Category Archives: Momentum9

The scars left by electronic culture on indigenous lands


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9


Lightning Ridge mine. Photo courtesy of Linda Persson

The latest edition of the MOMENTUM, the Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art explores the increasing unease and sense of alienation we feel when confronted with a world increasingly governed by technological, ecological and social shifts. I’ve already reviewed the event in previous stories but today i’d like to take a closer look at Linda Persson‘s contribution to the biennial because it uses several lenses and strategies to investigate aspects of our electronic culture that often remain under-scrutinized.

Informed by several years of research in the Australian outback desert, It Was Like Experiencing a Fold in Time, She Said bridges the gap between, on the one hand, the landscapes, mythologies and life of outback and aboriginal communities and on the other hand, the brutal origins of our technological ‘progress.’ The work highlights how alienated we are from the geological physicality of our so-called immaterial digital technology. Many of us might not realize it but there would be no IT, no ‘green’ energy without rare earths, iron ore, cobalt and other minerals that are dug out of the ground at huge costs for the environment and local communities.


Linda working in Queenstown, Tasmania. Photo : Liam Sprod, courtesy of Linda Persson


Helicopter mine survey, Goldfields, Western Australia. Photo courtesy of Linda Persson

Over the course of her research across ghost towns, open mining sites and discussions with local communities, Persson has been uncovering the toxic traces left by the mining industry on indigenous lands and human lives. Some of these traces are palpable and highly visible. Others are far more insidious and concealed.


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9

Burkholderia pseudomallei is of the insidious kind. When in contact with humans and animal through air or skin wounds, this microscopic bacterium can cause a deadly disease called Melioidosis that eats into the brain and spinal cord in a matter of days. The bacterium normally lives into the soil and its emergence is one of the unintended consequences of the increase in mining, oil and gas extraction in Australia.

Over the past few years, the country has seen a surge in the number of Melioidosis cases and the disease is expected to spread south with climate change.

Persson managed to render visible the presence of the microscopic bacteria in the most poetical and visually seducing way. She magnified them as beautiful organic patterns fossilized inside hand-blown glass sculptures.


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9

Another chapter in Persson’s exhibition at Momentum 9 is And Then We Ran Away, a video work that weaves together interviews with Aboriginal women talking about their many languages and culture, images of fauna and flora as well as helicopter rides over the scars that mining activities leave on the landscape. The film quietly conveys how indigenous land is heavily exploited for the raw materials that power the technology we use on a daily basis. Aboriginal peoples, hit by the industry while being often excluded from it, have a deep connection to their ancestral land. The loss, profiteering and poisoning of the territory has thus a devastating social and physical impact on them.


Opalised fossil. Photo courtesy of the artist


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo : Liam Sprod, courtesy of Linda Persson<


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9

The final work in the show is SiO2.nH2O, a video installation that unfolds the various time frames of our mineral-mediated culture. SiO2.nH2O is the chemical formula of opal, the national gemstone of Australia. And the .n stands for the water molecules enclosed into tiny voids within the silicon structure, suggesting a dormant life inside the mineraloid.

SiO2.nH2O takes advantage of the internal structure of opal which is able to diffract light: Found 23-40 metres underground, surrounded by thousands of years in sandstone and clay, the opal acts as a time machine producing a light show that makes deep time visible here in the present. It portrays the potential of life, encapsulated dormant inside, ready to awaken in a future that the human species might never get to experience.

The ability of opal to act as a time travel agent doesn’t end there. It turns out that opal miners in Lightning Ridge, one of the towns in New South Wales where Persson worked on her research, have been digging up dinosaur fossils for years. Even more interestingly, the remains of the prehistoric reptiles are preserved as opal.

It Was Like Experiencing a Fold in Time, She Said is framed by an artificial landscape. The red sand used in the exhibition doesn’t come from the Australian outbacks, it simply imitates its colour of the burnt out desert area. As for the kaleidoscopic collages printed on the panels, they give a vertiginous top-down overview of the landscape around the mines, wounded by extraction processes.


Dead snake in Goldfields. Photo courtesy of Linda Persson


Old mining community, Goldfields. Photo courtesy of Linda Persson


Linda Person exploring the landscape. Photo courtesy of Linda Persson


Photo courtesy of Linda Persson


Linda Persson, It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag for Momentum9

Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu remains open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017.

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition”, MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction, The Museum of NonHumanity and MOMENTUM 9: A case for user-alienating design.

