Research Fellow Jesper Alvær (2013 — 2016)
Oslo National Academy of the Arts / Fine Art
Norwegian Artistic Research Programm

Subsession 1-2-3 London, 15-16 September 2016 (transcript)

Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

I: Just checking the sound to see if it works, but of course it’s mostly your voice that we’ll be hearing, so what’s good for my good may not be particular good for yours. (6)
T: Just leave this here. (10) Do I need some notes and stuff like that?
I: No, you don’t need any of that at all. I mean, just one point – I know we’re both starting and not starting at the same time, but just about the camera, which is, for sub-session one, I shall be just saying the screen, and basically you’ll be talking, and then obviously in sub-session two, there’s more of a give and take, so you just need to decide whether you want to stay with your decision to focus the camera just on me for both sub-sessions, but whatever you do is fine by me – I don’t mind one way or the other, but just bear in mind the difference between the two sub-sessions.
T: Yeah. (9) Yeah, we might change it later.
I: Okay, fine, whichever you like. I don’t mind, I’m easy either way.
Okay, let’s start then. We’ve got, Pru’s probably coming back at about 1:15, 1:30, and we’ll probably have lunch then, but hopefully we will have completed sub-session one by then, and if not, we’ll just have to interrupt it, but that’s the way it’s structured.
So let’s start. Well, as you know, you’re researching the professional experiences of art makers and art audiences, so in a minute I’m going to ask you to tell me the story of your life, since the moment that you think of yourself as having first become interested in art, the story of all those events and experiences that were important for you personally until now. I’ll listen first, I won’t interrupt. I’ll just take some notes, in case I have any questions for after you’ve finished telling me about it all. Begin where you like, and take the time you need. You may have heard this before. So we start.
Can you please tell me the story of your life, since the moment that you think of yourself as having first become interested in art? – all those events and experiences that were important for you personally, from that first moment until now? (6)
T: Yes. I think my interest in art, when I look back, it’s been much longer since, back to childhood, has been this fascination for drawing (2) but then it was more drawing and not art at the time. I was always having this attraction to drawing, and I could see what was a good drawing for me and what was not a good drawing, what was … so that, was a distance between that and something else, and later, while finishing school and keeping an interest in drawing, if I could elect that in school, I would do that, and form and colours. I would slowly start to draw as an adult again, after a break, a bit just for fun and there was an attraction, and, er (2) during my years after high school, I was travelling a bit, and thinking, what could be a good profession for me. I could see people around me choosing their professions and so at that time, it was more, okay, it should probably not be this, or not that, and I would like to do something with my hands, something manual, was kind of an idea at some time.
I was going into, after coming back to Oslo, I went to a special course for figure theatre, and making (2) dolls for a theatre. It was in relation to the Olympic Games’ cultural programme in 1993 and ’94, so I started to work with a theatre group who was doing this six months’ training to build the things, and growing into quite a good collaboration with these people, and also doing actors’ training at the time. They were coming from a free theatre group, and it was maybe the first adult experience of being very close, or being part of an artistic process, so this kept my attraction.
At the same time, I also maintained a growing interest for visual art, but had some stimulation with this group in Norway, and then I was, after this programme finished, because they came from France, these people, and I decided to move to Paris by myself, so I just took my things and moved to Paris, and at that point I had paint in the bag, because I had visited one friend in St Petersburg, so I bought cheap Russian oil paint, so it was the first decision to try the, kind of idea of being an artist, or work as an artist … (4) which lasted a few months, from the money I’d saved up, and then it was a question to stay in Paris, or (4) find some other place, or go back to Oslo maybe, so I decided to stay in Paris.
I found a job in a restaurant and I worked there in the kitchen, or cleaning the tables like a bus boy, and during this six months, I met again the people now in France, so this theatre director, he came to Paris from Cantalle (? 6:39), where he was based, and they invited me to continue to come and work with them in their group, like a small group in the village of Joudeman (? 6:45).
So shortly after, I moved to Paris to Poumenaque (? 6:52), which were the village where I found the place to live, and then we had the daily work, I was joining the group, so-called actors’ training, which was maybe a handful of people. It was the director, his wife, and there were several parallel processes going on, but we were basically building a performance piece, or building a theatre piece. Also on the side, we were doing a theatre piece for children, for which I did the sonography, and so it was an important change, I think, moving from Paris to the big city, then the dream of the romantic artist into the village, and being on a daily basis, working, and serving also, different creations taking place … (2) which was one good thing, when I look back, was that I was not particularly interested in being an actor, so it made it also an easy, quite stimulating position for me to join, but it was not about fulfilling my dream or having big ambitions, but it’s really taking part and observing at the same time, being in a situation for one-and-a-half years, and we came to a point where we should decide how to continue, if I should stay for a new, two-year kind of project, which I felt now, it’s also for personal reasons within the group. It’s quite a small dynamic, so I decided to go for a professional art education with an art academy.
So I quit the group, said I would like to pursue my own studies and specialise in this, and I moved to Montpellier, and started at pre-school, to build a portfolio, and to learn different techniques to show that you’re able to also, in terms of art history and to make it possible to study in one of the Grandes Écoles, in the big schools there, in Paris or in Europe, or in the US, was the plan. (3)
So with that, I started to draw on a daily basis. I found t-shirts, so I could maintain the process, and as time went by, the semesters, I was applying, and I was (3) going to examination entrance in Paris and in Oslo, and I also, since the theatre group was, (2) the director, Tim Dalton, had spent twenty years in Poland, so a lot of the theatre language and material we worked in came from central Europe, or the periphery of Greece, or like this Europe which is not necessarily west Europe, so with that, I also had an interest in studying in maybe other places, and Oslo, London and New York, which would be the, Berlin maybe, which would be the typical choices, so applied for schools in Prague and (?? 10:11) and Warsaw, and London and New York.
In the end, I was having a choice between Parsons School in New York, and Goldsmiths in London, and the school in Prague, and somehow at the time I felt that Prague is maybe the most interesting place to be. It also felt like less of an enterprise, plus the other schools were very much about funding, so even if there exists some support regional students studying in schools where you have to pay, they have this support, so I thought Prague is good, and I decided for Prague, and moved to Prague by the next autumn. (4)
I: Ignore me – carry on, I am listening, so you went to Prague.
T: So I remember, in a way, feeling a bit belated, with starting my university higher level studies. I was 24 at the time, and I’d been travelling a lot, and doing lots of other things, it felt like, so it was a good focus, and I came there, basically … (3) without any family or girlfriends, so I was quite, without knowing anyone there. It was quite a good position to stay and to start study, and I was interested in doing the long and academic roads at the time. I was interested in drawing, and enjoyed a lot this craft aspect of the education, which I thought I’d find in central Europe, which means evening drawings, so we can stay, continuing this process which I had been going on. (2) I was in a print making studio, enjoying making woodcuts, and so after two years, it became clear that there was a more conceptual side to my practice, which also I had to give room. It was a necessary development, also seeing what’s going on, and meeting, it was about my understanding of art resonating in the school context, but also in the European context, because in Prague, I was still a student, and to Vienna and to Berlin, so I was continuously travelling to see what’s going on, and mapping out, orienting myself in the contemporary art world … (3) and also maintaining some contacts in Oslo, which worked in the art, some of them in France, and so I had some kind of input from different places, (4) and I applied for an exchange after two years, to New York (6), which was maybe a big change in terms of how the school operates, what’s expected from the student, but also these aspects of the famous art world institutions, the big name teachers and so I was quite enjoying this. I was surviving by working as an assistant for an artist, a bit older, called Joshua Mostyn(? 13:55), and living in his loft, a loft on Canal Street, by paying with, working four hours a day, and doing quite, I had to learn how to build a model, so it was quite also a stimulating job in terms of (4) learning experience, and later I was mixing colour for a painter called Jeff Koons, together with a whole lot of other artists, which was also a way of learning to know some aspects of the art world there. (8)
I was returning to Prague (7) and (6) I was doing some kind of self-programming in Prague, so I could, I remember I was travelling to China, taking the train and bringing a video camera, so that was somehow a change from (4) working in the studio, to bringing the camera, and to be, more bringing the studio with you in the form of a camera, and making recordings, which was not (4), just not very … (2) like you have a script, and then you go, and you execute that script, but it was being around, and more like hunting, to look for a moment, and then to be aware of that. (3)
So, to continue to challenge myself a bit, I was applying for a one-year residency, which I integrated into a school in Japan, so I had one year in a very different context again, which was also very much a contemporary art context (4) and … (8) at the Prague school was a good formal framework, but I felt that there is not so much more to extract from there, so I can be there a student, and I can do my degree, but I think it was very important to find ways to propose what you can build in, and then it would be accepted, and then I did it last year, a new media studio, which somehow was a formal way to come back and to finish my final degree. (2)
So what had happened to the practice, in these last few years, was that I became more interested in (2) maybe working with people, or making, importing art on a social environment, or being in a social environment, and (5) something which was a trend a bit at the time as well, like you would have relational art in the late Nineties, the beginning of 2000s, so I felt that was close to what interested me. (13)
For example, we would discover a Vietnamese city in the city, like in the suburbs of Prague, and invited to Prague biennial, proposed to do a collaboration with some people in this kind of ghetto, or self-made community, which was partly closed because it was this wholesale market, but they would have schools, travel agents, even a gallery and a painter running the gallery. It was open for collaboration, so we did a kind of guided tour, going to see this village, but since these people are mostly from north Vietnam, and Vietnamese communities close to the Embassy, and it’s formal … (3) then we invited, or I wrote to artists in Hanoi, to, explaining that I’m preparing this exhibition or this concept in the Prague Vietnamese community, and wanting them to send some films, which they did, and when they were bringing the audience to this village, we went to the gallery, the Vietnamese galleries, and then screening a few short films, and then having lunch in this place. There were kind of 50 restaurants in this area as well. We were always finding a nice place to eat, what we recognised as real Vietnamese food, which was different than the Chinksy buffet, or Chinese buffet, which was kind of Vietnamese running some kind of mix, not so good food in different places in the city, so that already had the title, like a collective, non-hereditary memory, so it was about more a cultural approach, and providing an experience for the audience, of course seeing the artworks from this … but the whole framework was more like the artwork than the particular, one film. It was more, where you take people, what you tell them, what you show them, and then you bring them back. (6)
Then, just doing another project of a similar kind, which, so during, what I’ve been explaining now, there’s been a lot of exhibition activities. I was taking under the wings for some Prague-based artists, which I studied, while they finished the school, and they invited me to be part of a group exhibition, or somehow recognised that it’s interesting what this guy’s doing, so that was how I was included, and so there were lots of activities, which is kind of a parallel round to the school, so we could do that, of course, but it was … so by (2), so some of the project grew in size, so when I was invited, based on this, that I explained, from this Vietnamese community project, we were invited, or some curators came from Poland, and they said, well, that’s very interesting, because Vietnam was part of Indochine, and you had this gallery there, which is very inspired by the BOZAR and the oil paintings, so they saw lots of these connections, which I thought could be interesting to bring … so they asked if I would like to propose something for their (?? 21:21)-based programme, was related to the enlargement of the European Union in 2005, ’06, or something like that, so with that, I proposed to take a tour around the European Union, which meant travelling to Gibraltar or to Morocco, and then North Africa, the Middle East, and then up through Georgia, to basically go around the European Union, as this new territory, to see on the outer rim, and this was just before, I mean, in those, set time (? 22:00) of the year, there was already a lot of media focus on people jumping the fences, and people trying to jump, but it was just before the spring, and before this massive, it was a precursor at the time, so with that project, it was very difficult to make any art from it, because you can just take the car, and you don’t need even to apply for a visa, you just take the ferry to the Spanish … and you drive in, and there were lots of privileges, and you see this kind of one-way … so driving through the north of Africa, with a car, which looks like a minibus, like a small van, met loads of people, and for the next exhibition, which was based on this journey and this proposal, we invited five people to come to Grymov, which is the second city in the Czech Republic, to stay during the time of the exhibition, so we were preparing an exhibition in the National Gallery in Grymov, so we used the (4) National Gallery, which is a state, first the Czech Slovak, and then the Czech institution, to issue a formal invitation for five random people from North Africa, to come to Grymov during the time of the exhibition, for four or five weeks, or three or four weeks, as an open invitation, while we, with the exhibition contacts, were looking at objects in the collection, the state, which had the same geographical North African reference points, so we received lists from different, some institutions, saying, we have this pair of shoes, we have these three photos from Libya, the solar eclipse, we have these photos from Algeria, from a pig farm – all kinds of objects, so we selected and put together an exhibition, showing, focusing, with the stories on the provenance, while having an invisible part of that exhibition, five people in the city, and the city was very collaborative, and there was a certain solidarity, or empathy with the project, so we received tickets to opera, to cinemas, the owner of hotels, getting free rooms for this … this was also just a period where you this, Islam starting on this, just a pre-spring, Arab Spring.
It was an interesting moment, and the project became more of a hospitality, because I also moved to the city, and every day we met, and had to make a programme. We proposed people to do some self-programme a bit, so that already became a project which was very difficult to bring to the audience, so there’s this difficulty to show the people how they are, that’s not possible somehow, so through the exhibition, you can somehow get information, but it was already starting to be this, how you distribute information, and what’s a visible part of the artistic practice, and what’s necessary maybe, a visible part of (3) the project, and of course, that’s maybe someone would think then, the exhibition and the provenance has a very historical interest, if you know about the history and the continuous history, while others may be look at the work, the experience of these people who by chance were invited to come, and didn’t even want to travel, but were convinced to travel, that spend weeks in a different country, what kind of experience would that be, so then you would have to project, use a certain empathy, put yourself in their shoes, what kind of experience is that, and what kind of aesthetic experience is going on, or what kind of art are we talking about here, I guess. (5)
So these were projects which were also difficult, local, to get recognised, but of course, the exhibition was recognised, and this kind of more, the hosting situation was a little bit, maybe new in this context, and it went quite well. There were some incidents, but it’s already, with these projects, it became clear that there’s elements of site specificity …
I: Site specificity, yeah.
T: That if an institution, with a national calibre, invites you, you could start to work with that, so a few years after this, the National Gallery in Prague were giving, they were putting up a big international show, and they asked if we, and I’m talking about my partner, Isabella Guisella (? 27:27), which, we worked together on many of these bigger things, they asked if we would put up a show in the National Gallery, or take part in this triennial, and the National Gallery in Prague, at the time had a very bad reputation for not allowing a new generation of curators and people coming in, so that mirroring also the national state-funded galleries, so we decided to do a kind of research on the 28 different regional, including Prague institutions, all over the Czech Republic, and to travel there and to meet directors, and to ask what they think about what they’re doing basically, what their challenge is, what’s their vision, how they work with the collection, they have a collection as well, so it was quite a new terrain at the time, mostly belonging to art historians or these research people, so we did interviews, and after several months, maybe four or five months, we have completed all the interviews, travelled by car to all the different places, and we were listening to it, and felt that maybe, from those 28, only three or four was interesting at all, so we thought what to do with this material, because along the process of working, you keep the outcome open, so it’s important just to walk, and to work, so we thought this is interesting. There’s such a, another place in Europe, there’s such a discourse on the museums and the art and the institutional kind of … so we thought, maybe it’s interesting, since nobody of these people have any interest or knowledge about this discourse, to bring that into the National Gallery, so what we decided to do is to find, to select texts from different canons or different, from the Sixties, different texts on institutional critique, with a lot of famous people, which is already a niche in the contemporary art, which at the time was very popular and well-used, so this is interesting to bring to the Czech Republic, and we can bring it now through this publication, with all the interviews, but we will swap the real interviews with re-written texts from all these famous theorists and artists in writing about this.
So we did this, and doctored carefully all the text. We had the National Gallery translation department translate, without knowing that they actually did translate, so it was quite a big operation, and then we had it published, and designed nicely, and had it distributed. We had 5,000 copies, distribution for free, and expecting that now people are going to be surprised. The institutional leaders are going to be maybe angry, because we didn’t explain them, like that, would never work, so that was again, I think, an example of, that you have to keep some information not distributed, because you will never get agreement, and they wouldn’t think it’s funny, so it was kind of a subversive, risky, unethical maybe, way of presenting these directors through very radical, but very interesting, texts.
So we also included a black wall, to receive all the complaints, and so that people could understand that this is, that they can have a voice at least back to defend themselves. So of course, a lot of these places and these texts, I don’t think I can go into that, but there’s a lot of internal references, and the director in Prague, he got this role from another famous theorist, and they talked about the exhibition as a publication, so it was somehow, we had a publication, so it worked well for those who are already interested, and it worked well also for those who never heard (?? 32:03).
