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“Alien”: anticipation of a potential future at the Moss biennial

Contemporary Art | The ninth edition of the nordic Momentum Biennial, which takes place in the city of Moss in Norway, explores the notion of Alienation through the technological, ecological and social transformations that result from our hyperconnected digital age. In latin, the word Alienus refers to what is external to oneself, although philosophically it can also be interpreted as the sense of dispossession experienced by an individual when he or she no longer has control over his or her surroundings. Moss is situated at the heart of the Fjords’ immensity, surrounded by green forests and freshwater streams, 100km north from Oslo. This charming environment contrasts with the biennial’s topic, which explores different interpretations of the paradigmatic shift in human identity to raise awareness on the issue and find solutions.

Bui Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014 © Courtesy the artist, Photo by Istvan Virag
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Bui Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014
© Courtesy the artist, Photo by Istvan Virag

The 2017 Biennial brings to the table an in-depth reflection on the components of alienation through the works and projects of thirty-two international artists. The event was conceived by five curators from different Scandinavian countries : Swedish Ulrika Flink, Finnish Ilari Laamanen, Danish Jacob Lillemose, Norwegian Gunhild Mœ and Icelandic Jón B.K. Ransu.

A series of science-fictional visions composed by mutant and alienated bodies weave a narrative that unfolds through the exhibition sites, the parks and the enchanting traditional Norwegian houses. In this context, Olga Bergmann & Anna Ballin redefine the notion of grotesque, creating an interval in time where the future meets the past, a fictional genealogy : different-sized mutant figures with large ears seem to have escaped from an archaeological site dug in the park, in order to invade the biennial’s installations.
Cyberspace, Susanne Ussing & Carsten Hoff’s Danish design workshop, examines the transforming human body through the exhibition of suspended biophormic sculptures; while Patricia Piccinini introduces a cyborg, a hybrid between flesh and machinery. Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Giger - the creator of the extraterrestrial character in Ridley Scott’s emblematic film Alien, in 1979 - conceived a set of “biometallic” chairs representing the skeletons of hybrid creatures.

Olga Bergmann & Anna Hallin, Missing Time (2017), Mixed media © Courtesy of the artists, Photo by Istvan Virag
Olga Bergmann & Anna Hallin, Missing Time (2017), Mixed media
© Courtesy of the artists, Photo by Istvan Virag

Genetic mutations were another key issue examined by artists interested in science and science-fiction through diverse “artwork-experiences” that focused on human survival. Within this framework Búi Aðalsteinsson’s created Fly Factory, a cabinet/laboratory/kitchen that recreates an ideal environment for breeding insect larvae for human consumption in the form of pâté. The film Synthetic Apiary, produced by the Mediated Matter group from Cambridge, presented an artificial space that simulates a perpetual spring environment, feeding bees with synthetic pollen in order to avoid their massive decline. In her work Ecosystem of Excess, Turkish artist Pinar Yoldas conceived an installation composed of aquariums and laboratory tubes; she anticipated, on a reduced scale, the impact of pollution on living beings by imagining organisms that would be capable of digesting a variety of microscopic plastics from trash waste.

Another group of artists exhibiting at the Biennial have worked on hidden knowledge and microscopic life. Linda Persson’s film And Then We Ran Away (2017) focuses on the opal mines of the Great Victoria Desert in Australia, land of the Won Gâthâ tribe. Through multiple interviews with Aboriginal women, the artist reveals the existence of a microscopic bacteria that has lived into the soil for millennia and has recently re-emerged as a consequence of human intervention, causing the disruption and pollution of the tribe’s land. Sonja Bäumel’s installation explores the microbiological struggles that take place in the human body and reflects on the cœxistence of foreign bodies. Finally, Kjersti Vetterstad’s film reveals a primordial vortex, a physico-chemical mix in permanent motion…

The artists’ premonitory visions redefine the “human of the future” around an imagined identity half way between artificial and natural components : a physical structure in perpetual transformation whose survival would ultimately depend on the power of living organisms.

Jeanette Zwingenberger
Publié le 11/09/2017
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Bui Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014 © Courtesy the artist, Photo by Istvan Virag Olga Bergmann & Anna Hallin, Missing Time (2017), Mixed media © Courtesy of the artists, Photo by Istvan Virag Susanne Ussing & Carsten Hoff, Atelier Cyberspace, 1968-1970 © Courtesy of the artists and the National Gallery of Denmark
Photo by Istvan Virag / Courtesy Carsten Hoff Patricia Piccinini, Atlas, 2012 © Photo by Istvan Virag, Courtesy the artist H.R. Giger, Chairs for Giger Bar Tokyo, (1991–96) © Photo by Istvan Virag, Courtesy H.R. Giger Estate Mediated Matter, Synthetic Apiary / Video, 3:28 min © Photo: Istvan Virag / Courtesy The Mediated Matter Group Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, (2017) / Installation © Courtesy of the artist / Photo By Istvan Virag Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, (2017) / Installation © Courtesy of the artist / Photo By Istvan Virag Linda Persson, ‘It was like experiencing a fold in time, she said’ (2017) / Installation, moving images, animation, sculpture, opal, textile print, sand, glass and clay © Photo by Istvan Virag, Courtesy the artist Sonja Baumel, Being Encounter, (2017) / Installation © Courtesy of the artist / Photo by Istvan Virag Kjersti Vetterstad, No Maps for these Territories (2012) © Courtesy of the artist / Photo by Istvan Virag

Bui Adalsteinsson, Fly Factory, 2014
© Courtesy the artist, Photo by Istvan Virag

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