The List’s Art Editor, Agnieszka Foltyn, recently wrote a feature about the accessibility of art (2018 Volume 4, October-December). Agnieszka, known to many of us as ‘Mishi’, explores the diverse set of skills and experiences involved in the participation of art and its observers. With Trondheim Open kunstbiennale having just wrapped, we revisit a longer version of her article, with three previously unpublished interviews with three artists working in Trondheim.
Incubators of Creativity by Agnieszka Foltyn
(featured image: Magdaléna Manderlová, by Kristoffer Lislegaard)
Art is accessible. Not because it sheds its complexities to the lowest common denominator, but that it uses imagination and response as its main components of relation and understanding. It promotes dialogue, a challenging of your response to what you are experiencing. It makes you ask “Why do I feel this way? What is it that I see?”
There are many moments in a work of art that can speak to a viewer. It can be the texture, the discipline, the subject, the context or the material. It can be the company or an emotional state. It can be a political issue. It can be a colour. All of these moments of relation serve to make connections, to bridge experiences, history, and geography. The spaces in which art is shown or can be experienced are spaces of social negotiation. They bridge different levels of expertise, age, social and economic status, and interest. They build community. Art spaces are not limited to productive output. They are spaces for time and experience. They foster a deeper understanding of the world around us, and one that can be shared with others.
They symbolise an area in which critical thinking and an openness to understanding form the essential expectation of the experience of art. When coming to an opening, for example, there is the expectation of discussion about the artwork on hand and the multiple and varied experiences it generates. Places for art are places of nuanced and sustained debate about the world around us. They address politics of belonging and co-existence.
Exchange is the foundational element of the artistic community. It is through moments of meeting that artists and art lovers, unexpected visitors and guests, join a common discussion in which art is the mediator of experience. These moments serve as spaces of critical dialogue, where provocative stances can be discussed within a situation that is open to a variety of perspectives. These discussions allow viewers to negotiate the permutations and changes to our realities.
Art employs a diverse skill set in its experience. As a viewer, you move around the space. You sense its boundaries, the work, the light, the sound, and others who might also be there. You respond to the experience and think, trying to understand your reaction. You employ cognitive and analytical skills. You respond not only mentally but also emotionally and physically. And you employ social skills, speaking about your time and navigating around the others in the space with you. Places for art are places of knowledge production. They give the public the ability to develop skills to generate further knowledge.
There are many different types of spaces dedicated to artistic practice. Some traditional spaces include museums such as the Trondheim Kunstmuseum and the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimseum, and art galleries such as Trøndelag Senter for Samtidskunst, galleri blunk, Kunsthall Trondheim, RAKE visningsrom, Dropsfabrikken, Galleri KiT, Babel visningsrom for kunst, and Trondhjems Kunstforening. There are commercial art galleries such as Galleri Ismene and Galleri SG. There are also festivals dedicated to culture and artistic production such as Kulturnatt Trondheim and Trondheim Open. And there are non-traditional spaces in which art fuses into the existing fabric of the site for a specific period of time. What all of these places have in common is that they engage people. People from completely different backgrounds can come together to share an experience of art. People who have an experience with art have thoughts about what they have experienced and take those thoughts with them into the future.
It is the physical presence and gathering of people within an art space that brings to life the role of the institution as a space for critical discourse. It is a place to make sense of the world and a place to share that with others. Places for art are places for the development of shared values. They promote public discourse. They allow us to penetrate each other’s communities. They connect across disciplines, experience, social, political, and geographical boundaries. They are sites of struggle and of renewal. They build community.
Increasingly, spaces for art house activities that have lost their place in contemporary society. They provide opportunities outside of the curriculum for children to learn about culture. They are spaces for leisure and relaxation. They are meeting places for common interests and goals. They are spaces for disagreement. They are spaces for the development of skills through workshops and classes. They even serve as spaces for other recreational activities, such as yoga in a sculpture room. Artistic institutions increasingly host independent forms of production from outside of the traditional institutional artistic sphere such as screenings, political meetings, and performances.
The format in which art is shown varies greatly. It can be an exhibition, a presentation or a talk. It can be a hands-on workshop, a guerilla intervention or a public performance. Presentations of art have some expectation of viewing. Exhibitions host vernissages (openings) and often finissages (closings), talks and seminars, and other types of public programming to invite the public to experience art.
These gatherings are the root of the artistic community.