It was kind of unusual, in my context, in Prague, to have this kind of long-term projects which looks like something, and it’s not really the object itself maybe, which, in this case it’s a publication, but it’s the whole framework, and building up and releasing this which was interesting, artistic-wise. It was well received by all the researchers and art historians, and it wasn’t very clear, if it’s a joke, or if it’s falsified, so two years after, we did erratum on this publication, because we had a thousand copies left, and then we wrote exactly what had happened, why we did what we did, and now, what’s been the reactions, and we made an archive also, so we included all the initial, original interviews, which were sound recordings. (8)
So these are examples of long, maybe half-year, one year, and the years go by, and there’s smaller things going on in different places, and in 2009 I was invited to do a one-year professorship, together with a colleague, in Grymov, so going for the first time in this sense, to work in an institution with art education, which is very (3) relevant in institutional thinking and producing within, or in relation to art institutions. (5)
So I was working with a Czech colleague in Grymov one year, which was, we did also some experimental pedagogical project we felt was missing, and we invited other people outside the class, and former students, and a lot of professors, the theorists, and we did a project in Boneluca (? 34:16), which was later presented in Prague, and the way we basically worked with the group is that we used the metaphor of a film, and we all wrote small scripts, small chapters, and then we circulated those chapters among the group, and you could change the other people’s chapters, so we created a certain collective authorship, and then we went to Boneluca, because two students were from this area, and we filmed, or we did these kind of scenarios, so it was kind of recipes for short films. For example, you’ll find a person, and change your shoes with that person, or washing the clothes in the river – quite simple things, but in these kind of post-war complicated situations, a lot of these projects got kind of, (?? 35:18), so it’s some kind of … (4) for example, I was changing my shoes in the bar with a guy, and this kind of act of changing the shoes was kind of emotional, it became, and he cried, and so it was tapping into maybe in this instant, some kind of, more than just funny, you find someone and you change shoes. (6)
So being (2), being many years away from Oslo, I started to think it would be good to be closer to my own language, and closer to my brother and sister and parents, so I was starting to look for possibilities to go to Oslo, but I didn’t want to go without having a job, or any assets. (4) So I applied for one job, I didn’t get that, and then I applied in the Academy of Fine Art for a job as a study co-ordinator for the Master programme in fine art, which I got, and I worked there two years, and it was straight into a central institution in Oslo, which I knew few people, but it was very well paid. It was a lot of close distance from what you decide together with others, to execute that, so it was a very dynamic and rich experience; also to learn and to be more nuanced than in my English or Czech environment, and it also felt good to be having a competence which was something else than what normally you would have in that institution, from the Czech context, or from the place I’ve been, so that was a very (3), like a good return, and … (8) but it took a lot of, it wasn’t so much time to do my own, to follow up on my own artistic practice, so it was supposed to be one year, and then I continued for another year, and was putting my practice into trying to build the courses as study co-ordinator. You shouldn’t, or at the time at least, you shouldn’t be teaching the students directly, but you should somehow facilitate, so also the other professors could do their teaching, so in that time, I was working more on the structures, to see if … because the students would ask for more self-organised elements, so I was helping to build up and to make aware of the budget and the power the students have, so was kind of building up a different kind of way of thinking, what the studies are about and so on, so that was, in some cases, it resulted in the study trips for smaller groups, to Beirut, or to Khartoum and Alexandria and Cairo, so it was also somehow not very far from this (3) and it could have looked like, in the project, I’d be doing it, I’d been invited to do something in the school somehow, but keeping a hand on (?? 38:47). (4)
(speaks slowly and thoughtfully) It became really clear to … (3), well, I think it was good to be … (3), I received a working grant, so I’d been somehow keeping some touch with the Norwegian art scene, and I’d been participating in shows every now and then, but it was very, er, (4) stimulating to be two years in the place I’m from, and to work from there. Then I had one year without any employment situation, where I was picking up my own work again, and also preparing (5) an application, because I met, and I saw also from my job there, that there are these research fellows, which looked like and appeared to be like a good thing also for me to do, if you want to have, in a kind of framework, institutional framework, to work on your own, work within the resources, so I was applying for that, and didn’t make it, but then I applied again, and I received a position approximately one year after I finished working there. (3)
So, at the same time, since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to enter this research fellowship in the arts, I was also applying for a school in Switzerland, and a colleague, he said it’s a very interesting school in SaasFee. It’s called the European Graduate School, and they have a PhD programme, which is very famous, and has a good name, and it’s not that expensive compared to the US, and something, he was doing his PhD there, and I was looking into it, and I found that there was this art, health and society department, and I thought that maybe that’s, because the media communication is very, say maybe, more of a theoretical, more of, they have lots of big names, more philosophy, and the art, health and society had more of a (4) practise-based educational approach, so I applied for this, and I started, it’s a kind of intense summer school, so I went there in June, not knowing if I’ll be continuing in Oslo, or what’s going to be the situation, but that was also an adult learning kind of group, and people from many parts of the world, which has the economy to pay for school, and be in this village in the Swiss mountains, but it was interesting in the pedagogical sense, being, working so much with students, to be a student in a very different, more art, like a different use of art, so they had been developing methods using art, like through the arts, so it looked more like a therapy, the therapists, and community workers, social workers, were doing these kind of courses to improve what they’re already doing, or to work more therapeutically, but using the arts, so they had this low skill, high sensitivity, and quite interesting people, old people from Lesley (? 42:39) College, in developing this from the Sixties, so it was very kind of … (4), well not that young teachers, but the teachers themselves, they’ve been in the game for a long time, so it was fascinating to be part of this (3) (?? 42:57) ways of learning by doing all the time, and then thinking, and then sitting in circles, and being challenged in a very different way, in a more spontaneous way. (13)
So, during my first summer in this Swiss village, I received a message that I was accepted in this other programme in Oslo, and (3), which was good news, because it’s well-funded, they employ you. You’re kind of, you are two years with (4), in an environment where you have supervisors, and it’s all about your work, and you develop your work, your project, so you apply with that project. (3) and my project was titled “Work, Work”, so I was interested in (6) the processes of producing art, and working as an artist, if that differs a lot with just working, and in what way does it differ, if it’s (3) in the beginning more and more, I thought there’s more and more demand on people to be creative and to invent, and to invent their own working life, and so this was kind of popular at the time, this new creative class, and this … so it looked more like the art is being caught up by the entrepreneur, basically, and those sorts of writings and theorising about that, at the time, which I thought, this would be a good project to work on. (4)
As soon as I started to work within, then you had some seminars, and you present your project, and you discuss the project, then you also map out and orient yourself, what’s the demands here? – and mostly, my process has been that you have an institutional exhibition place, so you have a deadline, and you know it’s going to show it there or there, or it’s going to be shown in this context, or it’s going to be, you have this amount of budget, and you’re going to show it there, but it has, in almost all cases been, having a destination. (3)
Here, since it’s on a national level, it’s a programme which has decisions and dancers and choreographers and teacher people, so it carries a lot of artistic disciplines. They have tried to keep the same basic structure of assessment and developing criteria from the arts to evaluate and assess, or to build research, not to adopt from the University, this is the PhD, and we’re going to do it like this, and you do your work and you write the thesis. So it’s a practice-based thing, in the making, and the Minister for Education has been quite eager to allow for, at the time when I started, ten or twelve years, building up of how you could develop this third cycle, education within the arts, on the principles of art, artistic practice, in the broad sense. (3)
So it means that you don’t need necessarily to make an exhibition in the end. Your practice must be reflected, so you need to reflect on your activities and artistic process. You need to follow up on your project, you can revise the project, but it needs to be somehow, I mean, there are some guidelines, but it’s not that you make an exhibition, and then they have an exhibition catalogue, or you write, you can, but you don’t have to, so musicians could develop something, and give you the commission on a hard disk, and say, this is the reflection. So that was quite a nice working environment, to be, also to see what happens if you take away the exhibition as a kind of obvious direction in the practice. (5)
So, (5), to do that, or to generate some material within, it was already in line with the projects, by inviting people, or working with the Vietnamese, or all the things I mentioned, it’s very often more, I work with non-professionals than it’s work with colleagues, which are also artists, for example, so maybe there’s a small collaboration, but basically it’s lots of work with people who are not familiar with the codes and the language, or contemporary art practice. (4)
So we have a certain kind of, I will say, my project, then work within the art environment, and work outside what is not recognised, so I would have, for example, projects inviting people to travel to Paris to see some artwork, and report often to reflect aesthetically, even if they have no training to do such reflections, so these are just some pointers. (3)
But having no exhibition in the end, I had to, I thought it was good to set up some working environments, which could be, maybe function as case studies later on … (9), and one example of such a case study could be to talk with people who actually went through the art education, so one example I had here, I think, the elders now which live their whole life, and then look back, how was life without living it, as you maybe you thought you were going to live it, as a young student or art student, or an artist, and since, this is the modern way of thinking, the expressive artist, individual, going through seven years, five, six, seven years of specialised education, being asked to interpret, to say it’s simple, the world, and to make your own language for how to express it. If you go through this, it’s very difficult maybe to put to the side, and never use it, so even if you work somewhere else, or do something, so there’s been a series of interviews with these elders, finding them, because they are maybe, the point was not to have famous artists, but artists who dropped out, and to talk with them, and to listen to see if there’s some patterns maybe, if you talk with several, why, what makes people, why women drop out, why not men, or what are the mechanisms, what’s the established stories they have when looking back, and it was interesting that people are, which maybe in the Fifties, they were still a bit, a very different way of looking back, as people in the Sixties or late Sixties or Seventies, so it’s also interesting, in the lifespan aspect of this. So then it became clear that the interview is important, and I became aware of interviews could be many things, and there are different ways of doing it. That’s one example.
Another example, which I think has been important in this distribution of information about maybe something you can call working openly with something, and working close with something, so you have a certain … (7) I could call it, a double ontology, that you are with some people, so this example is to employ an assistant (6), and to ask this assistant to apply as a student in the fine art programme, and the idea is to find a student which has a Bachelor, which is the criteria to enter a Master programme, but not the Bachelor which has artistic (4), so the idea was again to bring this artistic process (4) into this person, so I was finding people meeting local, people who applied unannounced for artistic assistance, then we met, and I was explaining to people that the job is to apply now, before 1st February, to become a student, and then you have to apply in your name, and I will give you the portfolio, and you just sign it, that’s yours, and you just have to like, what could be, from your life and could be interesting to work on, how we rewrite the application, and your project and so on, and then to follow this. So we were meeting regularly, entering the institution, and then they are coming into a place where, but many people didn’t want the job, because they thought it’s too weird, or it’s too much of a falsehood to do it without saying it, or some people, one girl, she said, (he emphasises) “Yeah, it’s really interesting – I’ll just apply myself. I don’t need you!” (he laughs)
I: (he laughs)
T: But I managed to find two to go for it, and … yeah, so I mean, it’s been now, it’s taking very different turns than expected. It’s very hard to maintain this … (3), but for the students, it’s a few months of weird, but then they find their ways to deliver that and to do that job, but the idea was to give interpretational tasks, and say, now we can work on this, and then you say, yeah, okay, so I’ll do it like that, and then the next time we meet, I’ll ask, how’s it going with that, and they’ll say, yeah, we had tutorials, and there’s resources, and then people said, like this and this, and so, how do you feel about it now? – to give more and more interpretational like ownership to that student, so it will transfer from being my work, until you say this, and I’ve been working more than a year on this, and if you tell me to do something else, I’ll either quit, which is always an option, or I’ll do it my way, so in this delegation, the idea was to create a certain kind of autonomy, to insert a certain kind of idea of an artistic process for real, and then to see how far you can push it, and then read closely how it, what’s the relationship over time, until you say, it’s mine. I mean, that could work in different environments, but it’s a very kind of individual, inner art creative project, and it’s possible, because you yourself are part of an institution, you know the codes, you know the processes, so it was also an idea to say, okay, I’m in this programme, and I have this study leader, how can I play some projects, which somehow also will be for real, it’s for real. It’s not something … and it’s also shown that it’s a very fine balance between the information you get, what your colleagues maybe are saying to the student about … so you don’t want to be unethical within your own principles of working, so you don’t, maybe you choose, I don’t want to hear what you talked about, but if you think … so you watch your roles, so you don’t get to know too much, or so you keep a distance at least.
So this project actually was very close, and it was coming from an earlier project, which was about to become a member in all the political parties in Norway, so again you would have this situation, you’re sitting around the table, maybe even in a small group, and you’re not, well, people assume that you’re sharing the same values, and if you say no, I’m just an artist, I’m just a member of all the parties, then you’re just an artist, an outsider, but as long as you maintain (5) poker face, almost, you’re treated as a member of that community or that group, which is also a delicate balance, like when you get maybe on one-to-one with people, and say, this and that, and maybe you can sometimes explain that I’m interested also for artistic reasons, and I’m looking at volunteer work, for example.
So I found myself in more and more situations, that the work initial situation created maybe this, the topic became more and more about how does it feel to be part of this two worlds at the same time, or not be able to discuss the project with people, because as soon as you say it, people say, it’s not legal maybe, or … (5), so I realised maybe now there should be more, a bigger chapter on confidentiality, or, I mean, you have it in other fields. In the health sector, you’re quite used to that, that you know about people, you work with people, and there’s these kind of borders of what’s accessible, and what’s closed, so this is kind of new, more concrete, in these kind of specific case studies. (5)
And, erm (he hesitates) … (9), so mentioning these, during this period now, the last few years, I’ve also been doing three exhibitions, which somehow belongs to this topic, because they were part of this same conceptual environment, so one was this exhibition in Oslo, which was based on being a member of all these political parties, and going to the Christmas table, going to the different meetings, and taking part, and trying to understand what kind of people are here, and what kind of things are being discussed, and what’s also the information coming from the party to the members, and so on, which was new for me, and it was also being fifteen years outside the Norwegian context, it was a nice way to get into some environment which I would not normally go, to have this allowance from being an artistic project, that you can do it because it might be interesting, and sometimes going to interview leaders of all the parties, and so this exhibition in Oslo was based on these activities in the parties, and somehow metaphorically built upon different aspects of what it means to be together, sharing values, negotiating values, so going back to early formation of political Norway, after the exit of the union, and Sweden, how it would be a kingdom, that certain kind of aristocratic-like power to the first organisations of volunteers and civil organisations, to the first political party, to the second, and then each segment, we also want to be part of this discussion, and to see a kind of flattening of the political Norway, like step by step, so that was, for quite a long time, the idea to exhibit this formation of the political landscape, which still goes on, who has the right to vote and who has not (4), but that became maybe too concrete. So the exhibition was based on metaphors, different metaphors for different approaches from this experience. Also it does need to address an audience, because the public sphere is somehow the place for the public voice, and the negotiations to supposedly take place in the … but also discovering the political parties are not really as powerful as they used to be, and that there is a different system behind, which dictates a lot of political consequences we are seeing, so that’s also a certain anachronism in the whole … we’re looking back, we’re dismantling, or first aid, or something like that, kind of, pointing to that exhibition. (4)
Working from this more archive way of looking at the topic, and allowing yourself, I’ll talk about another exhibition, which was in Prague, also invited to an exhibition, so what could be interesting too there, and with these studies, which I mentioned in Switzerland earlier, I had been also continuing that for the second year, even if I was running a bit parallel on those, so I thought it could be interesting to bring some of that very experimental pedagogical framework into the gallery in Prague, and it was a good place to do it, so we built one exhibition in Prague, which had four stations, so the first station was, that you went to the gallery, and then the people working, they said, welcome. If you would like to see this exhibition, you will have to make a drawing of your hand. Here’s a pen and paper, and if you would not accept this proposal, then you will not be able to see the exhibition, so we’ll have the first part of the exhibition, people sitting and drawing their hands, and then showing the drawings to the person behind the, like a post office, like behind a separation, and if you did it very quick, just contour, and say, here it is, then you’ll be asked to try a little bit more, and the people will always make it, if they sit down ten minutes.
So handing in the drawing, you were led to the next room, which you were listening to different stories on the headphones, about three different stories, which all related to aspects of competence, so this somehow was indirectly built on those interviews with these elders, talking about what happens, how we could use that competence, for example, or running a company. Even if you don’t know anything about IT and computers, you could still have your artistic sensibility to solve problems, or something like that, work with people and so on.
So if you spent some time listening to the different stories in the second room, there was a third room, which you came in, but it doesn’t have the chair, and then we will sit on the back of that textile wall, separating the whole exhibition. They will see the person all the time, so when this person will hear that somebody’s coming in to the room, one by one, invite the person to sit down, hello, are you there? – yes, and you’d sit quite close, like we’re sitting on each half of the table, but there will be kind of a screen, we’ll just hear each other, and not see each other at all, none of the persons, and if I would sit behind working there, I would say, so how was your drawing experience, in the first room? Then you might answer, yeah, it was weird – I haven’t been drawing for a long time, or then I could ask, so what position was your hand? And then, after establishing conversation, say, could you imagine that the hand goes from the paper and comes in the room, for example? – it’s in front of you? And most people would accept this proposal, and then to spend five, ten minutes in this shared imaginary space, which would be a typical exercise from this Swiss pedagogical (4) sharing imaginary experiences, for example.
And then, thank you for this conversation. I will show you the last room, and in the last room will be just one photo, and it will be the photo of your drawing, when you showed it, together with your arm actually – I forgot to say that, you put your arm in to see if the drawing kind of corresponds. So behind that screen, the gallery would then run and change for each person, change that last image. So if you look at this exhibition, it looks more like a workshop exhibition.
