Category Archives: Moss

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.

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