In the last issue, the Art List featured three short interviews about artistic production with local artists Enrique Roura, Hasan Daraghmeh, and Carlos Alberto Correia. This interview series introduces how local artists create their art, develop their practice, and navigate the ins and outs of the regional art scene. In each issue we publish short excerpts in print and follow up with the full interviews online. Here they are.
Depth of Expression by Agnieszka Foltyn
(featured image: exhibition view of LDPE, image courtesy of Módulo gallery.)
The foundation of any relationship is communication. It is the ability to understand and to be understood. To feel fully a part of something, we must be able to create multiple avenues of connection and to find meaning in our being where and how we are. This is what binds us together as a community, and is our strength.
According to a recent survey developed by Trøndelag Billedkunstnere and Norske Kunsthåndverkere, the artistic community of Trondheim is largely international. Often, artists of Norwegian origin have travelled abroad for educational programs. Conversely, many artists from outside of Norway have come to make Trondheim their home. Artists regularly engage with a global discourse about art through a myriad of varied experiences such as residencies, collaborations, research, seminars, courses, exhibitions, and festivals. Many artists seek to diversify their practice by experiencing something new or travel in search of specific cultural, political, historical, social or economic opportunities. They bring knowledge back, applying it to the local community, providing glimpses into how things are or could be. They learn skills. They grow a deeper understanding about the condition of the human environment, sharing in a wide variety of cultures and experiences.
The ongoing language debate treats challenges of communication as a dichotomy. It pits one versus the other, simplifying the diverse composition and reality of the artistic community in Trondheim. A recent article about English use at NTNU touches on potential discomfort and ease in English proficiency as a reason students are not participating fully during class hours. It states that students are less likely to ask questions in class and seek further information privately. We can easily draw a parallel here to the way English speakers are functioning within the artistic community. Language is a large marker of difference in access.
At many of the largest cultural institutions in Trondheim, it is a conscious decision to use Norwegian as the primary method of communication, with the exception of events at which an exhibitor is not fluent in a Scandinavian language. Often, exhibition material and programming are available in both Norwegian and English, though the English versions mostly function as short summaries at half the length.
To navigate this language barrier, many visitors utilise their individual connections or web apps for ongoing mediocre translations. On an individual basis, the community is welcoming and ready to find avenues of accommodation that ensure everyone a basic understanding. Unfortunately, these methods place a burden on individual communicatory abilities and result in a lot of reading between the lines. Trondheim institutions have made a concerted effort to include the international community, which represents a significant portion of the artistic landscape. But we could benefit from a more integrated approach.
Comfort and ease in expression limited to Norwegian and English assumes that those within the artistic scene in Trondheim coming from outside of Norway are proficient or very comfortable in communicating in English. This is largely not the case. When they arrive, they face the challenge of learning to communicate at a high standard possibly outside of their native language. They are doubly tasked with the development of languages related to their practice and the beginnings of an understanding of the language of their environment. The arts community includes people from all over the world – people whose richness in language should be used as a source of varied expression. A plurality of voices makes room for multiple, differing perspectives to be heard.
The experience of an immigrant, whether they are coming to study or to work, is often characterized by a lengthy process of transition. To find shelter, to raise kids, to work or to devote time to study, all of this in addition to securing income and visa requirements at regular intervals, setting up the economics of bank accounts or a business, developing a network, finding a studio and a job, growing within your own practice, and learning how to navigate a new reality through cultural and language differences.
Part of integration into the existing arts community in Trondheim is not simply the acquisition of a new tongue, but also a very specific vocabulary at a high level of expertise. This is knowledge that is built through time and through experience. This is a lengthy process of integration buoyed by the support of the surrounding community, access to information, and the ability to participate in a meaningful way. Creating more access will provide newcomers with an easier transition that will encourage them to participate more fully and engage their skills and experiences within the community.
