An art of politics and an art of kissing wildly


Robert Montgomery’s light installation at Tou Scene.

I am absolutely smitten with the conceptual art of Robert Montgomery. His light poetry and urban interventions are infused with politics and passion, a questioning of capitalism and affirmations of love. At this year’s Nuart Fight Club debate on the proposed new term “post-street art”, Robert called for more radical and politically charged critical art: in an impassioned and humourous moment even urging the people to rip toilets from the walls and smash them en masse through the windows of the city in some perverse hommage to Marcel Duchamp. Somewhat fitting given one of the themes to this year’s festival was Dada.

While the light poem in the beer tunnels at Tou Scene — part of the indoor exhibitions for the Nuart Festival — was stunning and perfectly suited to its space, it was Robert’s interventions in the city that I found particularly moving and powerful. At once romantic and political, the white text on black background stands so starkly in contrast to surrounding space and the hacking of advertising street-furniture is particularly inspiring given my own interests in the excessive presence of outdoor advertising in cities.

An art of politics and and art of kissing wildly. 

Fuck Dada. 

A manifesto against Marcel Duchamp.

Messages from paradise scrawled on the walls of the university.

Chasing the sunset from Europe to America.

Stavanger par nuit

Je suis arrivée à Stavanger. Jeg har ankommet i Stavanger. I have arrived in Stavanger. A long day in Oslo with lecturing, catching up with visiting graffiti scholar Jacob Kimvall and having an inspiring chat on Scandinavian zero tolerance against graffiti, a quick little visit to the legal graffiti wall in Gamlebyen, and then off to the the airport. And all on four hours sleep. Still, managed to get in a short 3 km night walk here in Stavanger, to stretch my legs and see if any of my art still lingers in the streets here. It does.

Here are a few black and white shots, mostly from around Storhaug, incidentally one of my favourite places in Norway because its silos and elevated highways very strangely remind me of the neighbourhood I grew up in: the post-industrial landscape of sud-ouest Montréal.

”I came, I saw, I was won over.’, banner by Nuart. 

Streets of your town, wandering in Storhaug.

Like a motorway, with Jamie Reed’s rabbit.

Woman in the city. 

I see a ship in the harbour, I can and shall obey. 

HOAX.

Women of the night.

 

Cloudy day on Earth today

It’s a cloudy day on Earth today, people.

The following map was made by one of this year’s bachelor’s students in the Geographic Information Systems course. I ask every group of students I encounter to draw a map of Oslo.  

 

I love this map for the very simple way it illustrates how scale does indeed matter. I will share the rest of the maps when I have a few extra moments to spare so consider this one a sneak preview of more to come. 

Students are awesome.

Life and sex and love and art and death

Full breasts and soft, round stomachs, thick red Pre-Raphaelite hair, strong thighs, ideal and erotic woman full of power and life, couples and infants, scenes of love and sex, of birth and death. Emanuel Vigeland in ashes above the small doorway that opens into a vast domed open space: the Norwegian artist’s final resting place. And above Vigeland, skeletons locked in an eternal embrace. From their bodies, in a column of ethereal smoke, babies rise toward heaven or the cosmos or some infinite place.

These eight hundred square metres of frescoes took Emanuel Vigeland, brother to Gustav and contemporary to Munch, some twenty years to complete. Entitled ‘Vita’, his mausoleum is ultimately a celebration of life and sex and love and art and even death: a powerful testament to the rhythms of life and humanity, a reminder of what is important. In dim light, the eyes adjust slowly to reveal more and more details, more and more bodies, interconnected and interwoven. The breadth of the space makes for incredible acoustics, even the smallest sounds resonating and then clinging in stillness.

Thank you to Yvonne Thomsen for her time and kindness and knowledge and for arranging a private viewing of this truly special place, certainly one of Oslo’s best kept secrets. Sadly, the memory card for my camera became mysteriously corrupted and I lost all of my photographs from my visit this weekend. First photograph is of a postcard from the museum, the second of the skeletal embrace courtesy of Patrick da Silva Sæther, found online at The Fabulist.

Women’s right to the city

I am so humbled to be one of the speakers at this year’s Nuart Plus, the academic component to the annual Nuart Festival in Stavanger. Being the only woman this year, I chose to debut a new piece of research I am working on about women’s right to the city. While certainly a feminist through and through, I am rather new to working on issues related to gender. And so it feels a bit cliché to be the woman talking about gender but someone’s got to do it, right?