MOMENTUM 9: A case for user-alienating design


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, webpage of MOMENTUM 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Image courtesy of the artists

I don’t often mention the website of biennial, festivals and exhibitions. They are usually designed to look edgy, efficient and user-friendly. They are also remarkably easy to forget. The website of the Momentum 9 biennial website is a bit different. First of all, it is an art destination in itself where you can listen to podcasts from Third Ear that explore the Alienation theme of the biennial (i listened to one about space travel) and read Ylva Westerlund‘s graphic novel The New Hird.

But the reason why i wanted to write about the website of MOMENTUM 9 the Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art is that it doesn’t look like anything i have experienced before. First of all, it doesn’t seem to pride itself in being user-friendly. I remember cursing my way through the website when i first opened it. Where was the list of artists? And what’s with that barely decipherable typeface?! At the same time, the design of the website was so intriguing and appealing i really wanted to master it. It’s actually not difficult at all, just a bit disconcerting. Later, when i arrived in Moss for the press view of the biennial, i kept being drawn to the posters advertising the biennial in the city. They were fluoro green with enigmatic white doodles on it, the information texts had been printed on the duct tape used to hold the poster on walls. The more i saw of the visual identity of the biennial, the more i loved it and the more i wanted to talk to the designers responsible for it.

Their names are Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen. They are listed, and rightly so, among the biennial participating artists. Their work for MOMENTUM 9 involved designing a cacographic -yet strangely elegant- typeface, playing with subtitles and filling your retina with blazing green. Here’s our little Q&A:


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, logo for MOMENTUM 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, logo for MOMENTUM 9

Hi Heikki and Tuomas! What was the influence for the visual look of the biennial? i’m guessing sci-fi and old movies with green aliens but would you mind explaining if you were inspired by specific movies, books, ideas, atmospheres, artworks?

Tuomas: I think the conscious influences we tried to take cues from were all more historical than sci-fi. The sci-fi thing is always there I guess though, as we both enjoy our bit of anime and/or cheeky sci-fi novel. But for this I think we consciously departed from the notion that an alienating distance can be found from the past as well as from the future. In this case, it was specifically the weird form the Latin alphabet took in Medieval times after the breakdown of the Roman empire, and especially the forms of a script called Merovingian cursive from the 6th and 7th centuries (the image is a scan from Nicolete Gray’s book Lettering as Drawing):

Further than that, in terms of the theme of “translation”, we were inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s use of subtitles in his Film Socialisme. There the subtitles only translate a few keywords of the dialogue into English — thus forming a ‘Brechtian’ alienating effect — and force upon the English speaking viewer that, for them, rare condition of not completely understanding what is going (and not having thing always translated to your native language).

The green colour was a bit of an afterthought maybe? At least I don’t think we had a clear, rational reason for suggesting it. In the end the high-vis fluoro works quite well (when it is actually fluorescent), and I think the pairing of the colour and the weird type makes it feel way less historical — which is good and what were after I guess.


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9

You are both listed among the participating artists. That’s quite unusual for an art event to do so. Was it an idea that the curators had right from the start? And did it influence the way you approached the commission?

Tuomas: Yes, it was something they approached us with straight from the beginning, but it is something Heikki and I have done before. We’re both part of this Finnish design collective GRMMXI, where, in 2015 and 2016, we designed the visual identity and all other relevant material for Baltic Circle, a festival of theatre and performance art in Helsinki. Like the Baltic Circle people, the curators of Momentum asked for an identity that would 1) fulfill the necessary communicative requirements of a visual identity, and 2) have something (expressive, conceptual, alienating) to say of its own. This naturally affected the way we approached the project — we didn’t really need to hold back — but then the things the identity ended up “saying” as a whole had, in the end, travelled quite a distance from the original ideas that we begun from. And that’s not a bad thing — I think we both hate the kind of graphic design that first lists out its conceptual premises and then goes on simply to fulfill them. That way can easily get quite cold, austere and humourless.


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9

Was the visual identity of the biennial the result of a conversation with the curators? Or were you given free wheel?

Heikki: Both actually. While we were given completely free wheel on everything, we worked closely together with Ilari Laamanen, one of the curators. During the design process, we would skype almost every Saturday, bouncing ideas back and forth about the concept and execution of the designs and he would encourage us to experiment with even crazier ideas than what we sometimes proposed. This combination provided to be very fruitful. It was a fresh break from typical service provision or client-centric problem solving that graphic designers usually face into a more collaborative but still very autonomous work that felt meaningful.

Now i’m going to confess that i found the website a bit disconcerting at first. I wasn’t sure where to click (yet, once i started clicking everything felt into place), the logo on the left upper corner was very unusual and there was this puzzling typography. Were you hoping that the website visitor would feel a sense of alienation when the page opened? Could you explain the choice of typography, symbols, etc?