The key is to find a balance for a community which aims to engage internationally, to participate in a global discourse about art, to be cited and referred to, to understand and to be understood by a wider community. How do you join a global discourse in a world that predominantly uses English as its main form of communication while retaining a focus on the native tongue in municipal activities? You make room for many voices by inviting them to join in the dialogue.
Having major distinctions between languages is not exclusively a conversation about cultural preservation. It is a conversation about access within a very localized space and community. It creates a rift between generalized sides, and simplifies those sides to the historical ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Prioritizing the symbolic action of use of a single language within such an international community through exclusive programming or information is an imbalance of access, and therefore experience. Creating multiple and varied moments of dialogue can lead to a variety of access through many channels. Diversity is our strength. In a world full of different and conflicting experiences, diversity expands our ability to empathise across borders. It allows us to feel, to see, and to think differently. But this is also a consideration on the part of institutions who are negotiating their available resources. Translation is a job, one that requires a certain labour and expense. How do we define the value of the arts community as it translates to accessibility in job opportunities, information and participation, and infrastructure?
The artistic community of Trondheim is fortunate to have a large diversity of language, experience, and culture. The beauty of these differences is made visible through translations of expressions from one language to another. This provides a window into the modes of expression and the poetics of language construction around the world. In the discomfort of learning new ways of communication, we find the beauty of personal and cultural expression. It is one of my favourite experiences here in Trondheim, to hear how people express their thoughts to one another and how these thoughts are influenced by the cultural and personal narratives of their experience. It is beauty beyond calculated expertise and categorical thinking. It opens to the possibility of expression outside of the limitations of typical language construction. It pushes us to think differently, to try to understand what it is the person is really trying to say. It is an active collaboration of relation working in support of one another. Through uncertainty and effort, we challenge our presuppositions of how things are and work on how things should be. It is through moments of relation that we gain a more profound understanding of what differentiates us and what brings us together.
A rich culture is one that includes a multiplicity of voices and identities that enter into a continued dialogue about the future. Contradictory and divergent visions contribute to the strength of experience by multiplying the breadth of positions within it. Making room for the possibility of diverse and contrasting experiences is an important starting point for change. If moments of exchange constitute the actualization of our community, then the greater the opportunity for meetings, whatever their focus and mode of communication, the richer the result.
Image courtesy of ArtScene Trondheim.
My name is Enrique Roura and I am an artist and architect from Mexico City.
My practice is like an open dialogue. I work based on an interdisciplinary approach, which is something non-static, non-rooted. It is something that finds itself at an area of the in-between, crossing borders of cultures and profession. My artistic practice is a constant negotiation among places and spaces, contents and containers, the body and its surroundings. In the broader sense, I would say that I am interested in dichotomies, and their potential for communication. Because of my direction and open-ended experimenting process, I am not fixed towards any medium.
I am in a very early stage of my professional career. I graduated three years ago with a M.FA, and have had the opportunity to show some of my work in Norway and in Latvia. But I still need to grow more as an artist: go to more places and define myself. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, especially now in going through a period of “forced” normalization. If I want to continue living in Norway, I am obliged to have a “normal” income. This means that I have to be hired for a job “relevant to my education” at a minimum 80 % position. This leaves me with very little time to dedicate to my artistic practice in addition to not being allowed (by law) to get involved in “self-employed business activities.” Or my other option is to be “self-employed” on condition that I make certain amount of money: a sum that is not realistic for most of the artist professionals in the early stages of their careers. The economy of artists has been always a very fragile topic, and as an immigrant artist, you are being cut from the possibility of having a combined economy (employed + self-employed), which is one of the most common ways of making a living in the early stages of a professional life.