I: I’m just going to blow my nose, you carry on. (6)
T: So this workshop exhibition was quite demanding, because we needed to find really good people to sit behind, so we found four, five different people, after putting out announcements, and looking through the networks we had, and, for example, one person which worked well was a child psychologist, quite a young guy, but he was very childish, so it was quite interesting to look at his notes, and to also talk with people who had been experiencing this. So if you look at it from (2), from again this art within art, and called an art environment, it’s interesting to look at, you have the audience, they are tuned in, they’re going to see some art, they have time, and you bring them, and you confuse a bit the role, who’s producing this show, because people make the drawing, and then they are again tuned in in the second room, but also prepared for the third room of it, and they produce this conversation, at least take part in it, or they initiate it, and then they see the room production somehow, so that could be interesting, if you are on one side, but again, accessible, could be for children, or groups, and it will work very differently, if you put in the refugee camp. Of course, you will have a very different experience, or invite only this kind of audience, so it’s more looking at the exhibition format as, where can we go with it, if we already have it as a kind of institution exhibition. Let’s go and see an exhibition. Is there any other potential in it, than this … (5), or you could think, what happens if we expose four people to 200 different kinds of imaginary scenarios? So you could say, this is an exhibition set up just to talk with those four people who were sitting behind the screen, and talking with all those people (3), how, a bit similar, some people say, oh, it was like a confessional aspect, so maybe that could be, or that came up when we were doing it. Actually it could be nice to talk with these people – what was their experience, after time? (5)
So maybe I will, because I have somehow established three exhibitions. Maybe I’ll say something about the last exhibition in this period, which I kind of like grouped together these three (3), and it’s just finished now in May. It was an exhibition in the modern museum in Warsaw, and I was invited to propose a project based a bit on this kind of, the people working there knew that I work a bit, it may be interesting, so I proposed to work with volunteers, so in Poland, you have a big pressure on institutions to, well, there’s not a lot of jobs, and if you want a job, you need experience, so this kind of institution, it’s popular to, people work for free, or very … so there are lots of volunteers they can use as guides and guards, and education and so on. So I was put in touch with the head of, in charge of education in the museum, and we decided to work together on this, inviting volunteers to take part in a group, and I developed, throughout the spring, like I was there four times for weekends, so it was run like a workshop, so it was in a way part of the exhibition, again like not visible and not clear, and this way of working was also like, we meet one time, and then we do something, and then we continue the next time, the next month, and then we continue next month. It looks a bit like, if you run the group therapy or something like that, but being more, again, inspired by this Swiss pedagogical way of working, and bringing that through the back door in a way, through this contemporary art context, and through these volunteers, and the people there. (4)
It’s difficult to say, yeah, it’s a waste of work, so it’s more like, you get the access, and you work with this group, and maybe the group formation is an interesting outcome, and it was the last exhibition before they will have a break and continue again, but discussing later with this head of education and the volunteers, but she’s saying then that yeah, it was very interesting, like it’s very different now, and since different people joined the group, also there’s kind of, the usual hierarchy so the usual ways of being together were somehow different during these periods of time, so it had some kind of impact, which is difficult to measure, and so it was from the beginning a group, and every time we met, it was a group conversation. Apart from discussing with this organiser, practical things, there was never any individual, I never had any individual conversations with anyone. I barely learnt the names of each, so that’s why it was interesting in the end to do an interview with each separately, so I came, like for a few days, and I met with all ten people, and asking, what’s their story, and then also discovering with, on that level, what’s the motivation for being a volunteer? – so there’s a very different, maybe when you know it, it’s more visible, but you wouldn’t get that kind of biographical or this kind of information, you wouldn’t see it like that, so those are very kind of important eye-openers, in terms of the interviewing, and also my whole idea, or assumptions about why people volunteer. There’s such a pressure on the market, yes? – those are the important factors, but it’s also a lot of personal factors which allows you to approach the volunteering. They were all very different stories, even if there’s some common … so that was, the challenge now, it’s like, how do you work on that?
I: (he laughs)
T: (7) So, I think one last thing, which could be important, which I also discussed with my supervisors, (4) is that me myself, I entered into a context which is very similar to the students going into a context, which is, well, it’s secret, so only my partner, she knows it, so I’m spending a lot of time in, let’s say, in that confidential zone, or in that anonymous, or in that (4), so also, because, with this project, it’s clear, like with the students, that if you present it now, it cannot continue, because it has this nature of, if you say what it is, then it’s over. (4) It wouldn’t be possible to continue, so I’m trying to prepare for the commission, and the committee, which will come and evaluate the work, to have them sign like each paper, to call it a confidential note or a letter, they are not allowed to talk about it. I’ll bring them into this environment of mine, and prepare them in the way that they will able to see, okay, this is what maybe is going on, now ethically I see it, or now I understand better what you mean, with this double ontology, or … so it will give a possibility for the committee to enter for a short moment, an important central methodological aspect, I think, of the work, which I think could qualify as a proof of an artistic level, right? – so the idea, you can easily meta-level things, so I think these people who are coming, they’re quite, the people I found, which I’ve been running from, so they’re established people from the field, which I expected they would get the point, without explaining too much.
So, it’s also then interesting to see, is it possible to include something which cannot be opened up, on the night? – so you have some elements which I think is worth trying to bring into the (4), into this reflection, and saying, it’s there, but I cannot talk about it, or I don’t want to open it up now, to bring in more the present volume of what’s been going on in the earlier project, which I referred to, like it was difficult not to be able to discuss it, but to see what it does, in a real time setting. (12)
I’ve written chronologically. I think what has been an important turning point, I think it makes sense to mention, has to find this, since there’s been lots of interviews, lots of conversations, all the … I was doing some teaching. It was, it’s similar to the work with the volunteers, or with the students, which was under the title, contractual relationships and after, which was based very often, you had this delegated art, it’s relational art. You have lots of projects which, it’s great, you work with us, and you work with the community, but as soon as the project or exhibition is finished, then you, I mean, it’s very easy to exploit or to sit and feel that that was just our project.
So, (4), so I found, what I want to say is that working with all these interviews, I think it has been quite interesting to see … because in this kind of art, artistic practice, it’s very hard to say, okay, this is my method, but it has been quite helpful, especially in the interviews, to go looking closer at this established, or biographical narrative interpretation. It provided a lot of quite interesting features, which I thought, this could be routes to sort out some of the material, and especially with the idea, or this blind spot/blind panel, how you bring your interpretation, or your considerations, you can bring them up, but also like, a group of people can inhabit or invest into another person’s narrative, and by doing that, I thought it was very interesting that you dissolve a bit this, I did this, or this is what I, that the “I” belongs to a kind of larger inter-subjective area, which is pointing towards something which has been an interesting element, which has been the social imaginary, and it’s, like we have all this, what’s the alternative? So of course, that’s a political or environmental, it’s been very much, we live like this, but how can we do it different, if there’s a crisis? So that’s maybe a very far-fetched point, but I think this has been an interesting inner grammar of several of these case studies done, to the way to talk with the volunteers, or the way you also go into reflection, and talking about it. (19)
Good timing! (10)
I: Anything else you’d like to add? – no rush, just, I mean, I know it’s a question of reviewing what you would like to say, and whether you said it, you want to add, or whatever. (44)
T: (He speaks slowly and reflectively) I think it’s difficult to (5), because I’ve been focusing on the projects I need to be focusing on, and reflect on (7), but it can be also interesting, I feel like, so there’s this desire to be working in the institutional context. There’s all this, there’s the motivation behind it, so I can also add that (4) of course the private, Jesper, it’s all the time on the, why we want to be part of this, what’s interesting, of working there, or … so it’s kind of (12), or why didn’t you continue there, if it’s … I mean, there’s lots of (11) ambiguity in all this, even if I feel like I’ve been talking here, and then this, and then that. It becomes partly difficult to take off this cv-ish thing, (11) and I mean, I think it could also be in a story about, like an emotional human being, what’s the (4) attraction to this (?? 1:24:21), for example? What’s the longing for sharing that process, or why this? – I don’t know, (?? 1:24:31) to add, but in general, I think that’s (5) maybe (7) what’s interesting to work, because you work, even in an institution, you work very close and very hierarchical, so it’s also, well, it’s healthier to have a focus on the art, and to, this is also (5), it could be, I think, fulfilling in many cases, to (4), when there’s more, well, all in all, I think it’s a very hard and competitive environment, which (4) also takes a lot of, well, makes you vulnerable maybe, so this, I think, has (7), which I’m missing, that’s maybe what I wanted to say. I’m missing that (4) …
I: Sorry, what are you missing?
T: Erm, (he hesitates) well, when explaining or presenting, that there is (7), in my own presentation, but in general in the environment, there is (3), there’s not so much room for (6), why are you doing it like that? – or what’s the … I’m not saying that it should be, what’s the psychology of this, or what’s your, but (8), I’m not sure if I can say it better.
I: Okay. (21) I’ll just break a brim (? 1:26:55) rule, by saying, you’re missing the explaining and presenting, and in a way it’s the, what I thought of as, (5) being able to work with a, completely overtly. I’m going to stress what I’m getting, and this isn’t, this is like post-interview, in a sense, but perhaps in another sense it isn’t, but it’s like having adopted a methodology of overt and covert activity in various sorts of ways, and whatever, whatever, and the fact that you can only really talk about it with your partner, I think that’s what you said, didn’t you?
T: Uhum.
I: Yeah, you know, and therefore, of course, when you’re doing any, either you can’t do explaining or presenting, or you have to present and explain to any particular audience in a way which is deceptive, and that’s, my feeling is that this is obviously me projecting, is that that’s quite a strain, that’s quite a strain.
T: Yeah, I think that’s very close.
I: You know, and obviously that’s what you’ve chosen to do, fine, but there is a personal cost to choosing to work like that, and the cost is that you can only explain and present to your partner, until some point where you think you can, but at the moment, while all this is going on in a hard and competitive environment, you are caught by your own methodology. Anyway, that’s my thought.
T: Yeah, that’s very close to what I’m thinking about. (10)
I: So I don’t know if you want to add anything else? You’ll remember, brim (? 1:28:58) interviews can only be closed by the interviewee, never by the interviewer.
T: (55) I think it’s okay for …yeah.
I: My one didn’t start until a bit late, which is a bit of a problem, but anyway.
Norwegian ARFP
Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

File 2: 8 min
I: Okay, so I just started this. So I was curious as to how you experienced, because obviously it’s a bit funny, because you know how it works, but what were your thoughts about sub-session one? How did you experience it? – not a sort of technical judgement about it, because there isn’t anything technical about it, but just you’re experiencing the saying, and the non-saying?
T: Well, I felt that I was going through a lot of those things I expected to talk about, and which I wanted to bring in, so I wouldn’t say I felt like an idiot, but it’s hard to get a judgmental distance, I think, but (sounding positive) I think it feels really good to get started, and we had quite (6) … (sounds a bit unsure) I haven’t been experiencing this kind of interview, in that sense.
I: You haven’t, right.
T: So I think it was also, I think it was okay. (sounding positive) It’s a good start. (9)
I: What are your nods from side to side? It sounds as though it’s an internal dialogue.
T: Yeah, but it feels like, it feels strange to drag out, and then, I did, and I that, and of course, that’s kind of not part of my work almost, so that’s unusual, so that’s, I’m thinking that’s, no, no. It’s a little bit with a camera, but it’s very difficult to put yourself in the frame, and to … so I’m doing that through talking with you. (4) (thoughtfully) Yes, I think it was quite good. It’s a lot of things, I realise this is how I said before, it’s not autopilot exactly, but it’s like my story, which I’m (4), it doesn’t surprise me so much! (he laughs)
I: (he laughs) No.
T: But it seems very hard to see it from a different point (emphatically).
I: Well, you know, in a way, what we say in BRIM (? 2:34) is, that you talk from your present perspective, and you can’t, so in that sense, the point is, your present perspective, so you look, each time you look at your (3), your past from your present perspective, it’s very similar to how you looked at it from the same perspective, I mean, it’d be very interesting that we haven’t, and I wouldn’t suggest we do this, is to sort of take some quite different state of subjectivity, much earlier – I don’t know when you were, we may come to some of that, but when you, let’s say, had a different set of preoccupations, like … no, I’d better not give you any examples, but anyway, in an earlier period you may have had a different perspective on your life. You would have done, because you would have been younger, and other things, you might have thought you were going in another direction, and then, if you’re told the story of the earlier bit, you would have seen it differently, because different things would be more salient. I mean, I think you said, well, just for an example, a deliberately trivial one, I think you said that you never thought that you would be an actor, is that right? I think that’s what you said.
T: Yeah, yeah.
I: So let’s imagine that you had thought you might be an actor, and then changed your mind, then just before you had changed your mind, if I’d said, tell me the story of your life up to the moment of deciding whether to be, go for acting or not go for acting, you would have told it differently, because it would have been a life seen from the perspective of somebody who might quite likely decide to be an actor, as opposed to somebody much later on who’s decided not to be an actor, and never wanted to be an actor, and nonetheless learnt maybe a lot from being involved with actors, but not because they wanted to be one. So as you change your state of subjectivity, which is what we talked about a bit in the five-day training, then the perspective will be different, but as you, as from now, let’s say, I don’t know what one would consider them now, and that would be an interesting question, but erm, let’s say … (speaks slowly) the experiencing of art making and art viewing, then professionally, I mean, this is not personally, but it’s like professionally, that’s where you are, and that’s what you, that’s the perspective with which you see the earlier life, of somebody who became the sort of person who’s interested in research, art making and art experiencing, so of course, each time, let’s say that period has been for the last four years, for the sake of argument, well any time in the last four years when I asked you, please tell me the story of how you came to be doing what you’re doing, it would be a similar perspective, and not the same (emphatically) but similar, and if you suddenly decide to do something quite different, like take up painting again, and forget what you’ve been doing so far, then you would have a different perspective, not just on the past, but on this current period. People say, I thought I was going to be studying art making and art experiencing forever, but now I find that, that was alright then, but now I want to do something else, and so now I am this other person. So yes, what you tends to say tends to be, I mean, the perspective from which you work is always, by definition, the present perspective that you have as a situated subjectivity, but there may be differences in details. There may be differences in details from earlier versions you might have given, let’s say, if you hadn’t got this research fellowship, you’d heard about research fellowships, and you applied twice, I think, if I am remembering right – you got the second. Well, supposing there had been no such thing as research fellowships, and supposing you’d gone on in the way you had to go on before, it might have been a different perspective. You would have done different things probably, without the research fellowship, and you would have seen things differently, because you hadn’t had a research fellowship, and there was no perspective of a research fellowship, because there weren’t any.
Sorry, I’m being a bit clumsy, but it’s, if one’s exploring how one came … the default BRIM (? 7:13) question is always, how did a person who lived their life like this, come, at the point of interview, to see their life like that, so clearly, if they’d lived a different life, they would have seen things in a different way. Sorry, that’s rather heavy weather with what you said, but it’s (6) … anyway, we shall come back to all this. (he laughs)
T: Yeah, yeah.
I: Okay, well actually, I think we’re going to have to revise the time slightly, because I haven’t quite finished my cup of tea, so let’s say we’ll meet again at three o’clock, so that’s about 35 minutes, so I’ll switch this off.
Norwegian ARFP
Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

File 3: 1 hr 28’ 16
I: Well, what the hell – I’m going to have one too. Okay, so that’s running as well. Okay, just quickly, any thoughts that you’ve had while, if you have had, any relevant thoughts over the break time, until now, about how it went, or about yourself, whatever. There may not be any at all.
T: Yeah, no, I was thinking over, and (3), yeah, I haven’t any special entries or any thoughts, but of course, I’m curious.
I: Okay, fine, right. Let’s start, then. You started off by saying that, when you were a child, you were fascinating with drawing. Do you remember any more detail about that period of being fascinated with drawing? I know it’s a long way back, but there might be.
T: (speaks slowly) Yeah, it was, for example, these kind of comic magazines. (3) It was funny, because it was, every week, it was a commercial on the backside of a cartoon about native Americans, and this kind of Wild West, which had a certain, it was drawing all the way, but then there was this academic drawing, and this image, in the (?? 1:49) of a lion, and it was clearly kind of, not entirely finished, so you could get the sense of a certain rendering going on, and it was, learn to draw kind of (?? 2:03), and that’s something I remember. It’s funny, when I’m thinking about it now, because that looked like drawing, while the whole comic wasn’t really a drawing.
I: (he laughs)
T: (sounds amused) Kind of like a comic style, yeah.
I: That’s interesting. So the comic was not drawing, and in it there was …
T: Yeah, I haven’t thought much about it, but …
I: Yeah, these are retrospective views, okay. Was this, could you remember where this happened?
T: I remember one time, we were driving from the cabin in Sweden. We have a place in (?? 2:41) some place, which we still have, and it’s about three hours, two-and-a-half hours, three hours’ drive from Oslo, so we would have these magazines in the car very often, and I remember a particular place where the car was, and where I am anchored, this kind of memory.