Heikki: Yes, definitely! The website (and the whole identity) tries to challenge the often narrow confines of established (web) design practices, and the contemporary human conditions in digital environments by disrupting the experience users are expecting and accustomed to. This is something that goes hand in hand with the theme of alienation, and because the site is partly made as an “art piece” we didn’t want to present it in the form of slick, start-up style web design or follow the template of other exhibition sites. We wanted to make the user stop, get maybe a bit perplexed or annoyed, but curious, and to explore the many materials on the site, while still getting the necessary information.

Tuomas: About the typefaces:

The weird, almost unreadable, uncial-inspired typeface was based on old Merovingian models. In addition to the peculiar looks and to the stuff stated earlier, we found it interesting because, while it still is a model of the Latin alphabet, it really did not fit into existing categories of lettering or type (such as humanist sans serif, slab serif, transitional serif, etc.). As such, it can be said to exist within a queer space — a space that challenges the legitimacy and semblance of natural order conveyed by taxonomic systems (I’m super grateful to Sheena Calvert, my RCA tutor, for informing of the notion of ‘queer type’).

The other typefaces are attempts to place something else in that space, although while making them a bit more readable. So the basic typeface is a slightly inverted contrast, semi-serif, calligraphic monospaced, with a duospaced alternative. This means that in the basic form of the typeface, each letter, number and punctuation mark is of equal width, but then that in the duospaced version there is a corresponding symbol for everything, only twice as wide. (One could here state that the fact that the typeface can actually be described this way, with taxonomic descriptors, makes it actually way less queer than it could be if it went completely beyond, but then again, I cannot think of another existing typeface that would combine all these features, and in the end one can only do so much.)


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, visual identity for MOMENTUM 9. Photo: Istvan Virag © PunktØ/Momentum 9


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, logo for MOMENTUM 9

How did you translate that visual identity into physical objects (I particularly loved the posters and the video) and communicate this sense of alienation into the ‘physical world’?

Tuomas: We wanted to stay away from compositions as much as we could. Often, graphic design is so much about picking a nice, unobtrusive typeface and then making strong compositions, where positive and negative space counteract to create something larger than the sum of their parts. And I think we didn’t want to do that here. So instead of compositions, we thought of the physical applications of the identity in terms of their texture. So some stuff is full of type, while something else might just have the logo or a bunch of lines. But almost everything is either quite empty or then full of stuff — there’s no golden ratios or grid systems at play really. For us, texture is a much more malleable, vague and ambiguous term than anything along the point, line, plane -axis, and it was something really interesting and rewarding to explore.

Furthermore, the Momentum typefaces themselves were a fruitful starting point for this exploration. Usually what type designers and typographers aspire towards is an even typographic texture — that when you squint your eyes, a block of text transforms into a uniform block of grey, without any lighter or darker bits and pieces. This means is supposed to mean that a page is easy to read and easy on the eyes — that nothing pops out in an obtrusive way. For Momentum, we wanted to see what happens when you have a typeface that does produce an even colour, but where the lettershapes themselves are barely legible (the Uncial), and another typeface, where the individual characters are easily readable, but the overall texture of a page is super jumpy and uneven because of differences in letter widths.


Tuomas Kortteinen and Heikki Lotvonen, webpage of MOMENTUM 9

Trailer for MOMENTUM 9: BerlinARTlink Productions. Monica Salazar and Peter Cairns. Overness animation by Heikki Lotvonen and Tuomas Kortteinen. Music by Victoria Trunova

Finally, Momentum is “The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art”. Do you think that your work (this one in particular but also other projects you’ve made) have some particularly Nordic characteristics?

Tuomas: I don’t know really. I never thought of my own identity as specifically Nordic or even Finnish, but then I moved to London, where both have suddenly become easy ways to explain things. I do think many UK graphic designers have an aversion to formal expression — they want to make things nice and tidy so that the content is ‘framed’ in appropriately conceptual, but still very inconspicuous ways. And I don’t think an aversion like that exists within Finnish graphic design, at least not one quite so prevalent anyway.

While we worked on the project primarily in Finnish with Heikki and Ilari, none of us were actually in the same place (I was in London, Heikki in Amsterdam, Ilari in New York), and everything happened through skype and gmail. So we were submerged in quite different physical environments, which then leads to the question of how much of Nordic design project this was. Usually the way old school Finnish designers talk about their inspirations is not in terms of language or community, but specifically in terms of the natural landscape: the forest, the archipelago, the northern tundra. If you take that away, what is left of the ‘Finnishness’? For us, I guess one could say it was a question of straddling borders, of having one foot out and the other one in.

