VOLUSPÅ. (previous spread) Excavation of the Oseberg ship PDF

VOLUSPÅ (previous spread) Excavation of the Oseberg ship INTRODUCTION BY SILLE STORIHLE The year 2013 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Norwegian suffrage movement, and this book is FRANK s

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VOLUSPÅ (previous spread) Excavation of the Oseberg ship INTRODUCTION BY SILLE STORIHLE The year 2013 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Norwegian suffrage movement, and this book is FRANK s contribution to the anniversary. Norway was, on a global scale, reasonably early to introduce women s suffrage and has, in the last 100 years, become known as one of the most gender equal countries in the world. But gender issues cannot be reduced to a statistical matter, a comparative fixed unit to measure and value. Gender issues expand beyond questions of official recognition and rights; they also encompass the normative structures that shape our lives and imagination. The challenges of generating a discourse that acknowledges the wide span of issues were recently made apparent in the right-wing shifts in national politics and in a public debate that favored nature over nurture. The interview with the art historian Mathias Danbolt takes the TV-show Hjernevask, translated into English as Brainwash, as its starting point to address the challenges and stakes of working with gender issues in Norway today. The public discourse sparked by the TV-show disclosed a dismissal, even aggression, towards queer theory, and any attempt to address the systems and regulations that constrain the possibilities of lives that challenge heteronormative structures. The public dismissal of queer theory as a brainwashed form of gender extremism fueled our desire to enter the 100-year anniversary of women s suffrage in a way that was not celebratory, but dissected the collective understanding of feminism in terms of waves. The project as a whole should be read as an attempt to destabilize the belief that feminism has achieved its goals and thus is no longer relevant. This book is structured around the established narration of feminist history, in the sense of waves: first, second and third wave feminism. Instead of accepting this given narrative of progress, we chose to remap our understanding of this history through the work and life of artists. Several of the artists included in the publication disrupt a linear reading of time and history, and cannot easily be placed in the moment in which they were living. The cutting-up and reshuffling of this narrative is a way for us to claim that the feminist and queer project is not yet complete. The feminist struggle does not end with equal rights, and the history of feminismthis book s projectis a way for us to create an altered and incomplete narrative of the past through artists and their works. This book features archival photographs, paintings, drawings, and documentation of sculptures, as well as three conversations, mainly by Swedish and Norwegian artists and writers. This selection acknowledges the shared history between these two countries. The dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 was a vivid reminder that women were not considered members of the people. They did not have the right to vote on the issue of the dissolution, which further sparked the suffrage movement and the fight for equality. Today, the feminist discourse in academia and in the arts seems far more apparent in Sweden. As initiators and hosts of a queer-feminist platform in Norway, we often find our collaborators and peers in Sweden. This book is an attempt to rejoin Norway and Sweden in a new union that does not give into national boundaries, but shares a common interest in investigating a feminist lineage of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Several of the works in the book have been presented in exhibitions, such as Possessions at UKS (The Young Artists Society) in Oslo, 8 March to 14 April 2013, curated by FRANK. Other works have never been exhibited by us, but are part of reoccurring conversations we have had over the last years. We are also sharing three conversations with people who have been essential to our work. Katarina Bonnevier, Mathias Danbolt and Wencke Mühleisen have inspired us and provided essential fuel to prompt questions concerning gender, power and identity constructions. They themselves have been categorized under the different feminist waves, but are constantly challenging this tiered structure throughout their work. The title Voluspå is taken from the first and most well-known poem of the Poetic Edda, one of the most central collections of Old Norse poems and a primary source to understanding Norse mythology. Voluspå means the pro phecy of the volve. The volve was a mythic figure, a shamanistic seeress that looked into the past and into the future. In Viking society the volvemeaning wand-bearer was a figure who broke out of strict family bonds to practice seid, a type of sorcery. The volve and the poem Voluspå thus serve as a reminder of a historical