The artistic community has many layers. It has production communities through artist studio collectives. It has working communities through other positions and jobs. It has artists working independently. And it has times in which different combinations of facets of this community gather to share, to talk, and to celebrate the moment in which a work is opened to the public. These meetings through spaces for art allow us the opportunity to come together. These are moments for social negotiation, conversations about life and art, and a re-solidification of a common interest. It is where multiple perspectives, experiences, and lives can meet for the purpose of exchange. They transcend the monetary value of experience. Moments of leisure are proven to be incubators of creative thought. Sharing our experience allows us to categorize our thoughts and challenges us to know what we really mean by communicating it to the world. It no wonder that we often find solutions during casual meetings with friends or periods of rest.
Because much of artistic production is done independently or through small collectives, exhibitions and events form the social aspect of the job itself. As most people go to collective work places, spaces for art function as meeting places for artists who often work alone or in closed workshops. They form a large part of the social aspect of artistic production. Places of dissemination are gatherings of transdisciplinary skills sets. It’s where artists, administrators, curators, directors, organizers, technicians, labourers, teachers, and other visitors meet.
Art is a vehicle for feeling. It allows us to empathise across borders. It can motivate us from thinking into doing. In gatherings of such a diverse crowd of skill sets and abilities, there are possibilities for countless new collaborations. It is through discussions that we learn about each other. As the best ideas tend to come from conversations, spaces for art are perfect for just that.
Yanir Shani, by Lena Katrine Sokki
I’m a photographer and artist from Tel Aviv, Israel. My artistic process is dedicated to exploring the possibilities of photographic abstraction. By manipulating traditional methods of production in photography during the printing process in the darkroom, I create large-scale analog images that deal with distraction, disappearance, and obscure landscapes. I started taking pictures in my early twenties, mostly of day-to-day life from places I have traveled or lived. I came to Norway to see it for myself. This is what I like to do. I like to go to new places and look at things. It’s a very serious business – to look at things, really look. Upon graduating, I was fortunate to receive a studio space at Lademoen Kunstnerversteder, and now share a space with two other artists in the studio collective. I feel that sharing a studio with other artists is very beneficial for me. Although my studio space is not too big I am very pleased. I love the building and the neighbourhood and all the workshops this place offers. I also enjoy being around other artists and creators. The best ideas come mostly from talking to other people over a coffee or a beer. It’s important to create in a positive and supportive environment. It makes art better, and life better.
To make my art I need a camera, a darkroom, chemicals, inspiration, and discipline. Making art and providing for yourself is probably one of the hardest career choices someone could make. Most artists work in different jobs in order to make a living, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for creation. That is the place where discipline comes in. That and true love for what you do.
HELENE KJÆR BREMSETH
Originally from an industrial city called Grenland in Telemark, I have spent the last nine years living in Trondheim working as an architect and an artist. I see myself as an object finder or definer. For me ‘Object’ means something defined, and my task is to use time and energy on objects of interest both to me and the public. My practice is open and linked to the everyday world around me. It is very important to have time to look at what I find and to work further with it. This is what I use my studio for: to look, think, glue, bend, cut, carve, and move.
I just moved into a new architecture studio collective in Nyhavna. It has an office, a kitchen, a meeting room part, and a workshop part. I will get my own corner there. They will put up some walls for me so I can have my little studio inside the workshop. It’s not optimal, but I am so happy to have a place to work in. For my practice, it is essential to have four basic things: time, space, tools, and people. I only know that I want to continue making things. In Trondheim, I have people I like to work with, both within art and architecture. I am lucky that I now have a studio or this pursuing would not have been much pursuing at all.
Magdaléna Manderlová, by Kristoffer Lislegaard
I am an artist and a musician. I currently work in the field of sound art. It is based on field work, meaning that I spend a lot of time outside – listening, moving, looking around, and collecting sounds and field recordings.
Looking at my career as a recent graduate, I would like to apply for larger exhibitions, festivals and projects. That requires a well-equipped studio. I need a small, fairly soundproof room for my practice. I would be very happy to share a larger space with more artists/musicians. My production process is a lot about experimenting and testing out different technologies, building small electronics, wiring, and I need a space to accommodate my needs and working conditions.
The sound art and music technology scene is lively and open in Norway and there are many funding possibilities that are so rare elsewhere. In Trondheim, I have created a great network, started a few bands, and fell in love. I feel like there is a space for me here.