Thanks Tuomas and Heikki!

Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu remains open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017.

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition”, MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction and The Museum of NonHumanity.

The Museum of NonHumanity


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Many of us, consciously or not, believe in human exceptionalism. We assume that the human species is not only ‘categorically or essentially different than all other animals’ but that it is also the most significant entity of the universe. Furthermore, at several moments throughout history, a group of people have declared another group of people to be nonhuman or subhuman and have used the argument to justify slavery, oppression and genocide. Examples abound. Think of how the Nazis defined Jews, Roma, Slavs and other non-Aryan “inferior people” as Untermensch. Or how Belgium brought 60 Congolese people to live in a human zoo for visitors of the 1897 International Exposition (and the 1958 one) to gape at.

Such atrocious practices are not confined to the past, alas! Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority are routinely enslaved, raped and tortured by IS militants who regard them as sub-human. Palestinians are discriminated against on a daily basis and called snakes or animals by prominent figures in Israel. Even today‘s hate speech contain elements of dehumanization.

The Museum of NonHumanity is an itinerant museum that presents the history of the distinction between humans and other animals, and the way that this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings.

The Museum of Nonhumanity was launched by History of Others, a large scale art and research project led by visual artist Terike Haapoja and writer Laura Gustafsson. The duo collaborate with experts in ethology, cognitive sciences, civil-rights and animal-rights activism and other culture practitioners to look at the issues that arise from our anthropocentric world view. In an effort to open new paths for more inclusive notions of society, The Museum of Nonhumanity also teams up with local individuals and organizations to set up a program of lectures, guided tours and seminars that explore local environmental and social issues.

I discovered The Museum of Nonhumanity a couple of weeks ago while i was in Moss, Norway, for the press view of MOMENTUM 9, the brilliant Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Nonhumanity was one of the two artworks that moved me the most at MOMENTUM because it uses a compassionate, perceptive and pertinent lens to explore some of the issues that mar our relationship with the other inhabitants of this planet.

I asked Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson to tell us more about their art & research project:


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Hi Terike and Laura! Why do you think it is important to draw attention to the topic of dehumanization nowadays?

When you look at any major crises of our world today, be it related to environmental or animal rights, war or terrorism, you can as a rule find an element of human-animal distinction at play. You can find it in explicit instances, such as the dehumanising language used by right wing xenophobes in Europe of immigrants, but also in the internalised dehumanisation imbedded in structural racism and sexism. And there’s also the fact that nature and all the other species have, because they’re literally “non-human”, no way to be visible to the justice system as a victim of a crime. Underneath all this is a logic where defining something or someone as less human justifies discrimination and abuse.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

There seems to be an enormous amount of research and thoughtful selection behind the work. How did you select which particular historical case illustrated a specific chapter? Why did you chose Rwanda to typify Disgust for example? etc.

We weren’t interested in cataloguing all the atrocities in history that had been justified by dehumanisation, but in examining the rhetoric devices and the reasoning and motives that connect these actions. So while doing research on concrete cases, we started to think of key words that open up a specific viewpoint to the phenomenon of this boundary making: using someone or -thing as resource, referring them to something disgusting, creating physical or emotional distance between “them” and “us” and so on. Rwanda, the Holocaust or the horrible history of colonised Congo are well documented, but once you start to look into how and where the human – animal boundary is constructed, you see that the boundary making is present in seemingly innocent details, like the guidelines of scientific research, in how we talk about the body and female body in particular, or in the key ideas of western philosophy. its not something that happens somewhere there, or to someone else. We wanted to bring in this complexity.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

I was particularly moved by the story of the female members of the Red Guards that were imprisoned after the Finnish Civil War. Is their history well known in Finland? The reason why i’m asking that is that i’m Belgian and when i was at school, we were never told about the atrocities committed by Belgium in Congo. I learnt about it much later, while studying in another country. This has changed of course (to a certain extent) and i think children learn about it at school now, but the awakening is actually quite recent. Also i was discussing with a Swedish artist recently and she told me that most Swedish people actually do not know much about the discrimination the Sami people face in Sweden and possibly in other countries too. Do you feel that most nations tend to try and cover up all the terrible and cruel acts they committed in the past?
And do you think it would still be possible to bury atrocities nowadays, in this age of surveillance and over sharing?

The history of the civil war is still very much silenced in Finland, just as is the atrocities towards Sámi people and their culture. There is a lot of work to be done. It seems that the mechanism of dehumanisation is at play in nation making itself, where unwanted and negative characteristics are projected on anyone that is desired to be kept out of the nation. Perhaps that’s the reason why it’s always easier for a nation to see and acknowledge other histories than its own.