female figure who was valued for her powers, but feared as well. The volve symbolizes a figure that transgresses notions of normality, breaks out of social restrictions, and recalls the potentiality of varied gender notions in a past pagan society. VOLUSPÅ 06 07 FIRST WAVE VOLUSPÅ 08 FIRST WAVE 10 11 FIRST WAVE 12 13 FIRST WAVE 14 15 FIRST WAVE 16 17 First wave feminism took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was a movement that sought suffrage by challenging the legal systems that oppressed women and demanding equal opportunities for women to participate in politics. The movement emerged out of an environment of urban industrialism and liberal, socialist politics. Katarina Bonnevier is far from a representative of this movement. Throughout her workas an architect, researcher and artistshe deals with history and questions the relationship between the past and the present. As she states in this conversation, I believe we do not really need a lot of new walls, rather we need to transform or add a layer to the ones that are already here. Her work reconstructs our understanding of the walls that surround us, pushing for new encounters with the built environment of our everyday lives and our minds. BUILDINGS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN FRANK & KATARINA BONNEVIER F Since we started FRANK, your practice has been an essential part of our conversations. Your way of challenging the perceptions and power structures concerning the built environment has been of great inspiration to us. In the radio program Fasad, aired on Swedish radio this summer, you frequently referred to your education. Can you tell us when and how you realized that your project at large was to contribute to a queer feminist theory of architecture? K Dear FRANK, thank you so much for inviting me live into your ongoing conversation. I am very pleased and honored that you describe my practice as a part of your conversations. So here I am with my dreams and passions willing to respond to your questions. And possibly pose some to you. Now where to start? My practice comes out of anger mixed with compliance, from my feeling of being trapped in a too-tight and heavy costume. Theory (encountering Judith Butler, Richard Dyer and Tiina Rosenberg) helped me name that costume: it is the leaded overcoat of heteronormative, white patriarchy. My architectural education, well my whole life, was burdened by it. But it is only when I act out of my desire and lust, rather than my anger and will to do right, that I manage to move, invent and challenge. My feminist awakening came first, women and all the things that made my heart sing. Ornaments, mosaics, masks, gestures, color and drama were not part of Architecture with a capital A. We hardly learned to draw a façade, it was all about sections and plans. A lecture by Jennifer Bloomer made me realize that there were other ways to do this. She generously invited me to study with her in the US, and I ended up writing my master thesis in her attic in Athens, Georgia while she was sorting through the closets. The thesis became a queer mixture of architecture, theater and feminism (Fredrika Bremer met Louis Sullivan and got seduced by Edith Sitwell in a gigantic swan, causing the Women s Building to catch fire). For me, it often works that wayi have a feeling that something is wrong, my body aches, then via theory I can understand it intellectually, eventually embody it and try to do something about it. I was reading queer theory long before I came out. I always envied my lesbian friends. I had a crush on any lesbian that came in my way, but never thought that it could be for me. The books opened a door. F In your PhD dissertation Behind Straight Curtains: Towards a Queer Feminist Theory of Architecture (2007), you work with a series of inter pretations of architectural scenes, blurring boundaries between the past and the present. In the collaborative project MYCKET, you venture further into the performative, creating spaces of reenactments, for example of famous club scenes. What do the performative aspects enable you to do in terms of working with history? K What s here right now might last a lifetime or end with the summer, but it has already saturated the movements of my body and become an inseparable part of my being in the world. Permanence is overrated, it is a lie that diminishes our experiences. (Here I start to hesitate, I get stuck with the words, what words can convey this fantastic reality, this real fantasy that we re living? The words so easily become labels which are stiff and tight, when in fact what we have here is a certain spacious vagueness. A bold ambiguity in time and space, in this particular moment. On the other hand, I ll just rest my troubled mind. Without the words, we wouldn t be here at all. The performative action comes with the citation). My collaborators and I in MYCKET (Mariana Alves and Thérèse Kristiansson) try to rescue our history, because we want to be rescued and rescue others like usit is a repair job. To imagine a future. How can we reconcile with the