Noplace, Oslo proudly presents:
07.12.18 – 23.12.18
Opening: Friday 07.12.18, 20:00 – 23:00
Opening hours 14–17, Saturdays and Sundays
The Gothic armour suit would cover the entire body. It was constructed in "lames" or strips of metal which overlapped, somewhat like the shingles on a roof. These laminations were often used in the collar, shoulder, and abdominal areas to facilitate movement. Forged in the embers of Germany and Italy between 1420-1440 such ”White armour” emblematized the perfection of a craft which had developed in Europe since the beginning of the feudal era. Wearing this type of suit a knight could feel truly invincible, perhaps immortal even, as he would wade across the battlefield intoxicated by delusions of untouchability.
In line with this many military scholars would agree that the primary function of any armour is to make its wearer feel invulnerable. Such a sense of invulnerability allows a wearer to access his or her heroic self. The price to be paid lies, in the case of the Gothic armour, in impaired senses, restricted mobility, insensitivity and an increased risk of premature fatigue; battle exhaustion.
While often complemented with a helmet and a flak vest, most modern combat suits are designed in camouflage patterns. These uniforms allow their wearers to use all their senses and at the same time they help them to blend into their surroundings and disappear from sight. This is of course a natural response to the development of fire arms but it is also a striking analogue to a general social response imposed upon as today as we interact on increasingly complex battlefields of discourses and ideologies.
A hypothetical connection between military and critical theory is not far fetched. There is an ongoing dialogue between critical studies and strategic planning. One example might be how the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, which understands our world as one consisting of plateaus and planes of existence, has been put to use by military forces across the world in urban environments. A revolutionary, anti-oedipal, philosophical project has been appropriated by the very forces it attempts to overthrow.
Contemporary soldiers no longer move on linear battlefields. They move in three dimensional spaces inside building complexes, from apartment to apartment, sometimes hidden for periods of months before suddenly emerging where they are the least expected. It seems these military units are mainly interested in spaces. The battlefield is the middleground, the space between the armour and the body, the area between the fortifications and the combatants.
Our understanding of this world as an arena of interactions between ideologies and power structures has been supplemented with a new wave of materialism as we are facing a major climate change. How do we redefine space today, given a reality of rising temperatures? The human condition is not shaped by language and social interaction alone but also by physical manifestations, phenomena in nature as well as man made constructions. In the words of Bruno Latour; artefacts want something with us. They shape us and condition us to do their bidding, much like the armour suit of yore which not only protected the knight but also demanded a certain behaviour from him. It was shaping the universe for its host, like a parasite.
Another theorist who has been very occupied with the relationship between bodies and space is Judith Butler. In The performative theory of assembly she invites us to consider the many ways in which bodies manifest politically in public space. She understands the middleground as the space of possibilities, a space nonetheless defined by those bodies surrounding it. It appears as if any analysis of the middleground must take architecture, bodies and other manifestations of material, nature even, as its starting point.
This understanding touches upon why craft, the personal investment of work, has rekindled our interest. A renewed fascination for the interaction between body, material and time rings very true, and urgent, in a decade where our concepts of effectiveness and development are being questioned, not to mention our dedication to critical theory. For isn't our call for criticality rooted in a conviction that development is beneficial? And doesn't our desire for development justify exploitation?
The desire to return to craft is but one of the very sincere and emotional responses to dilemmas we are faced with in this so-called paradigm of The Anthropocene. It is logical that we return to an interest in the interaction between our bodies and materia in an age where the effects of human traces on the environment (the biosphere and the atmosphere as well as the soil itself) can be felt upon our very bodies. The interaction between body and material is being elevated and given purpose through the investment of time and through the utilization of silent knowledge embedded in the physical memory of our artists.
As we move through Torgersen's Crowd our bodies position themselves among memories and desires embedded in her material. Hard, shell-like, casts in bronze and tin has been shaped by her interaction with them. They hang in midspace, at approximately the same height as the body parts which were used to shape them, inviting us to try them out, to interact with their history and their presence. Below them cushions of clay suggests another form of interaction.
The relationship between softer and harder materials in a world of middlespaces and interactions provides us with an opportunity to explore different experiences of time in relationship to material. In her work with clay Torgersen has returned to ancient knowledge as clay sculptures depend upon a history of professionalism and craft developed over time. The bronze casts brought Torgersen to explore the ceramic shell technique where sand and water is brushed on a wax form in different layers before the wax is allowed to melt away, leaving the sand as the cast. It would seem these two different methods provide Torgersen with different experiences of intimacy.
It is her own body which has served as model. When we move through her crowd of sculptures we interact with traces from this body and find ourselves in a logic of masks, suggesting a return to an understanding connected with the the use of such masks within performances of Greek tragedy during ancient times, or perhaps with the symbolic nature of Greek statues in the temples of Zeus and Apollon. In an animistic/polytheistic world materia carries its own essence and this essence transforms when bodies interact with it.
Is it possible to create spaces between bodies and objects in a way similar to that between human bodies alone? The question is political as well as existential. Whilst clay may be shaped by hands; the material provides the artist with a direct access to its substance, bronze casting must be handled quite different. When the work is finished its substance offers protection at the prize of activity but we still need to become active in order to interact. The mask of the actor comes alive as a third entity, this third being the sum of the actor and the mask itself, precisely because of the deadness of the original mask and the liveness of that which was before the mask was being put on, a human.
Thus armours and shells, which we may enter and position ourselves within, define how we stand and move but also how we live. They shape our bodies and our interactions and they protect and discipline us. As exoskeletons they influence language and the execution of language, especially that of the body, when we try to move across the battlefield of ideologies. Political activity is movement, not stillness, and materia is not process, not in a political sense, until the mask is put over the face and the actor disappears.