A Norwegian Art Experience

Stephanie Lüning, Collectivity Painting - No. I, Jeløy, Norway, Momentum 12. Photo: Stefan Schröder

The 12th Nordic Biennale of Contemporary Art running from  June 10 - October 8 is a great reason to go to the Island of Jeløya, home to Alby Farm and the location of Galleri F15 and the MOMENTUM 12 Nordic Biennale of Contemporary Art. Begun in 1998, in this beautiful environment, the biennale is a pristine canvas that allows its audience to examine in a more poignant way the collective as a subset of the art world. For this 12th edition Momentum was a space where art met a wider public -- for local, global, residents, and non-specialists to interface. The  Art Collective Tenthaus has been working together in various constellations since 2009. Characterized by an openness and process-oriented collaboration, Tenthaus involves local,national, and international art communities. As an inclusive collective, Tenthaus reimagines various contexts and platforms for artistic investigation, exploring what it means to be artists working with the public locally. Inviting artists beyond the established Western centers to respond to this beautiful environment, a pristine canvas allowing each Tenthaus member to examine the work of over 90 creatives, collectives, and institutions

The collective's appointment is in keeping with a wider shift in the art world towards new methods of curating -- as most notably evidenced by the artist collective Ruangrupas whose direction of Documenta 15 in 2022, was marked by allegations of antisemitic content within the installations. Momentum wished to provide a space for dialogue and diverse artistic practices and cultural exchange and it called upon Ruangrupas to support some of its projects. Around the central space is the Galleri F15, a two story space for workshops and performances with a focus on ecology, a protected nature reserve, five biotopes, and a cultural history from the 1800s. The Galleri F15 is one of the most prestigious exhibition venues in Norway, devoted to contemporary craft and indigenous arts. There is also a small museum Naturhuset which illustrates the anthropological, geological and faunal history of the place where artists Ann-Cathrin Hertlin and Mars Huke hosted sessions. As director Dag AAk Sveinar commented: "Sustainability, interdisciplinary, providing an inclusive approach for our audiences and a reconsideration of the past are at the core of the biennale."

"Tenthaus as an art collective is moving toward a model of polyphonic co-authorship. Polyphonic suggests the harmonic possibility of producing more than one independent melody at a time in a single composition," the collective said in a statement. "To a great extent, this is how Tenthaus functions; each individual practice both resonates and amplifies itself through collective work. We produce and involve many themes and curatorial ideas at the same time. In this way, we are able to explore a myriad of concurrences; subjects and artistic forms each carrying resonance and meaning."

Their idea for the Embassy Project involved other international Biennials -- to intervene through free projects such as podcasts, interviews, graphics or communication designs of actual objects like a kiosk made of wood and recycled materials from the Salangen Biennale II. Here's how they operate -- each member of Tenthaus curates an artist and the individual practice amplifies itself through collective work to produce many themes and curatorial ideas at the same time. 

"Together as we gather, practices a gathering methodology."

What are the highlights of this collective field of curating?  The Bread and Butter Workshop for Dummies transformed a book space into an exhibition space -- the exhibition is a site of bookmaking and publishing. As the biennale does not promote individual authorship but promotes collaborative processes, the B & B Workshops host, educate, and archive self-publishing for Taiwanese artists for 4 months.