In terms of whether it’s possible to bury atrocities – what’s central is that once this boundary has been established, it’s possible to perform these atrocities in plain sight. They become invisible to the collective moral code that forbids them, and in ways that are immune to surveillance. And that happens all the time. Once someone or -thing is collectively defined as “animal”, anything can be done to it.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

What i find remarkable about the work is that the historical documents you selected sometimes echo so well current situations and opinions. In fact, while reading some of the quotes, i assumed that they were all from decades ago but the dates underneath each quote revealed that some of the most appalling ones were actually found in forum discussions or politician declarations of recent years. Do you see hope in the way we treat each other?

There is something very effectively violent in the culture that we live in, and something that enables ‘othering’ and looking at violence from a distance. The technologies we live with are definitely a product of that culture, and we are a product of it. You can go to the most liberal leftist bubble and see how, even there, people use dehumanising and violent language online. So it’s something that is in us, not out there, and the only hope there is is that we are committed to being self reflective and cultivating solidarity and empathy, and acting against these mechanisms.

The information you share is laid out in a rather neutral way. The way you selected each theme and document is not neutral of course but you leave every document speak for itself. What do you hope people will get from visiting the exhibition or reading the catalogue? Is it about informing them? About inviting them to pause and take a critical look at their own prejudices? Or did you have other objectives in mind?

We decided very early on that we would only include archival material, and reference everything very well. In that way it is not only information, it’s also evidence. This way it becomes a memorial museum, where these things have been put on show, to remind us of a past we don’t want to return. What we’d like the viewer to take with them is an understanding of how fast things can move from words to action.

We’d also hope that it would be a way for people to see that human rights violations and environmental or animal rights issues are not competing struggles, but born out of the same roots. Environmental destruction and factory farming is killing our planet, and it’s happening in plain sight just because this boundary has been so well established.

It’s good to remind here that an important part of the project is programming, which is built by local practitioners and for local audiences. The programming is all about proposing bridges to a more sustainable coexistence. We had lot of programming, a vegan cafe and a book shop in Helsinki, and we will be having that in our Italy exhibit too. In Momentum we will be working with local guest guides and environmental protection activists, and organise a seminar later in the fall. So the project is not only looking back, but it really is a platform for looking forward too.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

The installation i saw at Momentum9 is quite stunning, it’s hard not to be drawn into it. How do you turn a research process or catalogue into an installation like this? Which kind of artistic decisions did you take in order to translate a catalogue into a piece of visual art?

We knew it would be encyclopaedic from the beginning, and that it would be a memorial museum. You just have to work with the material and start to organise it and trust that pieces will fall into place. The amount of research material we had was enormous, so working through the structure and making sure all the details, foot notes, references were correct was a big part of the work. When we came to the idea of building the whole thing with video and sound it felt right, because it’s so immaterial, but also because it makes a kind of symphonic approach possible. It’s extremely important to have the viewers open up emotionally to the realities behind the stories and not just the cold data.

The text on the webpage of The History of Cattle states that “The exhibition is suitable for scientific, pedagogical or art context.” Would you say that this statement can also be applied to The Museum of Nonhumanity as well?

Since we are appropriating the form of a museum, it makes sense to think of it from the point of view of pedagogy also. We had a specifically tailored outreach program for high schools and upper classes in Helsinki. That said, it’s clearly an art project, built to make you think, not to give you easy answers. But I guess our approach is that art can be pedagogical, and it doesn’t mean that it would be didactic.

Thanks Terike and Laura!

Check out The Museum of Nonhumanity at Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu. The exhibitions remain open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017
The Museum of Nonhumanity is also open in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy for the Santarcangelo Festival.

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition” and MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction.

MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition”.


Trollkrem, Deep Down Below, 2017. Official opening of the exhibition. Photo by Ingeborg Øien Thorsland


Jone Kvie, Untitled (Carrier), 2006

Accelerated technological, ecological and social shifts have created a world we feel we can’t control nor even fully comprehend. This sense of estrangement seems to be inescapable, it is embedded into processes and entities that we encounter into most aspects of our everyday life. The latest edition of MOMENTUM, the Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art that opened a few days ago in Moss, explores this new sense of alienation and invites the visitors to look at it under a more receptive, even sympathetic gaze.

With alienation as its theme M9 will present diverse and conflicted ways of experiencing, explaining and imagining the world anew. Alienation represents a potential to expand the horizons of our current lives, to think and act progressively and usher in change. Thus M9 wants to welcome the alien, also the alien in us, without preconceptions of familiar and foreign. It wants to welcome the alien as a challenge to the present as well as a promise of better, extraordinary futures.