violence, historical and present, directed towards us because of our difference? I believe there is no reconciliation without reparation. What do you think? F This publication derives from a feeling of a lack of history, kinship and genealogy for FRANK in Norway. It is a process fueled by a need to rescue and to find the dead. What you call reparation has to come with a feeling of recognition, seeing ourselves, and our loneliness or violence in someone else. In doing so, a historical person brings both the possibility of belonging and the sensation of familiarity. Though with this comes the risk of projecting our conceptualizations and interpretations onto someone else, who is incapable of opposing our contextualization, and the problems of who we exclude in this search for kinship. With Marie Høeg and Klara Lidén, we are setting up a historical meeting, but allowing their self-portraits to bridge time. How do you interpret historical personas, and the risk of making the historical person your pet, in terms of romanticism, projections and contextualization? K This is not a question with an easy answer. I have a multitude of ways in which I try to recognize the irreducibility of the other (to paraphrase Luce Irigaray). One is to clearly understand that what I m doing is an act of my imagination. Another is to enter into a kind of fictive collaborationthere are definitely things you cannot do to, or with, the other if you collaborate. A third is to have an audience in mind, for example I almost always write for my students. I would never have learnt so much without them. Knowing where I direct my words keeps me on track. I know why I m writing and I know it has to be respectful. Evoking spaces and figures of the past and connecting them to the ideals and yearnings of the present is crucial to the Club Scene project with MYCKET. We know that we evoke nostalgia, but it is not simply a nostalgia that looks back with longing and idealization. The historic clubs we stage are actualized through the fictive and factual experiences of them. It is empoweringit fills the embodied archives of participants with the experience of resistance against the dominant culture. bell hooks writes in Belonging: A Culture of Place (2009): [...] I pay tribute to the past as a resource that can serve as a foundation for us to revision and renew our commitment to the present, to making a world where all people can live fully and well, where everyone can belong. F One of reoccurring topics of all your projects seems to be concerned with what is hidden from us, making you sometimes seem more like an archeologist than an architect. True or false? K Ha, ha, I wouldn t stop with the hidden. I think my repeated theme is best described by the mask, that which hides and reveals at the same time. Something could be hidden even though it is blatantly disclosed. Are you familiar with the idea of experimental archeology? To me it sounds a lot FIRST WAVE 18 19 like architecture. I am an architect, because I claim architecture as a means for political changeit is important since strong neoliberal forces in our society today reduce our built environment to investments, when it is really about creating a society where there is room for all of us. F Yes, the idea of archeology in an experimental form has been central to our conversations and throughout the development of this book. Archeology is extremely interesting. The act of interpreting the past through archeological excavations and research often seems to claim an objective and neutral reading of the past as it really was. Archeology seems to have been deeply colored by an androcentric bias, a historical dominance of men over women has naturalized and dictated how we imagine the past, especially in terms of social structures and gender roles. Many gender archeologists are now invested in a discussion of gender, rather than sex, questioning the way in which men become indicators for culture, whilst women represent nature. This book opens with a photograph from the excavation of the Viking grave Oseberg in The image representsto usthe dichotomy between biological sex and gender identity in archeology. Archeologists working on the Oseberg ship were surprised to find two women in the buried Viking ship, and assumed the older woman was queen Åsa. This was later disputed by archeologists such as Brit Solli. A rereading of the artifacts showed that it was possible that the older woman was not a queen (missing a king), but an independent woman of high status, namely a volve. A volve was a spiritual leader with a gender role that expanded far beyond a queen. The social status of the volve was not tied to her relationship to a man, not to her father, husband nor brother. One of the reasons several archeologists interpret this as a volve grave is because of a wooden, hollow staff that was found inside a chest in the burial chamber at Oseberg. Volve means wand-bearer and is an indicator of cultic power. Our interest in archeological investigations and the narration of history does not only relate to archeological matters, but to