I: Okay. Where was the car?
T: It was just, you take off the main road, and then we have about two kilometres, so it was just below the church, just outside the local carpenter’s workshop, and there’s another house with people we never met, but just in this particular area, it’s quite a precise location.
I: Right, and do you remember anything else that happened at that location? You said the cabin, and there was a carpenter’s house by the church. Do you remember anything else that happened in your childhood, in that place?
T: No, I don’t have any idea why … (2), it’s probably, I was just looking at it, and it’s always this hill you go down, or you descend a bit, and then, yeah, but I have no other relations to that particular place.
I: Right, okay, thanks. You went on, and you said that you learnt to distinguish good and bad, good and bad drawing – I think that’s what you said. Does that ring a bell? You were making a distinction, the fascination with drawing, and then discriminating, I think you didn’t use that word, between good drawing and bad drawing?
T: Just now.
I: Back at the beginning of your sub-session one. Does that ring a bell, or not particularly?
T: Erm … (speaks thoughtfully) not particularly.
I: If you think about it now, can you think of … I mean, I was just very struck by it. I mean, it may be a much later discrimination between good and bad drawing, but you definitely said that, at some point, you learnt to distinguish good drawing from bad drawing.
T: I’m not exactly sure, but I can imagine that I had some ideas of what it means to master certain grammar of academic drawing, to know perspective, and to have a way to render the objects …
I: Would that be something that you thought then, or is this what you’re thinking now?
T: This is what I’m thinking … well, this is what I was thinking then.
I: This is what you were thinking then, so how old were you then?
T: Well, I think this is during the beginning of my studies.
I: How old are you, at the beginning of your studies?
T: Around early twenties.
I: Early twenties, okay. (5) Okay, erm, anyway, you then, you finished your school, years after high school, and you were thinking about, what would be a good profession, okay.
T: Uhum.
I: Do you remember any more detail about that moment, when you were thinking, what would be a good profession? Can you reconstruct your thinking about it? Where were you doing that thinking, or anyway, can you construct the thinking, wherever it was? (6) Take your time, because these are a long time ago, so it’s sort of difficult.
T: (is thinking) (22) I remember that, I kept that undecided, and kept it, I remember I had a period where it felt like, it was more a question of, okay, I’m not going to do that for sure, and this is also out of the question, so it was more a reductionist, to see, okay, what’s left, so it was clear also after some time, that I’m not so interested in maybe being, maybe a carpenter or this kind of manual labour.
I: It became, that you weren’t interested?
T: Yeah, that wasn’t really an option either, and … (4) I was starting to study at the university, and it was more for a general cultural luggage, than to become a historian of ideas, which was my first topic.
I: Oh, okay.
T: So (speaks slowly) … (5) after these few years of experience with erm … (5) well, I think, I was painting maybe a bit at the time, so I had maybe an idea, a very timid idea of becoming a painter, but my environment around me wasn’t really … (3) my parents were not artists in that sense, so it took quite time to get into an environment where that could be … (2) relevant, or a possible option, and it was through this work with the theatre and these people that I understood more what it could be, to choose a profession, and then it was a clear decision that now is the time to make a decision, and so I decided on this, to put a good foundation, it would be fine art, visual art.
I: Sorry, say it again?
T: (speaks firmly) So my decision was, okay, I will focus on the drawing, and I will go into an education which is going in that direction, which was then visual art, and fine art.
I: Okay. Do you, can you remember any more detail of that process in which you were thinking about alternatives, and no, you weren’t manual work, manual craft was not really possible, or whatever? – not desirable, or something? – and it sound as though you had a faint, you think, you said about a sort of faint inclination to become a painter, but your parents, it wouldn’t fit with your parents, or something, whatever. Do you remember any more detail about that sort of, that moment when you were keeping it open, and undecided? (5) Any particular image come to mind?
T: (is considering) (16) I think I was, er, I was doing some studies at university, and that was somehow giving me time to … because at the time, it was very much a question of, choosing a direction, and starting your real education, and, er (speaks slowly) … (5) I had just returned from a travel, and to south-east Asia, and I was coming back, and I was staying with a friend, and he was going to his history of art kind of studies, and it was definitely a time where I felt, I cannot do nothing. It was this kind of, social, that everybody is really kind of ambitious, and … (is thinking) (18) and, er, being a student at the university, also received a grant, so it was also enabling you, you don’t need to work, because you receive this stipendium, so you could somehow get by, and check in. (5)
But I was quite, well, I felt quite independent, because I was travelling, and I was doings lots of things which is kind of self-declared, this is what I’m doing, so … (9) … I think when I was moving to Paris, it was some kind of …
I: I’m sure, that was a big declaration of independence, or something, yes, no, sure. So, just remind me again, sorry – at university, you decided to do painting, or while you were at university, doing the studies? – what were you actually doing; sorry, what were you studying?
T: I was studying the history of ideas.
I: The history of ideas.
T: First, I did one semester, this kind of, pre-school, history of science.
I: Right, and then?
T: And then I was doing foundation, the history of ideas, but at the same time, I was involved in this, going to France, and at the time you didn’t have to be at university every week, so I was somehow going back for examinations.
I: Ah, okay, right. So … (3), I think I’ve got confused somehow. You were working in, with dolls, ’93, ’94?
T: Yeah.
I: Is that right? And this was before you went to Paris?
T: That was just before, yeah.
I: So, I’m sorry to be clumsy about this, but if you can just … (3), so you were doing your studies, and you’re also in Oslo, doing these dolls, or you’re part of a group, and I think you say, you felt part of an artistic process, or something like that or an artistic collective, something like that, and this is all before you went to Paris, is that right?
T: Yeah, partly.
I: Partly?
T: Yeah.
I: Okay. Do you remember any particular event or situation from that period, before you went to Paris?
T: Yeah. We were at Lillehammer, preparing for the Olympic Games, I mean, the cultural programme. There was a workshop with several people, and one theatre group, and we invited another theatre group, and there were some Norwegians and French, and we are having a six-month workshop. Some people were working on the colouring of textiles. Some people were working on making big masks for figure theatre, and some people were constructing some cinegraphic objects, so we were spreading out a little bit. I remember particularly working quite close with this director of this leader of this workshop, and so we were doing already some, three times a week, this actors’ training. We were doing on a daily basis production, and I also worked as a kind of assistant to this person, since I was Norwegian, and I somehow had an interest in organisational aspects. It became like a job, like a part-time job, so I was doing … so this gave me a certain insight into some working process.
I: Okay. Do you remember, was there any particular moment during that period that you remember, any particular day or event, something that happened?
T: (pauses to think) … (7) Well, I remember we were going from the location where we had our workshop, and then we were going for an important meeting, it felt like, that we were going down to meet in the city hall, to discuss with the mayor and the person in charge of the fire department, because there were different aspects which we needed to negotiate, and so I went with this director, and we were walking down the hill, quite, a winter kind of morning, and then he was … he was farting!
I: (he laughs)
T: All the way, kind of, as if it’s … and I thought it was somehow surprisingly funny! And then we had this meeting, and I saw that he now was in, so it was like half-an-hour later, or one hour later, that he was sitting at the table, and really fighting (emphasises). I was impressed to see him in this position, that he was really negotiating. So I remember, after we came back from the meeting, and then his wife was also there, and I was seeing that he was really fighting, so I told his wife that, she was also at the meeting, and I was quite interested to see, like, that I could witness that he’s been really cornered, but he’s been …
I: Fighting hard.
T: … fighting hard, and (emphatically) he was able to negotiate with all these people.
I: Heavy people.
T: So I’d seen him very different roles, which I somehow felt I understood. That’s one particular incident, I think.
I: Do you remember any more detail from that day? You said, you told his wife – how did that go, the telling of his wife, what you were trying to tell, how did she react? What was going on there?
T: Yeah, I think she was proud, that he had a good resume, and that we managed to get through with what we needed, and it was kind of a successful, I think, meeting, and … (he thinks) … (8) also I had written a letter in Norwegian to these people in advance, because there had been some misunderstanding about the use of that square that day, so it was very specific times in Norway, because a lot of resources and the image of Norway was somehow very powerful in preparing the Winter Olympics, which is kind of the main thing.
I: Sure.
T: So it was quite interesting to see this level of negotiation with the Olympic Committee, and I think I had made some points quite clear, like that it’s not possible to have this kiosk continuing during the day, and so we had to go into their kind of plans to take out this for at least that day, and so on, and maybe the tone, which, that was being said, I remember they had some comments, like so, so you’re not afraid to, or something like this.
I: You’re not afraid to say what needs to be done?
T: Yeah, something like that, in a way which was kind of … (5)
I: Anything else around that? Perhaps your experience of yourself, in that day, or afterwards?
T: I think, I quite enjoyed this period in general, and … (6) I remember, it was easy to take on responsibility somehow.
I: The situation was easy, or you were easy, or both?
T: Well, I understood, I think, the situation, so I could also be a responsible person in different aspects of production, or preparing … (7) which was maybe different, in an artistic context, because I had many jobs before, which, I took on responsibility, but it was more on a different kind of job.
I: A different arena.
T: Yeah.
I: Hmm. (20) And then at some point, you decided to move to Paris on your own. Can you remember how that decision to move to Paris on your own was reached? What was the situation? Do you remember how all that happened?
T: (pauses for thought) (20) Well, it was, I had been to Paris before, maybe four or five years before, just on Interrail kind of travel, and I’d enjoyed the city, and thought it could be interesting to spend a longer time there, and since I was not bound in any other work, and I had saved up a little bit of money from this work, in Lillehammer, I thought, and since my parents were working in the industry of travel, so we had this kind of, I still had the address, so I could get the very cheap tickets, so it wasn’t really a big economic feat to get to Paris, and I remember I was packing my bag, and I was bringing paint and some money, and I had also this, it was a little bit like a sense of burning bridges behind … I should start for real, or start from scratch, a bit like that. (Is thinking) (8) .. And … (4) I didn’t have any place to live, and so I was finding a cheap, like hostel, kind of, and I was spending time going to look for, so it was before the internet, so I was spending time going to different places where you can find a billboard, for example, or you’d be looking for an au pair, or a room for rent, or stuff like that, so after two weeks, I found a place, I rented a place, and still had a little bit of money. (7)
I: Okay, so you said you lived for a few months on your savings, and then you sort of decided to stay, it wasn’t clear, you stayed in Paris and worked in a restaurant, is that right?
T: Uhum.
I: What were the decisions that you didn’t take? – I presume you’d come to the end of your savings or something, or very close, so you said, well either I stay in Paris and work at the restaurant, or – what was the or?
T: The or was to go to Norway, I guess, and to find a job.
I: Right, so do you remember why you said no to the returning to Norway option? Do you remember where you made that decision? Did you have a sense of a place where you made that decision? – or came to that decision, after thinking a lot?
T: (pauses for thought) (5) Well, it probably came over a shorter period of time, because I remember, I was making some painting, postcards, and I was like trying to sell it on the street, which was quite, well, I didn’t make any money, but people were showing a little bit of interest, at least I remember some people, and then it wasn’t surprising that, if you don’t have money, then you have to figure out a way to get money, but I didn’t speak French, so I wasn’t sure if I could find a job, or how to solve it. (speaks slowly) (4) So, erm … I (2), it wasn’t like, oh, no, I’m going to stay. It was clear from the beginning, when I left, that I’ll try to stay. (4) Then, I was walking around, asking in different restaurants, if they needed help or something like that.
I: Okay, so in that sense, it wasn’t quite a decision to stay, because you’d already made an earlier decision?
T: Yeah, I think the way I explained it was, the alternative would be not to say, and then it would be easy to go back, but I think this … it was a little bit also, this romantic, you’ll find a way, and you’ll do it by yourself.
I: Did you ever talk any of this over with anybody? – like, at this particular period? Did you have conversations with partners, or were you just talking to yourself in your head?
T: Yeah, I think it was more with myself. I was sharing a flat with a philosophy student from Austria, so I would talk with him every now and then, and saying how I was trying to find a job, and he was like, good luck! – but not really discussing it? I had some friends, we were writing letters, some old friends, and explaining how is it, but it felt quite obvious that I had to find a solution on the spot there.
I: Okay. And then you talked about, you met the theatre director from the Comtale (? 27:33), or you re-met, I’m not sure, you met again?
T: We met again, yeah.
I: Can you just, do you remember that moment when you met him again?
T: Oh, I remember the day (firmly), and I remember what we did, and the reason he came and so on, but I don’t remember the first, no. I was working in this Chicago Pizza Pie Factory on Montparnasse, and he was coming to see the (?? 27:59) Boys’ retrospective in the Centre Pompidou, and then we met, and I proposed we can go to one of these restaurants I’m working, which had, like there are four or five in Paris, because I had 50% (he laughs)
I: (he also laughs)
T: He thought, okay, that’s a good idea, and then … I think, I didn’t go and see the show at that time, but then he said, this is not so good for you, or something like this. He said, you should rather, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but somehow he said, you consider, if you want, come work with us in Auvergne, so I was thinking about that, and then I remember I wrote later on, or it wasn’t immediately. It was like, maybe a month or two later, I said, I’ll come, and … (3) so I had my things packed, and I am finishing in Paris, and I went down there.
I: Right, okay, hmm. Was it a difficult decision, to go down there? Do you remember your thinking about that decision?
T: Erm … (speaks slowly) I knew the quality of what to expect. I did have kind of, I didn’t work out so well with his wife, so it was … but his wife’s sister, I had a good relation to, and I knew the family, and I thought that was almost an honour to be asked, because it was quite nice of her to come there, and they said we can find in France, a certain contract, which will be quite low paid, but we can pay you a little bit, and we’ll find you a place to stay, so it was maybe a surprise even, that he would offer it, because he would have people applying to come, and to work and live there, and … (4) yeah, (sounding positive) it was a, maybe confirmation that there had been some kind of touching points in this relationship from Norway, and that now, for real, if I want I can come, and I can work for real, not in the Olympic kind of cultural context, but what we are really doing, so it was quite a, well, for me, it wasn’t a big decision, because it was much better than what was my situation, so I could go there, and it would be different. It was very good in terms of being in Paris for six months, to work, and with an open landscape, and I remember that was perfect, and … (6) yeah, and I was joining in the same way, people coming from other places to join us during the group on that kind of daily work, and learning French also, by being in this environment. So the decision itself was an opening, and a processional kind of continuation.
I: An opportunity not to be missed.
T: Yeah, but I would never, for example, apply to this programme, so that was more difficult, but somehow I was taking the opportunity, exactly.
I: Right, okay. You did that for a year-and-a-half, you say, I think, something like that, and then you could have re-contracted for two new years, and you decided not to do that. Do you remember how you came to decide not to do that?
T: Yes (firmly). It was the process, and erm … (6) I didn’t get well along with his wife. She was, I don’t know, we didn’t feel, it didn’t feel right.
I: It didn’t work.
T: And erm (speaks slowly) … (6) and then I also felt that I can recognise how this director is working, and how he is … using his competence, or using his er … (2) way of being an artist, and I thought, rather than to follow, then I’d rather have that gravity point, or that centre point in myself, so I thought I’d rather go to school, and build up something, not like him, but something which will be equivalent to that at least, that it needs to be built in a different way, what I’m looking for. I’d have to stay another year, two years, and it’s not ideal, a very small environment. So that was maybe a better answer for the first kind of professional decision. That was very close to knowing, without deciding.
I: Right, that you do want to do something like that, but not his way, and not by staying with him, okay.
T: Yeah.
I: (7) There’s something, I can’t read my own notes here unfortunately, something about, did you do exams in Paris and Oslo? – that doesn’t seem quite right.
T: Yes, because when you apply to these more important schools, there is a lot of people who want to be a student, and then you compete, so what is common is to apply for several locations, so then it’s likely that one of them will work out. So I applied in Paris in two schools, in the (?? 34:30), so it’s two kind of art and craft and fine art, and then I applied in Oslo, and then I applied in London and New York, and Moscow (? 34:31) and Warsaw and Prague.
I: Right, then you chose Prague?
T: Yeah.
I: How did you … can you say a bit more about how you came to choose Prague? – because some people might say, well actually, it’s not as prestigious as these other places? Do you remember yourself, at that time, making that decision?
T: Yeah, I received letters from all the locations, and both from Parsons and Goldsmiths. They were very professionalised, very enterprise … and then the one from Prague, well, I had been in Prague for the London and New York, I had sent a portfolio by post, and didn’t spent time there, but in Prague, I did spend time in Paris, in the (?? 35:40) I spent time, and in Oslo I spent some time, but in Prague, I had quite a nice, it’s a beautiful place, next to the park. The buildings are a hundred years old, and it was the time, obviously Václav Havel had become President. It was this kind of …
I: Ah, a buzzy moment!
T: … post Iron Wall.
I: Yeah, post-independence.