Several of the most interesting works are based on extensive research so each of them will get its full post and interview in the coming days.

Today, i’m going to mention a series of artworks that propel us into a decidedly parallel universe. A universe characterized by biological organisms that bypass human interventions and form new alliances with synthetic trash, by desks that perform obscure tasks, or by ancient civilizations that speak to us across time. Some of these works will remain science-fiction. Others, however, might not.

John Duncan, The Nazca Transmissions #2, 2005

“On Christmas Eve, 2004, John Duncan received a mysterious email from an archaeologist working at the site of the Nazca Lines in Peru. He claimed to have discovered, and over time recorded, a variety of sounds actually generated by the enigmatic lines themselves.” The enigmatic archaeologist, who called himself Anton Düder, asked Duncan if he’d be interested to use the files to compose new sound works.

Duncan created a 5-track piece with the material and sent it to the mysterious archaeologist. He never heard back from him. The musician claims that a hard disk crash erased all trace of the email correspondence between them.

The artist’s composition is broadcast inside an old museum theater in downtown Moss. It’s an uncanny experience. I doubt anyone believes Duncan’s story but what is certain is that the tracks are eerie, they left me slightly on edge, distressed and unsure the sounds were not playing with my brain. Which is a bit upsetting but also a sure sign that the artist has found his own way to translate the mystery of the ancient geoglyphs into equally perplexing auditory effects.


Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, 2017. Photo By Istvan Virag


Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, 2017. Photo By Istvan Virag

We are drowning in plastic. I read yesterday that the amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Today there isn’t a single cubic meter of sea water that is free of plastic particles. The situation is particularly dramatic in the central North Pacific Ocean where the famous Trash Vortex has been accumulating an obscene mass of plastic pollution as big as Texas since the 1980s. Pinar Yoldas, however, sees a possible redemption for this plastic garbage.

The project she exhibits at MOMENTUM, Ecosystem of Excess, explores the life forms, part organic-part synthetic, that might evolve from this dispiriting plastic monstrosity. The seeds have already been planted: plastic in the ocean is already decomposing into tiny pieces (the so-called mermaid tears) and sea creature eat it instead of plankton; or else it’s the algae on drifting plastic waste that gives off a sulfur compound which smells similar to the krill many marine birds feed on, etc.

Taking her cue from a species of bacteria that eats PET, Yoldas imagines that one day, however, other living things will be able to metabolize and thrive on plastic, forming a post-human ecosystem that merges nature and culture.

An Ecosystem of Excess is born at the intersection of ecological and feminist thinking; hence it negates the utilitarian, anthropomorphic approach which disregards the intrinsic value of any life forms regardless of its use value to human subjects. Therefore an ‘Umwelt’ for every single organism in the ecosystem is generated as a first step to the speculative design process.

For more details about the work, have a look at the video of the talk she gave about the work at Aksioma back in 2014.


H.R. GIGER, Chair for Giger Bar Tokyo, 1991-96. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy H.R. Giger Estate


H.R. GIGER, Harkonnen-Capo chair, 1983. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy H.R. Giger Estate


H.R. GIGER. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy H.R. Giger Estate

The name of Hans Ruedi Giger will always be associated with one of movie history’s most iconic creatures, Alien but he also applied his ‘biomechanical’ Alien style to furniture and decorative objects.

One of the chairs exhibited at Momentum was originally intended as a Harkonnen throne for an abandoned Dune film project. Others came from a short-lived Giger bar that opened in Tokyo in the late 1980s.


Levi Van Veluw, Workspace II, 2016. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy Galerie Ron Mandos


Levi Van Veluw, A Grid with Purpose, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy Galerie Ron Mandos


Levi Van Veluw, Workspace II, 2016. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy Galerie Ron Mandos

I was much more attracted to Van Veluw’s vision of sci-fi furniture piece. His desk, however, is far from inviting. Angular, dark, full of geometrical little alcoves containing unknown minerals, it points to a future ruled by supreme bureaucracy, aloof, all-knowing and intractable.