art history. One of the recent archeological excavations within art is the current exposure of the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint. With the large-scale exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the museum is paying tribute to Hilma af Klint as one of the greatest Swedish artists. It is hard to ignore the uncanny relationship between the life and work by Hilma af Klint, and the current move towards fitting her into a historical canon as a pioneer of abstraction. What are your thoughts on how Hilma af Klint s project is translated into the now? K Art critic Dan Jönsson formulated the problem in a very beautiful way. He wrote that the works of Hilma af Klint have been reduced to fit the ever so white theory cube of contemporary art (my translation of samtidskonstens ack så vita teorikub ). For me, it is important to underline that this is not just a metaphor, the walls of art are painfully white. They scream to me about proper behavior (let s not get dirty, talk about sex, the women, the occult theme or the things we cannot grasp in her work). Fortunately, her work cannot be contained, it drips excess of meanings and leaks out of the white cube. It is wild to see that so many contemporary artists, whether aware of it or not, have entered into dialogue with the work and life of Hilma af Klint. F Do you remember when you first met Marie Høeg? K I remember borrowing the catalogue of the Marie Høeg exhibition at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm from Malin Arnell. She stuck it in my hand when I first got to know her. We immediately became good friends (the three of us). F When we met Klara Lidén this summer, she mentioned that you had been her professor at the School of Architecture in Stockholm. She describes herself as partly the poor architect dealing with the problem of existing structures in a city, and partly the amateur dancer or performance artist who wants to convey ideas about rhythm and construction, or about reclaiming our built environment. Few architects seem to be reclaiming both the built environment and the history of this building. Both Klara and you seem to be practitioners with architectural training, but living a life as dissidents. How do you look at architecture as a field today? Are you concerned with the future of architecture? K Yes, I am very much invested in both the field and the future of architecture. I have an intense relationship with the walls that surround us, that hinder and produce alternatives simultaneously. Some need to be torn down, others extended or put in motion. I believe we do not really need a lot of new walls, but rather we need to transform or add a layer to the ones that are already here. Klara knocked on my door and asked if she could join my courseit was the first course I did on feminism and architecture, actually the first course ever at the School of Architecture about feminism and architecture (2004). It was a student initiative and we named it Jalusi - research studio about queer feminist theory. We started an adventure there, which is still evolving today. SECOND WAVE FIRST WAVE 20 SECOND WAVE 22 23 SECOND WAVE 24 25 SECOND WAVE 26 27 SECOND WAVE 28 29 SECOND WAVE 30 31 SECOND WAVE 32 33 The women s movement of the 1960s and 1970s is understood as second wave feminism. It occurred within the context of anti-war and civil rights movements, and dealt with issues concerning the body, including sexuality, equal pay for women, the workplace and reproductive rights. It also questioned fundamental cultural formations such as the nuclear family. Wencke Mühleisen s artistic practice spurs out of this context, and is informed by the radical politics that these movements set forth. Mühleisen lived from 1976 to 1985 with AAO (Aktionsanalytische Organisation bewußter Lebenspraxis), an Austrian artist commune that existed from 1970 to AAO s utopian principals of cohabitation and collectivity nurtured Mühleisen s performance work, which employs the body as a tool to challenge the separation between the personal and the political. Her performances dealt with themes around gender, sexuality, feminism and power. As a performance artistand later as a media and gender researchershe emphasizes the importance of the body, both as medium and material, in order to challenge dominant understandings of gender construction and repressive, as well as normalizing structures in society. BODIES A CONVERSATION BETWEEN FRANK & WENCKE MÜHLEISEN F What are your thoughts on your artistic work and how do you see your practice within the context of feminist art production in Scandinavia, the 1970s, and performance art? W It is not that easy to look at my own production through the eyes of an outsider or with a distanced glance. It is easier for me to reflect on what brought me to performance art. My first encounter with performance was with the experimental theater community Thesbiteatret in Tønsberg from 1974 to It was not through arts education or the visual arts. My second entry point to performance ca
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