T: Yeah, and it fitted well, the reason I applied in Prague was, in the first place, this kind of sensitivity of the central and east Europe, more than before, and it was a public school, and I thought that, okay, it’s very old-fashioned probably, but that’s good if I want to study, and I can do it very, step by step. I’m not in a hurry to make modern art or contemporary art, so I thought it is good, now that I can build up from, I was not in a hurry, but I was very focused, and then I thought London and New York, they’ll always be there, so I can always go there later on, but I think now in Prague, this is a good moment. It was, I was surprised, I liked the city. I was there a week, for this kind of entrance examination. I walked around a lot. People took very well care of me. I met people from faculty. It was somehow a series of quite good luck, I stayed with some other artists who were in Prague. Naturally, it was easy to choose, I felt.
I: Okay. And you did different sorts of things, particularly, you say, print work?
T: Yeah, I started in the print making department, because that was, like a known thing, that if you applied for print making, then it’s maybe easier to get accepted, because at least, some institutions, if you go for painting, then your painting should be very mature, and the print making could be easier access, so I wasn’t, well I did print making, and I worked with a teacher, so it was interesting, all the techniques and all that. It was interesting, because I didn’t apply to this particular professor, so there were two print making institutions or departments in that school in Prague, so during the entrance examination, there were these two different professors coming and looking, and I didn’t know who they are.
I: (he chuckles)
T: So this, where I was placed, and accepted, was the Graphics Studio 2, which is very experimental, of course, so more, using print making for other projects, or for thinking more than the traditional … but still very, I mean, the first two years, you have the programme for drawing, and so it’s common for all the first two years to do some kind of foundation, or forum, or something like that. So I was doing, yeah, I had a girlfriend at that time in Norway, which I (?? 39:09) met, while starting in Prague, and a lot of the prints I was making were somehow related to these emotions. So it was a difficult and long-distance … so that was an important tool to ….
I: Express the feelings?
T: Yeah, and to keep working on it, and combining school work, and all these other things.
I: Okay, and then, you said after two years, you felt more the need for developing the conceptual side or something?
T: (he pauses) (5) Yes.
I: Can you remember the moment when you sort of thought, this isn’t quite what I need now – I need something more conceptual, so how did that thought come into your head?
T: (he thinks) (14) Well, besides doing all these drawings, and all these foundational things after the book, and the interests of drawing, I was in the prints, working more abstract, and … (4) for me, it was very concrete (with emphasis), it was kind of covert!
I: (he laughs)
T: It wasn’t like a dubbed language or something, so it’s clear that there’s some expression, or some … but it’s not directly in text, and I remember, we had, looking at these things, from outside, it was quite abstract.
I: What, the tutor?
T: Yeah, the tutor …
I: The tutor came, and … yeah.
T: … with his professor, and they were looking at the works, and saying, for example, or completely saying, so, how would this look like if you would take a camera, and go and take photographs, so that was kind of, a push …
I: A little nudge, yes.
T: … to, erm, think that over, because a lot of attendance in the studio was to provide an ideal image, or inner spiritual … which I couldn’t combine with a certain need to be more realistic, or not figuratively realistic, but realistic in terms of what kind of art can do, or what I can do in art. So it was a kind of, also … (5), the whole school initially is, it’s conceptual or formal – that’s kind of the first divide, so it was already, you could see everywhere, there was a lot of conceptual work in the ways of thinking of sculpture or painting, or installations. So conceptual art was there all the time, for example in drawing, and evening drawing, I would move from drawing the object, and the model, to draw the space in between me and the model, so to chop up the area, and to mould the negative form. It already, it was conceptual, but still doing the equivalent grammar of … yeah.
I: Configurative, yes.
T: So that became very, a good opening, that you could solve it, that kind of thing, and then I was getting a camera, and I think with that, I had a photo camera, but I was getting a video camera, and I think with my travel to Siberia and to China, it was the first kind of intense shift from, in terms of artistic production to a more conceptual and metaphorical, or different thinking about what’s happening in the frame.
I: Right, okay. (13) And then, I’m not quite sure when the “then” is, but you applied for exchange to New York. What did that do to your art, or how did you experience that in relationship to your own sort of professional development?
T: (he considers) (11) I was quite enthusiastic, to be going. Obviously you have to apply internally, and I was quite surprised that they offered to me, who was somehow, I was a full-time student, but I wasn’t really a Czech (? 44:43), but I think it was not so many people who understood that it might be more interesting. At the time, it was a new programme, so I signed up, and I travelled there and signed in. It was a very different system, because in Prague, you would have like this one professor, and he was here five years, so six years with that, but in this Cooper Union, it was already only a Bachelor school, so I was not finished when I’m a Bachelor, but you could feel that these are a bit longer, people, and it’s a free school, one of the few in the US, or in New York, so in that sense, it was very, a good place, and I’d been several times to New York before, so it wasn’t this first meeting with the city. (Sounds impressed) I was studying and signing in courses with very famous professors which I knew, and they are renowned. I was surprised to see how they are in a teaching situation, and also that some of the students, they didn’t know, who are this person, a world-famous artist from Germany who emigrated, so it was quite, changing my orientation of what’s the reality … and I had some Czech friends who lived in New York, so I was quickly connected, so it wasn’t this solitude sense. I stayed with some friends in the beginning, then I got this job as an assistant, and then I met lots of people in the school, especially (?? 46:21), an exchange student from Tel Aviv, and it went very quick, and you had to work in a different way, you didn’t disclose, you had to deliver this. It was more of a school. I saw a lot of art, and I continued to work with video, and … (10) I can remember a few projects I was doing, if you want to hear? (he chuckles)
I: Right.
T: Because I was doing, it was still this, bringing the camera, and then not scripting, but so, on the roof, from the loft where I was staying, and the nice view, to lots of different houses, or their apartments, so when I came home in the evening, very often I would go upon the roof, and I would just do these kind of voyeuristic films …
I: (he laughs) – yeah!
T: …. that I would film in the evening, through windows, and for people, long distance, and there was one thing I remember from there, where I would position the camera towards the sky, in the night, and then I would wait for the moon to pass by, so I would find a way to perfectly have the moon just passing by the …
I: Oh right, passing across.
T: … so it would be this moment of eclipse, and then it would be for maybe a minute or two, like totally white, just the moon slowly passing, so it would be abstract, and then it would be this kind of … so I quite enjoyed what I was doing there. There’s a prison outside …
I: There was what, sorry?
T: A prison, called Rikers Island, so I was doing some video there on the bridge, because there’s a bus going from Queens. You can go there with people working there, and visiting people, so you can go there, and then I was doing some videos with this bridge, which people liked, so it was filmed about the voluntary movement, and this, who cannot move, and so less film, so it was also, you can watch it for a certain while, and then it doesn’t make sense, you can leave, so that was kind of trying to kind of … and that was how I described it in the … so looking for ways, the audience could relate to the work, by leaving, and not seeing it any more, so it would address that imprisonment, or something like that. (10)
(Thoughtfully) I don’t know, maybe … I did another work which was also from New York, where I was having some people I knew walk in the street, different places, and then dropping back four inches, as if by chance, and then I was being hidden on the other side of the street, and filming how people would help recollect this kind of accident, or something like that, so one of those films became quite nice after a while, after trying many different (?? 49:48), it was very kind of, showing this …
I: What did it show?
T: (speaks slowly) It was showing … it was based on observation, this whole idea was based on the observation I did in Prague, or many other times, but especially like one that some people are, let’s say you’re on a bus, on the way home, after work, and you’ve been doing some shopping, and then the bus makes a turn, and then your bag with groceries goes all over the place, and everybody is like, here’s your potato, or your wallet opens, there’s your kids, or, this kind of … just touch with some stranger, which, it’s a little bit similar to another work I did before in Prague, that, when you hear the ambulance coming behind, you pull over to let it pass, so this kind of collective exercises, you don’t learn that they are implicit in our culture somehow. The person loses those oranges and groceries, you help them bring it back, so it was this kind of moment of something which moved me, something, I would see the ambulances and everybody pulling over, collaborating, rain checking, and they’re very kind of, like normally very good at that, compared to New York, or other places, so it gets this sense of, you don’t know, who is it, or anything like that, but there is this kind of feeling of society or something like that. It was quite … so I made a film from inside the ambulance in Prague, going through the city, and people pulling over as I was collecting these, for example, that type of work.
But maybe my work didn’t really develop that much while in New York. It was more about taking in and seeing lots of stuff, and apart from the examples I described, it was difficult to engage new projects. It’s expensive, everything, and I can’t think of any major new works I was developing there.
I: Okay. And then, if I’m not maybe missing something out, but anyway, you then went to Japan? – a year’s residency in Japan?
T: Uhum.
I: Can you talk about moments when you thought Japan is very different?
T: Uhum (sounds amused).
I: I mean, you obviously must have decided to go to Japan for some reason, and what you remember, moments where you just said, I’m now in Japan, and this is or isn’t very different.
T: Uhum (considers) … (6) So I had a friend who was in this programme in Japan, which I went to visit for one month, and I was looking around a bit, and then I decided to apply for this programme, so a year after, I was there myself for a year, and (speaks slowly) … (6) on the surface, I think Japan, it’s possible to operate, that you can recognise, you can go shopping, and you can go out and eat, and you can do lots of things, but it’s very homogenic, and … (5) it’s not Christian, what I’m maybe used to, so it’s maybe, those, I’m trying to think … like, for example, taking the metro in a big city, there’s also a very different gentleness, and I was very used to in other big cities, and everybody was sitting at the time, it was not common yet, but everybody was sitting with those cellphones. I remember, maybe not used to the kids in the school uniform, but they have this kind of sailors’ uniforms. (He considers) (15)
Maybe those Japan experiences, was most, like doing stuff with other people, which are like karaoke, which was like, now we’re doing a Japanese thing, eating this or doing this. I was travelling also sometimes by myself within Japan. I would stay in those (?? 54:48), like some, maybe, it’s not necessarily, (?? 54:51) traditional hotels, that you get undressed, and you sleep in, it’s similar to staying in a capsule hotel. That was a very kind of now … it felt that this is, now, I’m in Japan!
I: (he laughs)
T: It’s like a clinic, or something like that. (4) But maybe the strongest example of a Japanese experience was the first time I was not allowed to come into a restaurant, because you’re white, so it was quite a surprising experience to, that you recognise, this is racism, right? (sounds surprised) – so it’s the first time, because as a Norwegian passport holder, and male, white, has been easy to travel so far everywhere, and in Japan, there was this, you could feel sometimes this resentment, if you’re American or European. They have had a lot of bad history, so it was quite …
I: Can you describe that event, or that day, or that whatever, in more detail?
T: Yeah. I think I was not alone, and we were going, looking for a place to eat, a group of Europeans or whites, and we came to a place where it’s obviously not full, and then somehow a guy came to the door, and he said, “No, no!” There was this physical …
I: Yeah, right – barring.
T: …not explaining anything, but … no. Of course, immediately your reaction was, this arrogance, that, you won’t let me in – there’s lots of spaces, but there was a very clear insistence, and there was no negotiation or nothing, and that, it wasn’t more dramatic than that, but maybe, so the media attraction, we found another place, but later I’ve been thinking, that’s … I didn’t understand it immediately.
I: You didn’t understand it?
T: Well, I understood it, but it somehow took a longer time to internalise, what is it, yeah.
I: It didn’t connect to any of your other experiences?
T: Yeah.
I: As you’d always been welcomed, hmm.
T: Or, I had one friend, and he invited me to his parents’ for a New Year’s dinner. It was also very kind of domestic, which I remember, it was very nice. It was very Japanese. (8) Or, I was taking Japanese lessons with an elder woman, and at her home, and she was very sweet, and she had a dying husband in the back room, with cancer, so that was also opening up this whole … (3), oh, it was very personal and intimate, this whole, what the Japanese has to have been dealing with, with the post-nuclear experiences, and … so that was very kind of, I’m just thinking of things which stayed in a different way …
I: Stayed in your head, yeah.
T: … than which is like, that’s the Japanese, particular. (12) Or, I was, as well in Japan, having, because I went there, and I did have a little bit of money, but then I also had to hope that maybe some of the grant application will go through, but it didn’t, so I had to find a job, so I found a job as an English teacher for children, and I was travelling 40 minutes almost every day for a period of time, and it was mostly in the ground floor of a villa in the neighbourhood, and the kids came after school, and then there was two hours in different age groups and so on, and one day, they said, now you have to come to the school, so we went to a place. They suited me up with a suit, and then we went to a school, and I was in front of 400 kids, or big groups, girls and boys, all in uniforms, and up there, and I had to shout, “How are you?” (laughing)
I: (he laughs)
T: And none of this, what do you around the table, you did suddenly en masse, which was very interesting. This was also, I think, just strong experiences, but they were also like this kind of Japanese … (14) … yeah.
I: Okay. At some point, you talk about … (6), you talk about imposing art on a social environment, you’ve practised for the last few years, and sort of starting off really, I suppose, with the Vietnamese city in Prague, and a relational term, and you say you were more interested in people – more interested in people than in what? I didn’t quite understand that. I don’t know if there was a relational turn in you, or whether there was a relational turn in terms of the cultures of art production. I’m not sure what you meant by that.
T: (Positively) I think the latter event. You can see there are several practices that has more of a social character, or relational character, that people open a restaurant, and say, this is my artwork, and everybody can socialise and talk together. I’ll serve food in the gallery, is kind of one example, or people working to use art as a community providing tools. (6)
(speaks slowly) So what’s special about this Vietnamese in Prague, because they had quite a second-class status, second-class citizens’ status. They were selling clothes and vegetables between houses, and didn’t speak Czech, so they have markets and selling cheap products … (10) So I did, for some project, try to figure out, what is this, and where are you coming from, and there is this, from Czechoslovakia, they had these friendship exchanges where they would bring workers to work in the factories and villages, and some others, a continuation of that, socialist times, and … (6) so it wasn’t so much about … well, for example, I was doing one project, that I was inviting 250 Vietnamese to come to a bigger art gathering. Only two people came, but there was this idea to make that segment of the population visible in a different forum than racist, so I was kind of … and later on, with discovering that there’s this whole, even two places or three places in Prague which has this, built of containers, the grids, I thought that’s fascinating, but it wasn’t so much working on people directly, but more on these cultural constructions.
I: When you say, you’re working, can you talk about what it means, what that means actually in practice? – that’s a concept that covers a practice, but I’m not clear what you did.
T: So it has to do with where you locate the artwork, so let’s say, I think today could be an example. Let’s say you employ a person, or you put an announcement in a newspaper, I have a job, please contact this number, personal calls, say. I’m working as a secretary, I’ve been doing that for 25 years – I need a break maybe, or I’m interested in the job, what’s the job? – and then I would say, the job is just to, for six months, just work for me. I’ll pay the same as you had, or a little bit more, and the job will be to just write a diary, how is it, to take notes every day, and write a diary, how is life without the routine, so what’s happening every day, so you just keep track on what you’re thinking, and thinking about, and then that’s the job. So the location of that work will be in that person, and then, on the second level, it will be the story of that person, or me talking about it, so you can imagine, that sounds interesting, then you have a situation where this and this happens, maybe changing something in that person’s life, and at the same time, you’re not obliged to say, here it is, or here’s the photo of the woman, or maybe here’s the diary. It’s interesting maybe, but not necessarily, or here’s the report.
So it’s a way also to move the practice, the end of the result of the practice, out of the gallery space, or the museum space or the object, and to see that we could work with art in ways which can avoid capture of the art market, let’s say, which could still be interesting. We could still have an aesthetic approach to it, but it doesn’t have to be manifested in that object, or in that performance, or it could be, but it was somehow, that’s enough – this is the doing, and here’s the proof it did happen, that’s it.
I: Right, okay.
T: So this maybe answers a bit … then it’s interesting to, when you can work in that relationship, there’s employment, and you can have an impact, which assumes it’s for the better, or good in fact, or interesting, then it somehow is more attractive.
I: Right, okay. (Speaks slowly) I’m just wondering where we are in time. (6) Perhaps there’s a couple more, just a couple more. (8) You talked about the tour round the outer rim of the EU, North Africa and I think into Romania – I can’t remember quite where you said, but in a number of places like that, and eventually, and your next exhibition was going to be in Brunow, and you invited the sort of five random people, or you got five random people to come, and it was difficult … (6), it’s something, you talked about that it was difficult to bring to the audience, as a visible part which presumably was the objects, and then there was the experience of the five random people. Do you remember how you tried, or how you didn’t try, or how you succeeded or how you failed, to bring to the audience the experiences of the five random people – if that’s what you, one of the things you were trying to do, how did you, what was the … how did your project for bringing their experiences to the Brunow audience, how did that develop? What happened?
T: (He is quiet, thinking) (10)
I: Do you want a drink or anything? – sorry.
T: No.
I: You’re okay? I mean, do have a Berry Delight, or anything else you want, or some fruit actually – there’s some fruit over there. (31)
T: We had a small catalogue for the exhibition, which we could, which we thought, that could be a way to open the project from the people who have just come to see the show, and we insinuate that there’s something more, so I mean, there were random people, but somehow it took time to find these people, and through some contacts, we found one, so we are looking a bit for this as well, so one contact in Morocco, I asked him if he knew someone who might be interested in this, and he said, yeah, I know a girl, and she’s interested in film, so we met, and so he, for example, starts working through him, so he wrote a letter in the catalogue, saying, yeah, it’s very nice to be part of this, and it’s an opportunity to travel, and it wouldn’t be possible otherwise, and then we took photos in the catalogue from the view of the room where they were staying.
