Momentum 12, “Together as to gather”

Novuyo Moyo

July 12, 2023
Galleri F 15, Moss
June 10–October 8, 2023

The twelfth edition of Momentum, held on Jeløya island in the coastal town of Moss, is an experiment in non-hierarchical models for curating biennials, with Tenthaus at the helm. As part of its open, participatory process with an emphasis on local contexts, members of the collective invited an artist or collective each and worked in reverse from there to find points of intersection and connecting threads between the participants.

Most of the works are contained in Gallery F 15’s main space, a few spilling out onto the farm grounds outside. Inside, the educational platform and art collective Gudskul—formed of the three Jakarta-based collectives Grafis Huru Hara, ruangrupa, and Serrum—have expanded on the collaborative vision of the curators with Stitching Ecosystems: GUDHAUS (all works 2023). The “work” functions as a space where visitors are invited to engage in knowledge-sharing and communal processes. It’s also a semi-archive of the collective’s interventions and projects driven by these same notions. Outside, an extension of a project staged also in ruangrupa’s Documenta 15, Stitching Ecosystems: Gudkitchen-Tentskul, was only partially activated at the opening as the kitchen wasn’t yet functional. Placed for now under a banner by Nayara Leite that reads “I AM GLAD WE ARE PLURAL,” Gudskul’s mobile karaoke kept spirits high.

Like Gudskul’s projects, Stephanie Lüning’s works merge spectacle with participation as an artistic medium. Collectivity Painting # I & II drew an audience of mostly young children who gathered around a large white square of paper on a knee-level plinth upon which they could cast ice cubes colored with natural dyes made from local waste. With the steady summer heat, the cubes would melt into amorphous pastel blobs until almost every surface was colored: an exploration and centering of the painting process over the outcome. The added component of shared authorship with the viewers parallels the curatorial methodology of collaboration, gathering, and sharing spaces. Using rainwater and water waste collected locally, Lüning made and released billowing clouds of dyed foam from the barn for her other work Island of Foam - Version # XXV / Coloured Barn. Both works, through the use of waste materials, test methods of reuse and recycling, lessening the damaging environmental impact in art production.

Continuing this engagement with sustainability, albeit indirectly, was female collective WET’s contribution of three works—Hop out spot, Wetcation, and Wetget—that document their members’ month-long journey from the Czech Republic to Norway, using unconventional modes such as bypassing payment for public transport, hitchhiking, and taking freight trains. The installation consists of a darkened room, lit with bars of neon, that was decked out in material found by the water close by (which accounted for a strong smell of seaweed) that resembles the makeshift habitations the group would have used for shelter along the way. A zine and a 24-minute video share images, stories, and footage from the journey, expanding on the collective’s ideas around itinerancy and giving a space to reflect on how we travel as well as the ecological implications of the biennial, which relies heavily on the movement of people and artworks.

Fotobook DUMMIES Day, formed of artists Lin Junye and Liy Chao-tze, filled the shelves of Galleri F 15’s library with photobooks and other self-published projects from Taiwan and Southeast Asia. The work’s title Bread and Butter Workshop asks about the desire to own photobooks, contrasting it with the necessity of sustenance. While reflecting on the art world’s hierarchy of values, the workshop was also an opportunity to learn and will evolve into a workshop for editing and self-publishing.

In common with these and other notable works in the show, which use play and experimentation as modes of production, the curators also relied on circumstance, resulting in the varied constellation of works that make important statements about critical issues such as collectivity, sustainability, and precocity. With all experiments, though, unexpected outcomes must be anticipated. The connections between the works were not always clear: some of these links felt like more of an afterthought while other works, like Germain Ngoma’s Forest and Margrethe Iren Pettersen and Line Solberg Dolmen’s Conversations with what runs deep, felt so at pains to reference locality that they lost some of their impact. The decision to curate in reverse––selecting artists and then finding the ideas that might connect them—was always going to be a risk. But it proves to be one worth taking, and playing with: by making space for connections beyond those anyone might have conceived or predicted, the show provided a generative environment in and from which we can continue rethinking the biennial and other exhibition models. Though the method of “polyphonic co-authorship” did not guarantee harmony in this instance, it is an admirable attempt to upend the traditional model (usually amplifying a singular voice) and give room and platform to many others.

Biennials, Video Art, Mass Media & Entertainment, Curating

Novuyo Moyo is assistant editor of e-flux Criticism.

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