Rana Hamadeh, The Big Board or ‘And Before It Falls It Is Only Reasonable To Enjoy Life A Little’, 2013. Photo by Istvan Virag


Rana Hamadeh, The Big Board or ‘And Before It Falls It Is Only Reasonable To Enjoy Life A Little’, 2013. Photo by Istvan Virag


Rana Hamadeh, The Big Board or ‘And Before It Falls It Is Only Reasonable To Enjoy Life A Little’, 2013. Photo by Istvan Virag

Rana Hamadeh‘s The Big Board evokes a war-room map, it weaves together uncanny figures such as Paulus Fürst’s 1656 engraving of Doctor Schnabel of Rome, tokens from far-flung places and stories of hygiene and quarantine. The work is part of Alien Encounters, a larger project that looks at the notion of ‘alienness’, where the alien is seen both as an extraterrestrial but also an outcast with regard to the law which leaves him or her at the mercy of state-sponsored forms of violence.


Patrick Jackson, Pig Paradise, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Patrick Jackson, Pig Paradise, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Patrick Jackson, Pig Paradise, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Patrick Jackson, Pig Paradise, 2017

Patrick Jackson photographed portions of 1 kilometer long mural surrounding the Farmer John’s Meat Packing Plant in Vernon, California. The work portrays happy pigs and humans frolicking gaily in the countryside.

The mural makes an appearance in Brian De Palma’s movie Carrie. Which is quite appropriate if you think that this is in fact a pork-processing plant and that the animals brought there don’t enjoy the cheerful fate of their painted cousins.

Gathered under the title Pig Paradise, shot in black and white and shown under the impassive light of a gallery space, Patrick Jackson’s photos are completely estranged from their original and distasteful context.

Can we fantasize a future in which people realize that eating pigs, those smart and scorned sentient beings, is no less revolting than eating dogs? Or would that be too alienating?

More images from the show:


Ragnar Þórisson, Untitled, 2015


Serina Erfjord, Among Stars, 2009-2004. Photo by Istvan Virag


Wael Shawky, The Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012. Photo by Istvan Virag


Sonja Baümel, Being Encounter, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Johannes Heldén, New New Hampshire, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Búi Adalsteinsson, Posters. Photo by Istvan Virag


Rolf Nowotny, Ravaged House, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Jone Kvie, Untitled (Carrier), 2006. Photo by Istvan Virag


Jenna Sutela, Sporulating paragraph, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, is curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu. The exhibitions remain open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition”.

MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition”


MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter Group, Honeybee hives monitoring in the Synthetic Apiary Environment. Image: Markus Kayser, Sunanda Sharma and Jorge Duro


Jenna Sutela, Let’s Play: Life, 2015-2017. Opening of Momentum 9. Photo: Ingeborg Øien Thorsland

Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, opened a few days ago in Moss, Norway. Its focus is Alienation, a pertinent theme for a time characterized by deep social and economic inequalities, new forms of rabid colonialism, atmospheric turmoil, transhumanism, closing borders and relentless questioning of democracy.


Trailer for Momentum 9

As Momentum 9 demonstrates, alienation is a daunting condition but it also provides us with an opportunity to reevaluate our long-established values and dogmas. If our world is being changed beyond recognition, then maybe we should engage directly with the alien, embrace its many challenges and start envisioning a ‘differently humane’ future.

All of the above means that there is a lot to unpack, discover and mull over in Moss. I’ve got notes, photos, research materials and ongoing interviews all over my laptop so i’ll definitely get back to you with more stories. In the meantime, here’s a first group of artworks that explore ongoing ecological and human alienation:


Jussi Kivi, Moon Woods, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Jussi Kivi’s Moon Woods is very familiar but also strangely alien. It is both a piece of sublime Northern landscape and a formidable scene that suggest night creatures, secrets and danger.

The work is shown inside a completely dark room. You need to tentatively make your way across the space and allow your eyes to adjust before you can see the work. The forest is shown behind a glass window, suggesting perhaps a fragile fragment of nature, one that mankind might not have spoilt yet. A relic enshrined in a museum display that clinically abstracts it from a context probably made of highways, mining industry, toxic liquids seeping into the ground and polluted rivers.

With this work, Kivi explores the concept of solastalgia (a portmanteau of the words ‘solace’ and ‘nostalgia’), a new form of distress caused by environmental change close to your home.


The Moss Meteorite (Impact 10;20 A. M., 14 July 2006)


The Moss Meteorite (Impact 10;20 A. M., 14 July 2006)


The Moss Meteorite (Impact 10;20 A. M., 14 July 2006). Opening of Momentum 9. Photo: Ingeborg Øien Thorsland

Right in the middle of the list of participating artists is ‘Meteorite.’ And Meteorite, it turns out, is not a pop band or a performance group as i had expected but a real piece of meteorite fallen on the area in 2006. This particular fragment of the Moss Meteorite, a loan from the Natural History Museum in Oslo, is a rare specimen of Carbonaceous chondrites, a class of outer space debris which makes for less than 5% of all meteorite falls. This rubble from the cosmos deserves a place in the biennial because it comes with a chunk of a rooftop isolation material that had melted when the fireball fragment hit a house in Moss. Unassuming and as black as a Malevich black square, the object perfectly encapsulates a concrete encounter between the man-made world and the extra-terrestrial one.


