presented in three parts, as an A, B or C to have different directions and actions happening within the space. Set in a system with each of our performances getting a number, so the spectator could know both what number/time we were doing it, but also that this specific occasion would be unique.
Performing and creating the work in this kind of process, also means that a visitor coming in for one of the happenings might not be able to understand the entirety of the work. As the work both expanded itself between the three of us performers, whilst also throughout the performance period (30/07-02/09-22). The intention of the work is not understanding but rather experiencing. It's a sequence of happenings for generating conversations that will live on in the memories of the spectator as you continue to revisit the museum in the future.