I: Where?
T: The hotel room.
I: Oh, the hotel room where the Moroccan was staying, in Prague, in Brunow?
T: One of the guests were staying.
I: So in Brunow, you have a view of the city, and then it was written, like, this is the view of the guests, or there was one guy which we found in Algiers, and he was, well I didn’t really meet him, but he was taking photos, and his brother was in his gorilla suit, so they would take a Polaroid, and you can be next to the gorilla, and then they get a Polaroid. So we’re getting one of those photos, but also taking … so when we were back, we thought that it would be interesting, because I was looking into the eyes of this guy, the gorilla – I remember that moment, and I thought it would be nice to invite this guy, so it’s a bit, sidetracking your question.
So I found, contact to the veterinarian at the zoo, and I was explaining to her that we were looking for this guy, and he’s a photo of this guy in the gorilla suit, and she found this guy, because they worked there, and the police gave the message that we’d like to invite him to Brunow. It’s in the Czech Republic.
I: Passed the message on.
T: So she gave the message, and she wrote back later on. It was a long process, but she wrote back that he received message, and he would be interested to come, and then started, like okay, I asked him to go to the Czech Embassy, line up (he laughs), and then, when he arrived at the airport, we met him at the airport, and it was very sweet, like he was in the suit. That was the kind of strong detail of that first meeting with this person, who didn’t even know, who he looks like. So you’ve got, like his name is Ahmad Abdi, and he is old, and he’s from this and this. So, we asked him to bring his camera and his suit, so when he came, it was, he spoke a little bit French, so we were translating through other people in the group who spoke more … and then I was trying to make him make a photo diary, of course, what to do there for four weeks, if you’re not used to, a sell programme, and don’t know the city, and dependent on people to provide for you, so during this period, we may be brought him to some event or opening, indirectly like, trying to make the best out of the situation. (6)
But one guy from Tunis, he came, and he was very independent. He didn’t, he stayed in touch, but he was very used to travel. He managed very well to … so it was normally that, helping the people who don’t know what to do, those, kind of mix, and one guy from Libya, he came and he didn’t want any money, he just was working in the oil business there. (He laughs)
I: (He also laughs) Poor chap!
T: That was also different! But it wasn’t a crisis that we can make visible that part, because we spent lots of time with them, and we went different places, so in this small environment, and also having the director of the museum personally invite them, and guarantee for their, because if, what everybody expects that somebody would run away, and look for (?? 1:15:12) and stuff like that, so the only deal was that we have to pay for, if they escape.
I: If they escape, disappear.
T: Then we have to pay something, so this whole process, and people got to know about it within the art scene, and the volunteers of the museum, they were very helpful. (5) It’s … (speaks slowly) (9) I don’t know. It’s impossible to ask them to line up and say, these are the group, who are now, we are coming to visit, then somehow you’ll break that, then you would … I’m not sure exactly, what’s the fine line, but you cannot, you can have them there, they can be there, they can do this project, but you can’t capture it in an image, and say, this is, somehow you cannot represent them, that was the point a little bit, that you can show, like we were taking a lot of photos and video during our travels there, but it was not possible to show anything. It was this idea at the time that you cannot go there, take photos, bring it home, and say, this is from North Africa, like some kind of …
I: Freak show.
T: Yeah, or some kind of … (3) you know, it’s too much …
I: You can’t do that (he laughs)
T: No, it doesn’t, it’s not a practice I’m doing, so … but you could invite people, spend months to make a visa for them, insurance; convince them, please come. I’m the one who bought the dvd. You don’t really know me, but I remember you – all this kind of, trying to convince people to come, who don’t want to, who were not interested especially to come, at the time where you have people swimming and dying already, like a lot. It felt a bit like this, trying to avoid this obvious humanistic well doing.
I: And that was to be avoided, as far as possible?
T: In this exhibition context, and in the (?? 1:17:44) practice, because at the end of the day, you’re promoting yourself in a way. I mean, it’s on your name, and it’s on your cv, you did this, showing that institution, and if somebody sees that and likes that, and invites you for something else, you’re going to go there, and most people are not going to go, so there’s a certain, maybe it’s an ethical balance of how you could make it into a social project, or how we can balance the … so there’s no written rules on this, but it’s somehow a fine line, what you can and cannot do.
I: Do you remember a particular moment during that project, of worrying about the fine line between the professional project, and sort of, what you could ethically do and not do? – a particular moment of sort of, uncertainty, or having to decide, or thinking, I think I made the wrong decision there, or anything like that?
T: (He is thinking) (25) I remember I was, from the beginning quite clear, that this part of the project, that it’s not, there’s no other ambition, or the ambition cannot be there to … I don’t know.
I: To what?
T: To look. I invited these people – here they are. That will be going wrong.
I: To present them, as it were, in a photograph, a group photograph.
T: But you could say, in terms of the differences of the team, say, we have a group of guests, somebody want to help show the city, or to, different activities, please collaborate with us, and if we have a problem, let’s solve it. It wasn’t like that, but let’s do the best out of this situation, but that wasn’t communicated in artistic channels, except … so, (9) and, er (speaks slowly) (8), yeah, I mean, what happened is that one guy, he got very close to the woman, and at some point, they stayed in the same hotel. There was an incident, that he tried to go into her room, so she didn’t feel safe any more, and then we had to relocate her for the rest of the period in some secret place in Prague, and not in Brunow, and he … that was maybe, but that’s on a different level. It wasn’t this fine line of, that was just internally, how to work in that group. (12)
And then later, with this photographer, we made a diary.
I: Oh yes, that photo diary, yeah.
T: Of course, I was buying the diary from him later on, so it was kind of, there was Polaroid photos, and it was written in Arab under, so they translated, and then scanned, and there was a lot of people, because we were going to different openings, and places, a lot of photos would be from other artists, and this kind of environment, so … maybe later, I think, because we put this on the web page, this diary, and then you could see it, and you can maybe read it, if you read in Arab, maybe that’s kind of a report.
I: How might you do it differently next time? – or rather, why might you do it differently next time, and if so, how might you do it to avoid the sort of ethical fuzziness and trickiness? Why was that ethically a bit problematic, and what could you do next time that might be similar but better?
T: Yeah, because there is this tendency in this particular … to make him into like an extended producer, but you’ve made art maybe through him, because there’s photographs and texts, and it looks kind of attractive, and it’s in Arab, which maybe it’s a bit exotic. This was ten years ago, it was exactly ten years ago, and … but it wasn’t, I mean, it was uploaded on the web page, which is a little bit after … that’s the only … (speaks thoughtfully) I don’t know if I would do that different, but that’s the closest I get to this, where I feel like this could easily …
I: Be the wrong thing.
T: Be a bit cheesy.
I: And how might, if you did decide, were there to be a next time in a similar project, what do you think you might do which would be a bit different, and less ethically dubious? I know it’s a particular ridiculous question, but anyway.
T: (4) Well, (5) maybe if the work would be presented, let’s say, he will do this work, and then maybe put more resources into … (speaks slowly) (5) making it … maybe ask some people, maybe he could put up a show himself, or something like that, and give him the space, and then maybe to be very much in the background, so it’s not for me doing this work through this guy, but that he is here, and he’s doing this work, and I don’t know, that’s his business, to give him that full responsibility as well.
I: So he can present himself?
T: Yeah, and he could maybe sell those works, and go home with more cash or something.
I: Okay, that’s interesting.
T: That’s just an idea (he laughs)
I: No, sure, but it’s sort of, it makes it more concrete, I think this is always the issue with, well, the constant pressure of doing a BNIM interview – so I’m taking a bit of time out, is to try to make the interviewee more concrete about what they’re saying, so that other people can visualise precisely what it is. If you say, there were ethical problems, and what’s professionally me and what’s them, maybe I don’t know what that means, that example of the photo diary, and what you might do otherwise, makes it much clearer – I can cash in your ideas, whereas before I’ve got that, I’m not sure what is the ethical problem, or what would you do that would avoid the ethical problem, so it’s only if I can push you towards an example, that I know what you’re talking about.
Okay, I’m starting to think maybe that’s, we should … can I just take a pause, have some fruit. Ethically, I feel I wouldn’t want to exhaust you or whatever. Yeah, I think I’m getting tired, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired, and therefore, if I’m tired, I will not be making a good selection or whatever, so I think, let’s hold it there, let’s stop at that particular point. What you might want to do now, or you might not – ethically I should hate to force you to do anything you don’t want to do, is, for you to make field notes, your own field notes, on the experience of being interviewed so far, and they’re not for me to see – they’re your field notes for you, but I mean, what happens in BNIM interviews, particularly ones of this length, is that one has a whole set of background thoughts and background feelings, and this, that or the other, which get lost very fast – you won’t have them tomorrow, or rather, you’ll have different ones tomorrow maybe, so you might find it useful, two sorts of, in a sense, divide your page into two columns, and one is, so to speak, generally speaking as a BNIM interviewee, what have I learnt from this about the method, but do you want to be able to use this? I imagine you want to be able to use it – maybe you don’t; if you don’t, forget it, but if you do, making notes on your experience as a BNIM interviewee over two one-and-a-half hour sessions is a valuable resource for you to think later about; and the second one, of course is, you as yourself in terms of understanding your own experience, what have you learnt from being interviewed like this, which is, well, whatever it is, and both of these are of value, because you want in some way, well for your own reflection, what have you learnt about yourself and your professional .. if anything, you may not have learnt anything at all, it’s quite possible, in which case, that would be a blank, but if it has given you thoughts that you haven’t had before, or sort of raised questions that you haven’t had before, it’d be useful to note them before they disappear in your overnight sleep, but what you do is entirely up to you – those are just suggestions. Field notes on either of those things might be helpful.
T: Oh, I see, that’s good.
I: So I shall go away and write my field notes, as it were, and I shall be at least half-an-hour doing that., so perhaps I’ll stop at this point.

Norwegian ARFP
Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

File 4: 1 hour 14’ 42

T: This is running already.
I: Hello, are you running already? (32) I’ll even start this one, or try and start it. It’s gone to two seconds. Okay, so how are you feeling this morning?
T: I’m quite ready for this, but I’m a little bit stiff.
I: A bit stiff, hmm. Is that to do with the interview, or is that to do with the bed?
T: I don’t think so. I think it has to do with my physical condition in general.
I: Ah, right, so you’re going to plunge into a very cold sea, when you get back to Norway?
T: Probably, yeah, and do some exercises.
I: Be full of energy, like the film on, what is it? – the woman in the film last night.
T: Maybe one thing about, what I was thinking about yesterday’s, is that we, I felt that we were staying a lot in the past, and maybe less, of course, it’s the chronology in it, but so I was just thinking, I hope we’ll get to the recent time, but I guess that’s a concern. It’s interesting – that’s the only thing I’ve been kind of concerned about.
I: So is it a bit frustrating to be stuck in the past, when you wanted to get onto the present? I mean, what were your feelings about it? I think you’re absolutely right – we were in the quite distant past, so to speak, quite a lot.
T: I think not necessarily frustrating, but maybe, I’m concerned that what should be included importantly is my work within the recent period, so I think it’s very good that we’re backing that up with a trajectory, so that’s my only concern, that I hope we get to …
I: Will there be time for the present? (he laughs)
T: Something like that!
I: Okay, well we’ll try and make sure that there is. Okay, going back to your original interview, you talked about, you invited to, or you worked out a way of interviewing the museum directors, and I remember you said you did 28 directors, and only three or four of them were a bit interesting, and that presented you with sort of issues. I mean, I don’t think there’s much point, I mean, I could interview in detail about that, but since you’ve already written about it, I’m not sure, in the article that you sent me, I’m not sure if there’s much sense in rehearsing that. There could be, I think I’ll ask you that actually – would you like me to interview about that, or should we take that, the details of that as read, or what do you want to do now with this interview? I’ve got one question about it, but which isn’t about the detail or the doing of it so much, but the question is, what you want this interview to do?
T: Well, I think it could be interesting, and it’s difficult to say what would lead to something opening up, so I’m trusting that you can somehow make those decisions?
I: Okay, fine, well then I’ll do that. I think, I’m interested in how you came, whether you, how you came, the moment of realising, with your 28 interviews, that only four or five of them were interesting, and did you then have, sort of, how were you then thinking about what you should do? Did you feel that was a dilemma? What did you feel about that, and how did that happen, once you’d started to realise, or fully realised that actually, these are not very interesting interviews? Do you remember that moment, and your own experiencing of the value of the interviews, and how you grappled with that?
T: Yes. (speaks slowly) I think it … (3) a part, not only in this particular project, but in many projects, that the idea, to interview all this group of people, the 28, was kind of okay, so we will do that, and then, when we’ve finished with that, we will see what’s there, but not to judge the process along the road, to say, this is not interesting, but we’ll do the last one anyhow, and it was very interesting to visit those institutions, to see and to get a sense of where they are, what they do, and who are those people, so there was a lot of possible potential material along the way, and of course, after the interview, it was like, wow – he was really smart, or that was interesting, or she was very kind, but ….it was not so much a panic, and it was very similar to other processes, that you know that it might give results and might not. But of course, it was kind of an opening, to say, we could change this, make compensation portraits – that would be great, and then there will be still this focus on institutions and on these leaderships, and the function of these institutions, while actually also introduce a whole another conceptual framework of how that could be done through these texts, and through all the people who have been through that, maybe forty years ago, or … so you can introduce something which doesn’t really exist in this particular context.
I: Right, so can you just take … I think what I’m clear about is the sort of chronology, which is okay, so do correct me if I’m understanding it wrongly, but you start by not, okay, I’m going to interview my 28 directors, and go round to their museums and get what I can, and I shan’t prejudge the results. Did you at that time, before you were starting on it, right from the beginning, say, well if they’re not very interesting, I’ll have to do something different with them? – or did the idea of, as you call it, a compensation project?
T: Portraits.
I: Compensation portraits, did the idea of, well, this, maybe we’ll have to do something interesting, or maybe we’ll have to do compensation portraits afterwards – was it there from the beginning, as a plan B, or did it gradually emerge …
T: Gradually.
I: … as you grappled with what you were discovering?
T: It was gradually emerging, and the reason to, in an interview, or to visit all these institutions, was that the main organiser of the National Gallery in Prague is one of the biggest members, and important network of this network of publicly-funded national institutions, so we wanted to see, is there any approach to this institution in particular, and then working with, what is it part of? What’s the institutional context or landscape like? – so that was the initial, and then, naturally it would be to talk with all the directors, or chief curators of these institutions, so that was a point to see, and let’s do that, and then discuss after that, what’s the project like now.
I: Okay, so what is the point, trying to get back to how it happened in a sequence, but obviously it’s difficult, but what is the point, if you cannot quite date it, but see where it was in the research process, at which you started developing the idea, well, we’ll have to do, just quoting these rather boring interviews is not going to be a very good idea. I shall have to do something else, and the idea of a compensation portrait came to you. I’m not clear whether you’re doing this on your own, or whether you’re thinking with other people?
T: In this particular case, I was with my partner, (?? 8:56), so she, we have a very good working dialogue, and discuss things back and forth, and then it pops up in that collaboration, or in this particular, being together about something. But what maybe, it’s interesting, is that you could launch the project, because of course, the organisers of the exhibition, they will say, so what are you going to do? Are you making catalogues, or we would like to know what you are going to show, because we need it printed soon, so it’s good to establish this anchor in the institution to say, we’re going to do an interview with all the directors of the network, and we will do a kind of installation publication based on that – great! So you establish this point of no return with the institution! (with humour)
I: (He laughs)
T: Right, so they cannot say, well, I think it looks a bit weird now, so I think we’ll skip it, so this is very often the case, that you can enter with something, and then you realise that that gives you room to …
I: Change it!
T: … then access as well, because then we can come and say, we’re working on this exhibition. We would like to have a conversation with you, and of course, there’s no authority in the capital, so people somehow have an obligation to say, yeah, you can come this day.
I: Right, okay, I see that, and what, when, in discussion with your partner, you said, we’ll have to do something a bit different from what we’d planned, most of the interviews are not that exciting or whatever, did you … with whom did you have to negotiate your new, the notion of compensation portraits – with anybody at all?
T: (firmly) No, nobody.
I: With nobody, not the director of the …
T: Especially not the National Gallery, because they were also subject for this ….
I: Compensation portrait thing, okay, and so you didn’t discuss it at all with anyone except your partner. I remember you said you worked with the translation department to get the translations from the 1960s, whatever they were, sources. Were you at any time worried about whether, while you were doing this, and before it was sort of published, or before it was sort of set up, that some of the … that your compensation portraits plan, solution, would be discovered and stopped, or anything like that? – or did you just, was that not a worry? What do you remember your state of mind as being at that time?