Búi Adalsteinsson, Insect bar

Anyone eager to travel long distance and experience first-hand this extra-terrestrial world might end up snacking their way to Planet Mars with a pile of Búi Adalsteinsson‘s insect bars.


Búi Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014. Photo by Istvan Virag


Búi Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014. Photo by Istvan Virag


Búi Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014. Photo by Istvan Virag

A few years ago, the designer started looking into the possibility of creating self-sustainable food systems that would use insects as their main component and feed our overpopulated world. He believes that insects can provide us with a nutritious and -crucially- very sustainable source of food if only we would let go of prejudices and knee-jerk reactions to the idea of consuming larvae and creepy-crawlies.

Insects might indeed look terribly unappetizing but no one has ever accused them of producing too much greenhouse gas.

We were offered some very crunchy and very delicious insect bars during the press view and we also got to see Adalsteinsson’s Fly Factory, a piece of furniture that might grace our kitchen in the future. This breeding tank was designed so that it uses leftovers and produces no waste.

Check out this very entertaining and informative talk Adalsteinsson gave in 2015 to try and convince the audience that eating insects makes perfect sense.


The Mediated Matter Group, Synthetic Apiary, 2016. Photo: Istvan Virag. Courtesy The Mediated Matter Group


The Mediated Matter Group, Synthetic Apiary, 2016

The Mediated Matter’s Synthetic Apiary provides an artificial perpetual spring environment in which seasonal honeybees can live and work year-round. The designers hope that by controlling precisely the bee environment, we will have a better understanding of their fabrication capabilities and health.

The long-term goal is to integrate biology into a new kind of architectural environment, and thereby the city, for the benefit of humans and eusocial organisms.

This is certainly a praiseworthy aspiration. Beekeepers and scientists are registering massive decline in bees worldwide. The suggested causes for the crisis include climate change, pollution, loss of habitat, pesticides, stress due to transportation to multiple locations for providing pollination services, malnutrition, etc. Or a toxic combination of several factors. The situation is alarming because a third of the food we eat depends on pollinators -especially bees- for a successful harvest. Which means that the decline of bees and other pollinating insects might compromise biodiversity and agricultural yields.

Minute 2:33 in the video documents the first birth in a synthetic environment: the only life this bee knows is of an existence in the Synthetic Apiary,” says the project page.

This Synthetic Apiary made me feel deeply uncomfortable. I can’t help but feel sad at the idea that these bees are living in an entirely manufactured environment, feeding on artificial nectar and artificial pollen, experiencing only a bright white world with a few humans who come to monitor their health at regular intervals. Besides, i’m always suspicious of solutions that consist in throwing artificial habitats, unyielding control and even more technology at environmental problems.

On the other hand, the project makes for lovely photos:


Honeybee hive installation and monitoring in the Synthetic Apiary environment. Image: The Mediated Matter Group


Stathis Tsemberlidis, Transmutations of Human Bodies and Flora, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Stathis Tsemberlidis, Transmutations of Human Bodies, Drawing, 2015. Courtesy the artist

With his Transmutations of Human Bodies and Flora drawings, Stathis Tsemberlidis explores transmutations of the human body and how it can be modified by floral and fungal growths to the point of becoming a grotesque, yet highly seducing, new hybrid entity.


A performance by Trollkrem at Alby Beach

Trollkrem treated us to a performance in relation to Deep Down Below, the work they are showing in the Momentum Kunsthall. They kindly offered to paint our faces in unnatural shades and served whale steak as part of the ‘refreshments.’

I’m going to mention briefly Patricia Piccinini’s Atlas sculpture. Everyone i talked to during the press trip loved it. As for me, I’d rather eat one of Aðalsteinsson’s larvae pâtés than spend 2 minutes in the company of her creepy creatures. But i know i’m in a minority here. Hence the photo:


Patricia Piccinini, Atlas, 2012. Photo by Istvan Virag. Courtesy the artist

I need to add that i really REALLY liked Moss. Not so much the city center. It is basically one street with a few shops that make a pathetic attempt at distracting you from the spectacularly beautiful surroundings: the wooden houses, the landscape, the sea, etc. Bonus! It’s a mere one hour drive from Oslo.

Here’s some random photos i took while i was there:

Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, is curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu. The exhibitions remain open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017