(Un)Forgivable Emotions: Nordic Biennial 10

Greta chastising the UN as weeks of relentless protest wash over Hong Kong as the lungs of the world (Siberia, Amazon, Congo) keep burning while white cops keep getting away with murdering unarmed people of color. The summer of 2019 has been overwhelming. How does one cope with getting all the emotional triggers triggered all the time? What happens if-when going numb no longer holds the damn dams?! I (re)turn to the Emotional Exhibition of the Nordic Biennial on the windswept fjord shores of Moss, Norway. As the anniversary edition of Momentum closes, I look back at six works that have stayed with me since I covered its opening in June.

Sky Porn over Moss, Norway

André Alves @theandrealves.com

I am partial to artworks that involve books (see, my Murakami Birds). Alves transformed pages from multiple volumes into a colorful library of geometrical paintings, leaving only a line or two visible. For example, “Who cares about politics when there are flames licking at your insides?” from the provocative Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgard who got the entire nation up in its feelings with his memoirs. Beyond the Etsy vibe of this installation, it raises profound questions about selectivity of memory, compromised attention spans, preference for image (over)simplification over the inherent complexity of text, the very nature of authorship and genesis of ideas in a copy-paste culture. What if your emotions are carefully edited clickbait?! Welcome to the pretty life out of context. 


Francesc Ruiz @ruiz_francesc

PornHub is about environmental activism now and porn stars are political strategists. You’d think we’re in a post-porn utopia. However, real sexual activity and gender expression are still ruthlessly policed online (hello, Instagram algorithms) and offline (Indonesia’s proposed ban on sex outside marriage). Ruiz set up a sex comic store about the town’s busiest book-coffee-shop and took the erotic discourse and practice far beyond the binary realms: male/female, human/machine, recreation/reproduction. How queer does queer get? Can fetishes be radical? If an unexamined life has not  been worth living since the times of Socrates, whatever made our unexamined desires worth legislating? How to decolonize (y)our desire(s)? Who the fuck controls my orgasm?!


Pauline Curnier Jardin @p.curnierjardin

I’m not into video art, because I often don’t “get it.” My (faulty) idea of cinema is SharknadoFast & Furious and Venom (talk ’bout an Oscar snub!). Yet, occasionally a filmwork captures me whole. Couers de Silex is an absurdist mockumentary following post-war archetypes: the ally, the bully, the healer, the child, etc. Each character explores the burdens of personal responsibility for collective trauma as well as pressures and challenges of assimilation. Where are you supposed to be from or belong to when territories change at geopolitical whim? Who do you pledge allegiance to when loyalty is a free market commodity? How do you (re)construct a self when so many elements are unavailable? Don’t we all, in a sense, just wander around with Madonna’s “this used to be my playground” in our heads? No?! Just me?! #OccupyMyself 

Julieta Aranda @julietaranda

Moss used to be a paper mill town before Digital killed the Physical star. Aranda took paper/recycling as a starting point for a poignant series of objects and a special edition newspaper featuring “sensationalist” headlines such as Atrocities and collective memory, Narcissism and selective memory, Corporate amnesia, and When did false history begin? It reads like a between-the-lines of any current CNN, BBC or TMZ story. While the concept of post-memory has been around since 1990’s, now that society is nosediving into real consequences of fake news and every insta-hipster is singlemindedly inventing minimalism, the idea is no longer academic or sci-fi. How do YOU feel about having feelings about sh*t that’s willfully unreal?!


Pepo Salazar @peposalazar.si

One of the “simplest” works was one of the most challenging to engage with. How are these futons with footballer comforters art? Why are there takeout menus printed floor to ceiling? What’s this unnervingly vaguely familiar sound on the loop? The subversion of meaning, the outsourcing of desire to third-party “cookies” happens incrementally. Why is it ok to sleep with a football team but not ok to “sleep with a football team”?! How did “Chinese” or “Italian” cuisine become ubiquitous whereas in these countries fierce culinary wars are fought by neighboring villages?! What else are we normalizing with invisible quotation marks? Definitions of… like, share, torture, etc. If you follow Disney and Marie Kondo and “let it go”, what are you left with that’s yours?!


Erik Öberg @obergerik.com

A vertex of all emotions at once, this was my favorite long shot. Oh, the otherness; its overwhelming visceral pull. The necessity to touch, the aversion to knowing, the crash and rise, and rise, and rise of curiosity. Who are you? What are you made of? Why are you this way? Öberg’s sculptures defy human connectivity. Artificial (emotional) intelligence meets alien genetic modification to create a sensual nightmare for our tragically limited senses. These deceptively fragile non-creatures represent tectonic heartbreak echoing across the light years of hope. I could not walk away. I can’t, still. 


For more on Momentum 10, check out my piece on Forbes. Thanks Stephan Rabimov, the entire Punkt Ø team, Ute Weingarten and folks at Art Press, and the historic Refsnes Gods Hotel (who else has multiple Edvard Munch originals just casually hanging around?!) for making this trip remarkable. I’m getting emotional…


P.S. The cover image of biennial visitors reacting to Pepo Salazar’s installation comes from Momentum Instagram account and was shot by Ingeborg Øien Thorsland … ALSO: my reviews of the Strasbourg Biennale and the Timisoara Biennale.


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