Among the commissioned projects are Enrique Guadarrama Solis (Mexico), The P.R.I.N.T. Chronicles (2023); Gudskul (Indonesia), Stitching Ecosystems: Gudkitchen-​Tentskul (2023); Anawana Haloba (Zambia), When we continue living in stars, a conversation with Hannah Ryggen; So Yo Hen (Taiwan), Hua-shan-qiang (2013/2023); Ann Cathrin Hertling and Marte Huke (Norway), Can I breathe in it? (working title) (2023); Thomas Iversen (Norway), Byens flass [City-dandruff] (2023); Morag Keil, Untitled (2023); Stephanie Lüning (Germany), Island of Foam - Version # XXV / Coloured Barn (2023) and Collectivity Painting # I & II - MOMENTUM Biennale (2023); Alessandro Marchi (Italy), Ingenmannsretten (2023); Germain Ngoma(Zambia), Forest (2023); Andrea Parkins (USA), The Stray II (2021–2023); Margrethe Pettersen(Sápmi) and Line Solberg Dolmen (Norway), Conversations with what runs deep (2023); Fotobook DUMMIES Day (Taiwan), Bread and Butter Bookshop (2023); Kate Rich (UK), Feral Business Training Camp (2023); Jaanus Samma (Estonia), National Utopia (2023); WET (Czech Republic), Wetcation (2023); Nayara Leite (Brazil), In Search of Rainbows (2022); Marek Sobocinski (Poland),  SLAVA (2023); Gabo Camnitzer (Sweden / USA), 50 Million Windows(2023); Blikkåpnerne (Norway), Rage room (2023);  Luiz Roque (Brazil), S (2017); Dáiddadállu Artist Collective (Sápmi), Untitled (2023); Salangen Biennale/IPIHAN (Norway), Info / Merch(2023); P1 resident artists Jasper Siverts, Ana Marques Engh and Bendik-Bendik Syversætre Johannessen, Things Don’t Run We (2023); Lise Linnert (Norway), Colours for hope and equality - picnic blankets (2018–2023); and many more.

Let's start with The Library which was transformed into what was called a Bread and Butter Bookshop as a way to expand a book space into an exhibition space. The biennale theme does not prioritize individual authorship  but rather as a collaboration drawing on objects and processes in the present. Permanent and local artists in Taiwan displayed their publications and stood ready for discussion.

Artist Stephanie Luning, chosen by Arnisa Zeqo, expanded the thoughts on interactive collective concept and the non-objective  with her dot paintings and foam sculpture. It's conceptually important that art reaches everyone so Stephanick relied upon a collective effort to make dot paintings with plant-based colors. The audience threw colored ice cubes on the canvas thereby providing a magical interactive and collective experience. Stephanies' foam sculpture oozing from the barn was a hit with the audience's children.

"WET Wetting, Hop out spot, Wetget" edited by Stan D'Haene is an energetic video and colorful installation by a collective of five Czech women whose name has an erotic and permeating appeal. Their transcription and installation of texts, drawings, and photographs of their journey a wandering cross Europe on makeshift transport of freight trains or hitchhiking is hobo-chic. WET mixes water mythology with their version of a catalog or a subculture magazine and asks you to explore boundaries -- give up your normal comforts, ride freight cars across various countries, abandon normal hygienic practices, and dine from the street.

The Mexican artist Enrique Tenthous took the residue of government buildings and related it to the history of pigment grinding his own from the shards of old structures. With his new geology and a traditional woodblock press that the artist had built on site Enrique invited his audience to create their own woodblock prints in the exhibition hall with these natural resources.

The Italian artist Alessandro Marchi Ingenmannsretten (edited by Shahrzad Melekian) addresses the accumulation of wealth and real estate and the domino effect of the law of 2014 in Norwary that abolished taxation for inheritances and gifts passed on to family members. Citing Ivar Tollefsen, the 5th richest man in Norway, it was based on his real estate fortune. The increase in the value of his assets rose by 858% between 2014 and 2022. The increase was given as a gift by Tollefsen to his daughter Ninja of 45 billion Norwegian Kroner just before moving out of the country.

Alessandro's work consists of a large map charting the various Norwegian political and economic connections. Such connections are also echoed by five wooden sculptures placed in the surrounding landscape -- pine wood totems carved -- symbolic elements linked to those places and their connection to land use system.

In exploring local contexts and issues of collectivity and engagement, Tenthaus Art Collective has cultivated a strong relationship with the local community and a nurturing environment for the guest artists.

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