T: I remember that it’s important to keep it secret in that sense, and we used the translation department of the National Gallery as a resource, but it’s a huge institution. They don’t have the capacity to review anything, and the people organising this particular exhibition are also not that committed to dialogue, so it was also, it felt like there is no, it wasn’t risky to be discovered …
I: It didn’t feel like a risk?
T: … because there was nobody watching over your shoulder almost, in that sense.
I: Okay, so you felt fairly relaxed about that?
T: Yeah, and we did, half the translations, they could do, because this was 28 texts, and then half we paid freelance people to do it, because they didn’t have the capacity, but they didn’t ask any questions at all, about, what’s this? It was clearly art-related.
I: Okay, so can you tell me what happened, let’s say, presumably there was an opening day, or a pre-opening day, and the director of the National Gallery, and maybe others, were there. Can you tell me about that moment, at which they discovered, one or more of them discovered what you had done? – in as much detail as possible.
T: Yes, so first we got the printed version a few weeks before the opening, and we sent, we made a package of five copies to each institution, and we said that we are going to, here’s our publication of interviews, and it will be presented as we notified you, and please have a look, and thank you for your participation, so that was what we felt is fair, when these people privately are coming with statements, that they have a chance to feed back, and we had built, we expected that people would not accept this way of being presented, and it’s not really what they said in the interview, so we expected people are going to be really angry, or take it in a funny way maybe, but we had, one of the texts which were translated was dealing with, one theorist talking about installation art during the productivist time in Russia, so it the Twenties, Thirties, and they would have, in many exhibitions, a black wall, and this black wall would show some bourgeois art, and it would show, like this is not good art, and it would be kind of a mixed exhibition very often, very early in the contemporary sense, with photographs, paintings, texts and so on, but they will have this black wall to have, this is not good art, or this is like … so we installed, guided also a bit by this text in the publication we made, a black wall, that we could always put up, when we received an email, what’s this? – I didn’t say that, so we could somehow negotiate the response, and that could maybe create a certain kind of interesting dialogue, that they audience also could say, yeah – this is interesting, because it looks really, there’s not much information to say that, it’s not really a joke, or it’s just art, or so on. So we had the black wall, and we received, because of course, the people receiving the publications, they would read their own, and they would say, hey (with humour) – this is not what I said, and, did I say this?
I: (he laughs)
T: So we receive, quite some reactions, but nobody, really dramatic, or, I’m going to sue you, or anything like that. We realised that people calling to each other, because people call, we heard one story that one guy received a phone call, that I read your interview. I didn’t know that you were that radical! (laughs)
I: (he laughs)
T: So it was quite generating this kind of small stories, which we quite enjoyed, and then people from the … later on, so then was the opening. We made the installation as a wallpaper, and a big bunch, so you could take one copy with you, but you could also read it on the walls there, and the director of the gallery, a quite famous Fluxus artist called Milan Knížák, he was also portrayed in conversation with the chief curator, and he was reading probably his own or others, or receiving maybe phone calls we didn’t know about, but he wrote on the installation, on the wall, (emphatically) “It’s all lies, and we’d made it all up!” – so that was quite an interesting reaction, an intervention into the installation itself, and we had stored a lot of these publications in the storage in the museum, and they were dumped, so we had to relocate them.
I: What do you mean, they were dumped?
T: They were kind of …
I: Taken away?
T: … taken away, so without notice, and they disappeared. It was quite an unpleasant situation, but the show was going on. I mean, they probably knew if they will take it down, then there will be even more fuss around it. Then we continued having the reactions from the research centre in contemporary art, and the (?? 17:19) were interesting, where’s the ISBN number? That’s the only thing we forgot to put on, so what’s this actually? – then people start to search for compensation portraits, because it was mentioned, so if you read very carefully, then you can see, in the thank you, that it’s somehow a hint to … but if you’re not that … because we put also sponsors, (?? 17:42), it looked very, nobody would think it’s not for real, and very nicely designed. Then, maybe, as you can imagine, this was like an exhibition going on for a few months, and then after a year, so people started to, artists read it, because it was the first time translated into Czech, a lot of these texts, which are very interesting texts, and they’re not that common that people knew about this, so lots of people appreciated the project, and one-and-a-half years later, one of the curators said that it could be interesting to show this project again, but maybe to show why you did what you did, and to show a little bit, the reception.
I: Who said this?
T: Another curator.
I: Another curator.
T: Who was working in the (?? 18:32) in Brunow, for an exhibition. Then, since we had several copies left, maybe a thousand or something like that, we thought, okay, so we can make an erratum into this publication, and we could make a new cover, so we printed a poster, we folded it as a cover, and we wrote on the front, “Erratum”, and then text by the original authors, which is a list of very famous names, and then we did a classical erratum, like on page this and this, we changed that and that, and Rocky Mountains became (?? 19:09), and why we did it, because the different institutions also in Czechoslovakia also were in Chechnya, had different tasks, so wrote a little bit in front, specifically this text to that institution, so it was quite enjoyable work really, and a learning experience for us. Then this erratum was shown a few times, and it was, of course, nicely designed, so that’s really kind of … (5), well, there’s many, we made a web …
I: A website?
T: … later on, where we put the original interviews which were recorded, and we also were asked, for example, we did research during this, that we collected all the titles of all the exhibitions in all these institutions, 28 institutions, all the titles of the shows, after 1989, so that was kind of after the revolution. Then we collected all those, and put them up in alphabetical order, and had a reading, like made a sound piece of that, so just you have a reading, about an hour, and what is interesting, if you listen to it, then it’s very metaphorical, like into the labyrinth, or an open landscape, but it’s interesting to see that almost none of the titles, or none, are hinting on any direct connection to what’s happening in the political and economic sphere of the country, so it’s also like, criticising this modernist, that art is somehow like the only metaphor, or just art, or maybe you could say, into the labyrinth means Kafkaesque, you or … I don’t know, but it was quite stunning to see that, that became quite the opposite, so there’s been the smaller works in this, that somehow was extracted along the road.
I: Okay, and in general, thinking about the reaction, well, first of all, let’s say, of the museum’s directors, after the erratum came out, did you have any further reactions? – if you like, from the institutional sphere?
T: Yes, because what happened after maybe one year, two years, is that the attention to the actual national network became, I think, for some younger generation, this opened up, I mean, probably many knew a lot about it, but it was rare that, if you were based in Prague or in Brunow, that you would know much about the other regional institutions. So in a way, in a certain small environment, it put all these institutions on the map, and said, okay, this is, these places exist.
I: These are there!
T: Yeah, and so we heard that, well, so there was a new contact with several institutions, not only because of it, but then we heard, like well, this person was fired! (he laughs) I don’t know, that could be an ethical thing, if you put something in, and the board say, well, did you say this, or not? – while I was interviewed, so we felt maybe it could have like a personal consequence for someone, but we think not directly, so I think if a person, if they were ever used against someone, maybe on top of other things. It also created maybe an interest for younger, (?? 22:40) people and creative people, to see there’s lots of interesting potential out in these institutions.
I: Right, okay, and you said that many of the original texts – sorry, many of the taken texts, which hadn’t been translated into Czech before, and therefore …
T: Yeah, so that’s a resource.
I: … so that is a stimulating resource for the … right, okay, and did anybody come back and question the ethics of doing it? – I mean obviously, this is all lies, or whatever it is, but in the later discussion, what happened next, so to speak? I mean, they may not have done, I’m just interested in how … yeah.
T: I think it was used as a case study, in one publication, a researcher, talking about manipulation and artistic interventions. I think that was one example, and I hear it every now and then, that there’s comments about it, or you should know this, because of this institutional interest, so there is a certain … (he thinks) (5) … a certain knowledge of, this project was done, and it’s a huge work, and … (2), well, I haven’t heard much since after that.
I: Right, okay, well thanks very much. That illuminates it a bit. (4) I could ask you about the, not what I said, a number of small stories, after, the first time round when you sent the thing to everybody, and sort of … but I’m not sure if there’s quite time for that. I think I’ll leave that. Jumping sideways for a minute, what time does your plane leave? What’s your time schedule for all this?
T: I think it’s around 6:40, departure?
I: So we’re not under great prime time pressure. That’s good, because it’s important, if you’re catching a plane at two, I need to think differently, if you’re catching a plane at six.
Just as a final question on this, merely sort of a symbolic one really, did this have any longer-term consequences on your relationship (if you have one) with the director of the National Museum? – because he was an important part in the setting of it all up, and in the long run, what’s happened, perhaps nothing at all, to your relationship with him?
T: He used also to be a professor in the arts academy, so I spent some years studying under his studio. We never got really close, and was also travelling a lot, but also my partner, she studied under his … so I think she had more of a disappointment situation from his side, but he later has been going more into politics and left the post as the director of the museum, nothing to do with this particular project, just so … there hasn’t been something which was a good relation, and now it’s not a good relation. It’s always been questionable, not a great relation.
I: You’re right, okay, and since he’s left the scene, then he isn’t a factor in terms of hostility to your artwork in the future?
T: No, I don’t think so, no.
I: I’m just interested. One of the things that interests me, and this isn’t quite a narrative question, but since most of your, or not most, that’s not fair – a number of your projects have been with this double ontology, and sort of indirect whatever-ing, whether … and yet nonetheless, you got your research fellowship, and you’re being supported, let us say, by some aspects in the Norwegian art establishment, whatever you like to call it. I’m just wondering how all that plays out in terms of people coming to know that that is the sort of thing you do, and nonetheless maybe the same people, or other people, thinking it’s worth doing, or worth letting him do it. I don’t know, is there any sort of sequence of some things there at all? I know you haven’t quite mentioned that, but it’s implied as a possible story dimension.
T: I think that … most of the people doing evaluations, who’s going to be in the programme, who’s not, they recommend doing the recommendations. They are most, many of those are artists, so they would recognise that’s interesting work. It fits within an institutional critique framework, which is not the most popular right now, but somehow exists as a practice, and this national programme in Norway, I think they are curious. Again, it’s a big thing, and nobody’s really looking into your project in particular, and expecting that’s going to (?? 28:20), but as I presented the project every year, for the commission, and for my own institution which is hosting me in the national programme, I haven’t, I’ve been quite transparent about that, one thing is the work, and also the structures allowing the work to happen, and the access, and institutional access, so all these things are implicit, and it’s been quite hinted at, all the long road, but I think that my project, in this framework, it’s a good place to do it, because they are trying to welcome other ways to work with the structures, and it’s a system which is in the making, so they can allow for certain, or there are benefits for certain kind of experimental flexibility or something like that. So I think they are not really so afraid, and I think we have a mutual interest to make this project go through, but again, this being a fellow allows for a certain way of working, which you didn’t work, with your, outside in the same way, just as the National Gallery, you anchor the project, let’s say, in this kind of framework, which allows you to use the resources, and so on. It’s a bit similar in that sense, that you’re in the programme, you have the right to have a public presentation, you have to defend your work, and these are mutual, probably interests that they want you to finish and qualify, because then they get their points, that they need on so many! (with humour)
I: (he laughs)
T: So there is this bonus also for the local institutions. When they get someone out of the system, they receive a certain amount of money, so they could somehow … so there is this goodwill to make things happen at least.
I: Right, that’s very interesting. You went on and talked about your one-year professorship in Brunow, and various experimental things, scenarios for short films, and you talked about changing the shoes, and washing clothes in the river. Could you say a bit more about that, I don’t know if that was one project or a set of little family or tiny projects, how they all happened, and what was the thinking behind them, and how did it change, if it changed? – so that’s the Brunow, short films period.
T: So, in one way, it was to provide for a different model of working pedagogically within the institution in Brunow, and of course, that was also a professor, a student, and you have one professor, one medium, and then a group of students in mixed years, and we thought it could be interesting to take the focus a bit away from the individual, like your work, but to see if it’s possible to, for those who are interested, to join the group work, and then the point of the project was that two students from (?? 31:43) were saying, well, why don’t we do a show in (?? 31:47)? So we had a certain interest from the students to do something outside, and we thought, yeah, everybody can bring some work, and we’ll do a show, it could be nice, or we could think, if we go there, maybe we could do something there which could be, like a publication rather, so if we go there, and we think, in the format of a film, if you make a short script, what would it be? – like an action which could be filmed, or a film, so all these small stories came up, small art projects which could be executed, and then we had this circulation, that everybody has the possibility to edit each other’s, so it was this revolving … so I think there’s too much, but I changed this, so you kind of lost your, you had the influence on the other projects, but you lost the …
I: Unique authorship?
T: Yeah, so then we had all these scenarios, and then we brought them with us. We had a group of about ten, eleven people, and of course some people were more involved and some people were more on the periphery, but some people came for whole periods, some people came by, curious, and we invited some people who finished their studies, so it was a different kind of thinking in an institution than maybe it would be typical, plein air (? 33:13), or these kind of activities, and also question, if it’s possible, as, if you’re a pedagogue, or if you’re working there, is it possible to insert your work into the learning environment, so that’s also kind of a practice which is kind of interesting to work with students in a way which is not so far away from what you would do in other places, so all these topics and group work mostly, and then, as we came to (?? 33:45), we went to the flat. We had a big round table, with meetings every day, and then people were going out and doing their scenarios. We do cameras, and or collected materials, or, I brought this, I found that, and so, when we returned, we were invited to present our activities in a quite established art centre, or space in Prague, and the question was, of course, with this group of ten, fifteen people, it was difficult to agree or to find a way to show it, how should we show, what should we show, who should curate? Who should decide, like, how to put it in? Then we proposed that, okay, we don’t necessarily want a curator, but if we imagine that we get like a therapist of some kind, like a group therapist, or a family … we got in touch with one guy who’s doing family therapy or relational, this constellation therapy, so we said that we’d bring all the material we have. We put them one side of the room. The room is empty, one big, empty room, and then one-on-one person, so we made the schedule during the week that, for example, I would go, and I would say, I would like this object to be in the room, and then, he would say, so where in the room would you like to position the object? – and are there any other objects, so you could somehow, each person could install the important pieces.
I: There were as many exhibitions as there were people? – I mean, imaginatively-speaking.
T: Yes, so when I finished, so then we took notes on the floor, or we took some photos, and registered each constellation of projects, and then we cleaned the space, and the next person, who hasn’t seen the other …
I: Started again.
T: … started again from scratch, and took other objects, then in the end we … so along this, it was like, so you want some person, why this object, well this and this; do you want, so he was using his kind of family concerns, so there was always other people coming in and playing parts, maybe based on what happened, is this, and what people, how people acted against each other, so all this was included, but negotiated through these objects, and then in the end, we took all the objects, and we had already a place where they belonged, because people had brought mostly their own, or other people’s objects, into the floor, and so the exhibition was somehow a sandwich of all those layers of individual configurations, as far as it was possible, and so it looked like a mess, but it was …
I: It looked like a nest?
T: Like a mess.
I: Like a mess! (he laughs)
T: But it had an inner logic, and then we wrote the text about it, and a very small kind of catalogue, and it was quite a good solution, I think. Most people felt it was really a new way …
I: Most of the producers felt it, or most of the people who came, who hadn’t been involved in its production?
T: I think both. It was a well-functioning way of both, caring to wrap up the, almost the two years’ experience of this project, and it was a good way to find a way to install it, or principles of installing an exhibition, and then it was, to some degree, understandable for people coming to see the exhibition, with a little bit of information. I think it was, if not successful, it was acceptable, and it felt good to be able to finish it, and to say, okay, this is kind of done.
I: That’s really interesting. So did you, you said that each of, the person came into the room, da da da da da, talked about it, went out, started all over again – was that filmed and recorded?
T: No, it was mostly taking some stills.
I: Taking some stills, right.
T: I don’t think we have any film from it, but maybe there’s some fragments.
I: Ah, it’s interesting. So, what they said, in terms of explaining why they put this here and that there, that’s not preserved – that’s the talk, as people would walk about? I’m not saying it should be, I’m just interested in ….
T: (uncertainly) I’m not 100% sure, but I think we filmed some parts of it? – but we don’t have, I know, I’m quite sure that we don’t have an overall, we didn’t have a cameraman, or a person, like to …
I: Because I’m just interested. I mean, if I was … sorry, this is a bit silly, I’m jumping into sub-session three, but if I was coming from the outside to it, I would be very interested in how the person explained why they put them this way, as opposed to that way, and that, for me, I’d be looking at what they did, but I would also be very interested in their self-explanations, as it were, within the therapy context, so that’s just my own …
T: Yeah, no, I agree, that would have been very …
I: But highly expensive, in terms of … as it were, doing it.
T: Yeah, not necessarily, but we didn’t see it as …
I: You didn’t see it, at the execution.
T: At the point.
I: Okay, no, that’s fine, it’s just a little footnote, as it were.
T: Yes, it could have been really interesting.
I: As a possible consumer. Okay, erm … you then went on and became a co-ordinator at the academy for, I can’t quite read it – it’s a study programme. I remember you said, this is a well-paid job where you didn’t, couldn’t do your own practice very much, but you could maybe foster things that other people did. Is there any particular aspect or moment of that period that particularly strikes you, that you’re particularly, that was a really interesting thing that I did, or thing that I got somebody else to do, or whatever? – I don’t know if it is or not.