I am currently renting a studio at RAKE arbeidsfellesskap, and for me, it’s awesome. The rent is kind of affordable and you have access to common tools that you wouldn’t be able to afford on your own. The community is very cool and the idea of having your own space for working does something to your mind: it materializes the idea of being a professional. I think it’s great to have these kinds of collective spaces that function in organic ways. No one is making a profit out of this space. The administration and maintenance of the space happens organically and collectively among its members. My problem now is that because of my “forced” normalization of income, I don’t have much time to go there and work, but I’m working on that; getting used to the pace of a normal shift-job and using the time that is left on my practice.
In an idealistic way of thinking, I wouldn’t need any specific conditions for making art. I would adapt to the circumstances and improvise with the available resources. But in real life, it is not that simple. I have learned that to be able to do things that are really meaningful to myself and maybe also for the community that experiences them, I need time, resources (spatial, material, and economical), and support from a working network.
Originally, I came to Trondheim as an exchange student. I liked the place, but also the art academy; its freedom, the access to infrastructure, and the conditions for you to develop yourself in a way that you decide. I came back to Trondheim enrolled in the M.FA program. And I chose to stay, because I have found that this place has huge potential and since is still in a stage of development, it makes it very accessible, to get to be known and to meet people that may help or are interested in whatever it is that you have to offer.
Flight Attempt, image courtesy of Hasan Daraghmeh.
I’m a video artist from Palestine. I work mainly with digital moving image. That’s why the camera is the starting point for most of my projects. I spend a lot of time filming, editing, processing and coding to create artworks, which sometimes can be a single-channel video or sometimes a large-scale video installation. Through these works I explore and examine concepts and themes like memory, movement, time and space.
I see the way in which I produce my artworks as a studio-based practice, which requires having equipment like a camera, workstation computer, editing software, printer, and a small room in a collective studio. I would like to collaborate with other artist or people from other disciplines like dancers, musicians, and actors, etc.
Moving from Palestine to Norway helped me to develop the concepts and themes that I’m working on from a wider perspective and bigger scale. In Trondheim, the art scene is lively, open and growing, and I’m surrounded by a lot of friends from the ins and outs of the art scene. All of these things motivate me to keep doing art.
Image courtesy of Joana Bruno.
CARLOS ALBERTO CORREIA
I’m Carlos Alberto Correia, a Portuguese visual artist living in Trondheim for the past five years. It was the M.FA program at KiT that brought me here. Now, besides my practice, I am running a small publishing house, SMØR Press, together with Joana Bruno and am co-founder and project leader of Slå På Kunst, an art agency, with Inga Skålnes.
My work is characterised by the continuous exploration of the problems of “representation” (or translation of the world) but always approached with different tools and artistic methods. Nature is, most of the time, the referent to unfold the problem of translation, and, most of the time, landscape is the outcome of this exercise. I am very interested in the unlimited and sometimes indescribable results that my practice leads to. My practice can be seen as very diverse and that is probably because I believe that by approaching the same subject through different perspectives, mediums, and materials, I am closer to obtaining better overview and knowledge and therefore, I can move further with my observations and research. It makes my practice into something that is alive. This way of thinking relies very much on a philosophical way of working (and thinking) – as if there is no end.
My work is very diversified in mediums and materials, approaches and outcomes. I guess I am in what’s called an “establishment” phase, trying to find a steady studio practice between the two other projects and my part-time job.
I am very happy to have a studio at Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder (LKV). It is definitely small for all the projects I carry but this is what you get for the money and what the city has to offer. For instance, I’m currently working with two projects that are hand size: an artist book and a series of small sculptures (5 x 5 cm maximum). I wish I could have a studio that’s three times bigger. I find artistic practice a very solitary and lonely moment, where it is just me in my studio. It is, without a doubt, very handy to have the workshops/project rooms but those spaces are just for short periods of time and for very specific reasons. Unfortunately, in my case, I can’t imagine myself producing work in those kinds of settings for long periods.
I decided to stay in Trondheim because I thought that it had a lot of potential to grow as a cultural city and much to offer recent graduates. Because of its size, it is very easy to navigate, build a network, and feel part of the art scene.