Graffiti and street art are consistently portrayed as masculine practices despite women’s participation. Women generally remain a minority, however, and I suggest that this underrepresentation has more to do with women’s differentiated rights to the city than the mere fact that it’s a bit of a boys’ club. I shall specifically be talking about forces in the city which have the potential to further impede women’s right to the city, focusing on the proliferation of sexualised outdoor advertising in Oslo.

The programme this year is, as usual, outstanding and includes a keynote by my new co-supervisor David Pinder. Be sure to check out the programme for more information and do stop by if you happen to be in Stavanger.

 

Ain’t no cure for Marxism

I have a mild case of Marxism brought upon by Henri Lefebvre and Guy Debord. Worrying symptoms include feelings of alienation and depression, co-presenting with feminist rants and increased desires of withdrawing from society.

I hoped the cure might be revolution.

Have been informed by colleague that there is in fact no cure. Best treatments include alcohol and pragmatism. Hermitism is a possible remedy though interest in subsistence farming is recommended and further mental health implications are a risk.

Any tips for coping with Marxist blues much appreciated.

Oh bondage, up yours!

It is now nearly 2:00 in the morning and I have just arrived home. I was painting late in my studio, a short 15 minute walk from my apartment in a fairly centrally located neighbourhood in Oslo.

Walking down a main street which the tram runs along, I noticed a man on the other side turning back and frequently looking at me. Feeling instantly and instinctually uncomfortable, I stopped at the corner pretending to fumble with something in my bag just to give some distance between us, to allow him time to be on his way. But he too stopped and turned toward me.

“Which way are you walking?” he asked from across the intersection. “Because if you are walking this way, we can walk together and talk.”

Good to know that my Norwegian comprehension is now at the level of understanding basic street harassment.

I ignored him. He mumbled under his breath and dejectedly walked away.

The thing was, I was walking that direction.

I write about how women mediate their movements in the city based on the time of day and where they are walking though I rarely share my own experiences in the city. Tonight, I had to not only completely alter my route, but was also forced to take an alternate street which I prefer not to walk precisely for the reason that it is poorly lit, sparsely trafficked, and I am pretty sure I saw a badger there a few weeks ago.

I spent the remaining walk home feeling everything from foolish to violated to unsafe to annoyed but mostly fearful. Fearful that I would run into him again as I approached my apartment, fearful that he would see where I lived, fearful that I would have to politely deal with his continued unwanted attention, or worse that I would have to deal with his anger at my rebuffs.

To be perfectly honest, all I really wanted to do was have a nice chat with my Mum back in Canada on my walk home and get some advice on the painting I started tonight.

I recently finished writing a short essay on this topic, more specifically on women’s right to the city. I wish I did not have to live my research quite so authentically but the simple fact is, women deal with their inequalities every day and every day in the city they live it through their movements, navigations, and interactions. I look forward to sharing this piece soon. Until then, oh bondage, up yours!

The Institute for Art and Environment (ARTENVI)

I am very pleased to finally be launching a new website for The Institute for Art and Environment (ARTENVI).

I started ARTENVI in 2009, shortly after completing my Master’s degree. In the period of limbo before beginning my PhD, the institute was a way for me to conduct research and connect with people. Though I always thought it more symbolic in nature, I see my work now continuing to converge around issues of art and environment and the institute gives me a place truly full of freedom and possibility.

ARTENVI links my current doctoral research to my other work and acts as a broad platform for my various activities. Please have a look if you would like to read more.

Filming the city

I find myself experimenting more and more with video. The themes and patterns of my research have been emerging with more fluidity in recent months and film has helped me to both validate and feel more confident in my analyses. Using only a small point-and-shoot camera or my mobile phone, I find that these themes resonate so well in moving images.

I see my research come alive with film, even more so than with photography. Perhaps this is because with film, the movement of my body and my gaze is also captured so that the viewer may in some way experience how I navigate and see the city. I am hoping to work more with film in the future and see it as a fascinating medium to convey and communicate the complexities and beauties of the everyday.

I have just returned from the International Visual Sociology Association’s annual meeting which took place in Lillehammer this year. This year’s conference theme ‘Visualizing Sustainability: IMAGINED FUTURES’ was a great fit for my research and my interests. It was fascinating to meet so many wonderful scholars doing really innovative work who also identify so well with the challenges of working in the margins of one’s discipline.

The following is a short film I produced for my talk at the session ‘Playing with Methods’, at this year’s Association of American Geographers meeting in San Francisco. The session was organised by Jana Wendler and chaired by Tim Edensor, both at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was a wonderful introduction to some creative and playful methods in geography. It’s a bit rough in places but I hope that lends it a bit of charm.