T: Well, I think it was interesting, that I was coming entirely from the outside, so I didn’t study in this school, and I didn’t know, know about a lot of the people, and we met them, but I didn’t know what’s their inner … so I came without the history and without luggage, and without any alliances in this group of people, and I came with a very huge interest and curiosity, and I was put in the place where you have, so you decide who’s going to be invited, or there’s one professor, he’s normally doing this kind of, running the Master programme, but it’s actually not his job so much, so you have to figure out the way to work with him, but you decide, because you’re somehow … so there’s a kind of institutional, it’s unfortunate, but you have an administrative layer, and then you have the people working there, and it’s very easy to get in a squeeze between … if we work closer to the art, and who is like closer to the administrative forces, let’s say, but we managed to find that, because we kind of respected each other, and we complement each other, and overlapped more than we were like different, so we found a good way to … he was very sensitive, and also interested to do nice work from it, so that worked quite well out, and then … (he considers) (5) there was a big movement from this forced marriage of, it was the last institution, this fine art institution, to move into the new campus, so you had maybe ten years of hesitancy to join the political decision, that the whole institution should be together under one administration and director, but there had been just, inevitable that they had to move, so this was the move, so this was our starting in the new space. A lot of work was to negotiate, that we needed more space, and why we are coming last, but we deserved a better space than this, so a lot of work was being between this newcomer, and trying to do the best out of the situation, and to work through the old administration, which was already established, and then with all the other institution in place, and then also to work with the students to see what’s working and what’s not working, and trying to orient myself, so you can do things to … I discovered, for example, it’s cheaper to take ten students on Ryanair to, a cheap flight to Antwerp, and then you can do like a three-day study trip, and lots of institutions and meetings, than to maybe invite one person to come, one week or so.
I: I remember you said, lots of study … anyway, I think somewhere I remember, study abroad seems to be a strong emphasis for you, or sort of direction.
T: Yeah, because me myself, I used to move from one place to another very easily, and attend seminars in other places, and finding ways to do it in a very economical sense, so it’s more about the, you actually do it if you bother to extend your field of geographical, what you can cover, and you can somehow do it repeatedly over time, you get a different sense of what’s going on, so that’s what, this is totally missing in the students’ idea of what they need to see, and I thought it’s important to show that. Either we can bring this person here, or, for the same, we can bring five people, and go to Madrid, and we attend the seminar and we meet people, and I go back, and share a bedroom. So we did these kind of weird trips, which I think later, like I meet some of these people, and they say, wow – this is interesting. We had this column of three, four cars, it’s just a convoy, going between … I think they had some, I mean, a school trip is always fun.
I: Yeah, sure, absolutely.
T: But this way of thinking, with the budget, I think was kind of a bit different.
I: Was new, yeah, and do you have the sense that, after you left, the habit of study abroad trips continued, or when you left, they just stopped, and go back? – you may not know.
T: No, I know, because they stopped, or maybe they didn’t stop, but other people are there, and they do it differently, so there are good ways also too, because there’s lots of national people working, so they maybe bring the students into some project they were working on in Paris, so there is things going on in terms of movement, but the study trip itself, it’s more integrated into the different … well, we have a new leader, and everything is a bit, with the signature of this new leader, let’s say (with humour), so it’s a bit different. (8)
And there was … I just remember, it was a lot of work, and it was also a lot of things I need to understand, how things work, and also some last semester of those four, I was also, we had (speaks slowly) … we didn’t have a leader, but the Dean was somehow out, and so we had employed the new, but she was unable to start until next semester, or the end of the semester, so then I was taking on, constituting the Dean for the semester, so it was suddenly into a different leadership circle, the director. It was quite interesting also, these budget responsibilities and these … then you get also the responsibility for all the people who are maybe sick, or internal conflicts which I dealt with, so you got lots of, a different level of responsibility, which I think was … neither good colleagues. We managed to do this job in quite a nice way, I think. Of course, in the short time, you can’t really fuck it up too much, but it was quite an interesting period.
It was funny, because we were living in a really crappy, small little room in the studio with no bathroom, in a kind of junkie area also. It was kind of interesting! (with humour)
I: (He laughs) A funny contrast!
T: Yeah, it was a very, a lot of work, so you’d wake up early, prepare …
I: Straight into very intensive work.
T: So, it was a bit … the cause was to that, really to develop your own work in that period, but I think it allowed for a different kind of development, maybe later on.
I: Okay, so you built up resources?
T: I think so, yeah.
I: Okay, then you had your one year of non-employment?
T: Yeah.
I: And you did your application, one of which worked and one of which didn’t, and then you went to the Swiss School, was it Art, Health & Society – that was the programme. You said, the sort of pedagogic, it was a different use of the arts. Can you say a bit about, discovering, I mean, how it became, that discovering, what that pedagogic was which was different from, let’s say, the pedagogy was used to? – if you like, your earlier pedagogic conceptions, and this new pedagogy of this school, how they, there is something about that transition or acquisition, or whatever it was – any particular moments that you suddenly said, well actually, this other way of working would be quite interesting, or this suggests to me that what I did before, I could have done … I don’t know, something along those lines?
T: Yes, what I enjoyed was that, in general, that art was not something to be performed or to be elevated, but it was, let’s move around, let’s dance a little bit more, and stuff like that, so it was a different, direct, spontaneous use, but for example, you could have a situation where you get a piece of clay, you lay it down on the floor, don’t look at the clay. You just spend half-an-hour and give it the shape, and just make sure you don’t look at it, but just don’t think too much about it, just give it a shape – any shape. So you’re lying there, you’re feeling this clay, and then, right, so now, the next step – have a look at the clay, and give it a title, right? So you look carefully, and you see how language connects to form, but you give language, you give a title, and very simple, so it’s a very fundamental, basic, like kindergarten stuff, which somehow got lost in, it’s not even in preschool, a lot of these fundamental connections, which I thought, wow – this should be in the foundation year in the academy or something like that, more of these very basic understandings, so it was a way to see that … and there’s many similarities to what we talked about earlier, because if you give people the piece of clay, and you say, well, spend half-an-hour with the clay, and then give the title, and then go and look at the other people’s clay, and give that a title as well, and then go back to your own, and with those ten titles, make a poem, and let’s now perform, and then you’re going to perform the poem, and then you’re going to perform while moving the poem, so you have these intermodalities all the way, but they’re all dependent on saying, let’s do the clay. If I say, we’re going to work with language later on, so don’t think about the title yet, then of course, then you’re already … it’s lost.
I: You’ve lost the spontaneity, yes.
T: The suspension, for directness, so this is a bit like, if you say you’re going to make compensation portraits, it’s never going to work. If you say, if you cancel the project, if you distribute too much information at the time, so it’s a careful, how you present it, how we do experience something undisturbed.
I: Unfold it slowly.
T: Undisturbed, yes, so that’s a bit similar to what’s going on in lots of these projects.
I: Do you remember any other, so there’s the clay project, and its elaboration. Any other particular pedagogic moments that you recall?
T: Yeah, I think it was quite nice, we always start the day with somebody brought a poem. We read the poem twice, then it was a topic, and then, for most of the time, we would have this circle that we’re sitting, and there would almost always be this round, kind of systematic, like, it wouldn’t be a dominant class constellation or anything like that, but then there would be, so, we’ll do a presentation of, because everybody was presenting their research topics, and then it was, you did twenty minutes’ presentation in the group, then we go on the floor, and you do a presentation where you decide, so you had to think, how do I translate what I’m talking about into a group context? So this was all the time …
I: Can you give an example of how that happened? I know it’s difficult.
T: Yeah, for example, I was trying to look at concepts in my own thinking about research, my own research, and then I would look through my presentation, and I would see, okay, a configuration, it’s an important concept, or words, or a constellation, or movement, or, I don’t remember exactly, but then I would make a list of those, let’s say, eight points, and then I would ask the group to come to the floor, and then I would look, if I say, a constellation, like how that looked on the floor with those people, so I would line them up, and then, I don’t remember exactly, but … (3) as we moved, so it became very choreographic, to move from one, like and say, okay, freeze, and then look around, and then, okay, so the next one is … (4) I don’t remember exactly what was the, how it worked, but I remember after, with the professor running this particular class, he said, yeah, so he recognised that you could continue to work on this, to see if you spend a few months, it will probably evolve into something more interesting, or something like that, so this was a taste of, that’s one way of doing it.
I: Right, okay. (15)
T: Yeah, and what I maybe enjoyed a lot is that there’s different people with different needs, let’s say, so the group was … (4)
I: That was, just a second … (door slams) I’m sorry Abby, we’re still in interview, but Pru’s in her room, so carry on. Use my room. Right, sorry.
T: It was also interesting to see that there were a few artists, but there were maybe more people with different backgrounds, mostly adults, so it was also quite, I mean, you learn when you do something, but you learn also a lot, observing how people do these translations, so it was quite, also nice to be in the learning environment, where, some exercises you would join, and then there would be this, that you decide how you play your role in it, so almost like a role game, and then you do it, and then what’s interesting, but then maybe the day after, or the evening, you say, wow, that’s interesting that it connects to what I’m really concerned about, so it was clear that it had, not a psychological dimension, but it was very … (he considers) … (6) a very efficient way of …
I: Helped an evolution, or created something new kind of happening?
T: Yeah, and what was maybe most interesting, and this is what I saw the possibility to conceptually, was a lot of the art being used, and through the arts, it’s kind of a motto almost, we do it through the arts. It could be all the arts, low skill, high sensitivity. You don’t need to play the piano if you play it intense, or with passion, then you still play it, so it was using these … but lots of musicians do it well, but I want to say that there was also room to, well, one thing I liked is, you can do painting without paint!
I: (he laughs)
T: You can do it on totally different premises than what you normally go and do, and what I’m used to, so it was a nice way to be with the arts, without this, erm, with a different kind of playfulness, that you can do it, and then you can just throw it away, and it’s not that you, it’s not professionalised in that sense. It’s a different use of art – I thought, that’s great, that’s really great.
I: And the final material product is not the key thing?
T: Yeah, and it’s not that you exhibit, so it’s more that you use the art, and then, or … so, and it’s not interesting art, but it’s art which opens up and you do something with the way you perceive things, and the way you think about what you’re doing and so on, so it’s highly efficient in that sense, but I also notice that it’s okay, these are like the art, as most people think of art, there’s also room for more conceptual, to use maybe more conceptually-oriented, so there’s also space to test that out in that context, so it’s not like, oh, this has to be very simple, it has to be … lots of conceptual art. I can’t think of a particular example that … but I felt there is room for my way of thinking also, in this group, so it was quite …
I: Could you say a bit more about how you would describe your way of thinking? – or rather, the sort of, between this and conceptual art, and your way of thinking? – that sort of, I know that’s pretty difficult to do, but if you could think of a simple example, if such a thing exists?
T: (He considers) (1 min 3) I think I mentioned, maybe yesterday, that if you employ some person, maybe has been a secretary and had routines for many years, you say that now the job is just to go for a walk every day, and not doing those routines, but take notes, and we’ll talk about it, so that’s very easy to understand.
So … (3) maybe the difference would be to ask this woman to say, maybe you could draw your routines, or I don’t know, I’m just making it up.
I: That’s fine. This is a playful experiment.
T: (He considers) (16) I’m not sure if I can give one clear example, but maybe, also I’m thinking of participating in the group, or different exercises, maybe I just feel, or maybe I can read this differently. Maybe I’m just holding back, I notice, maybe saying that this is not the way I work with art, but it’s very interesting, so it’s allowing myself to be in a very simple, in quotation marks, way with the art, and using it and drawing it maybe, but holding onto, what I’m working with is not this, so differentiating …
I: And I suppose what I’m saying is, how could you describe the “not this”, ie, your own way of working as distinguished from this? So you say, well, I enjoy it, I think it’s useful and all the rest, but it’s not my way. At what point, is there some way in which you can characterise – I mean, you may not be able to.
T: For example, if you remember this project from Poland, this institution employing single mothers, the very simple thing is that you enable a certain reality for those people, and they don’t know about it, for example, so this is, I think, a highly conceptualised – conceptualised is a bit … but it’s a very refined …
I: It’s an ingenious design.
T: Somehow, compared to a very direct, spontaneous, here we do it, so maybe I’m holding onto that. This is an example of how I work, and like to work, and this other is more, it’s a tool, an exercise, keeping yourself spontaneous and in shape and sharp, and using the imagination. A lot of that was left somehow, that you …
I: The contradiction in my mind, or the thing seems to be between a sort of simple, and a more complex and indirect, activity or something, but I’m not quite sure how to give it better words than that, because clearly there’s not a double ontology in the playing with Plasticine or whatever, and so … (3) yeah, so I’m getting a sense of what that is.
T: But what might be interesting, and I’m thinking about when you’re saying like that, because being fascinating, and enjoying (?? 1:04:16) and seeing the power, that’s a huge, a transformative power in those very simple things.
I: In the play on the tummy, for example, yeah.
T: Yeah, with the meeting with language. It could be like, wow, this is really concrete for me. I see these things, and I can’t explain it, but I know it, so it’s a very rich, it could be very rich, so I thought, since this is missing, and I have to do some teaching in the school, I’d like to work with this, and to see how I could … but then again you cannot say, I’m going to bring these exercises from expressive art therapy, and we’re going to test it. You have to rewrite it and present it, like contractual relationships and after, so that was kind of, not a double ontology directly, but that you have again this, this is what we have, but we cannot say it, because what we will do will be dependent on that, we don’t know (?? 1:05:27).
I: Yeah, I mean, I suppose there’s two things that’s happening in my head at the moment, and one is saying, well … but this comes from my Marxist framework, but anyway, sort of, one, the first thing is like the expressive art, that’s to say, with the clay on the stomach, that stays in my head as a very good example, but that could be done in a way by anybody anywhere, at any point in human history, and yes, it goes into language, but … and as you say, it has a very powerful, transformative effect, or can have it, so I’m going to call that in my head humanist, or universal humanist, or something like that; whereas your experiment with the single mothers works with and against the concept of work in our particular society, and in a primitive society, it couldn’t work, because the notion of alienated labour and wage labour, and this isn’t work, this is play – oh no, this is another, or whatever it is, that wouldn’t happen, because it’s, I think you talked about something, about site-specific, I think you used the word earlier on, and for me, it’s site and historical location, or societally specific, or historically specific – something, words like that, so for me, just using the example of the clay on the tummy as one thing, as the universal humanist, and your experiment around work and art and work, etcetera, and unmarried mothers, is historically specific, and in that sense, requires more than just humanist, universal concepts. It requires attention to the specificity of particular types of society, or social relations, or whatever you want to call it. So I’m just saying, that’s how I’m making sense of what you’ve said, and that therefore there is a limit, if you are interested in what society does for people, or alternatively, what art can do for people in one society or one social class, as opposed to another, then you have to do some things which are, you have to conceive ingenious designs in order to bring out that culturally-local, temporary local, I’ll call it historical specificity, and you have to understand it therefore yourself, and if you do the experiment, then you understand it better, or we have to understand it differently. Anyway, that’s what I’m getting from what you’re saying, and whether it’s anything to do with you, I don’t know, but that’s what it does for me.
T: And that’s very close to, I had one conversation with my second supervisor. Her name’s Angela (?? 1:08:48). She’s an artist, film-maker, and we were discussing this first exhibition in Oslo, doing the membership of the political parties, but working more with the archives, and then you get to see this exhibition, and there’s a certain distance. Well, the following exhibition in Prague was very much, you draw a hand, so you have exactly what you’re describing in those two exhibitions, only there’s something closer to a psychic event or something, she calls it something like that, that you immerse yourself, and you’re making a drawing of your hand. There’s an internal experience, there’s a certain tuning in. It’s indirectly humanist in that sense. It could be done any time, almost anywhere – it’s not specific to this sort of context, so that’s a very good observation, I think, is there.
I: But it’s interesting, and now, of course, I’ve disagreed with myself, but it’s interesting what you say about the exhibition of the hand, is that, one of the ways in which one can understand it is, or not necessarily the way in which done in the exhibition, but it could be done using that model of the exhibition, is, of course … in a society where art consumption and art production are distinguished from each other, I go to a gallery to consume art, somebody else has produced it somewhere else, and art is, of course, not ordinary life, so it’s something, etcetera, then the experiment works on people in a certain way. In, let us say, a primitive African tribe, my parents collected, well not my parents, my father and my brother and sister were doing a lot of African art, and they went to Africa, then yes, there are the people who are good at carving masks, but the masks aren’t art, at least they weren’t in the 19th century – they are decorated utensils for doing religious things, and so the notion of, in a sense, the human … the hand exhibition thing is predicated on at least two historical divisions (this is all my fantasy, right? – you don’t have to believe a word of it), and one is the distinction between art and non-art, and the other, which is very, very, I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying, it requires, that and the second is between art producers and art consumers, and so, on the basis of those quite different historical layers, let’s say, art as opposed to non-art goes back 500,000 years to the first cavemen. I saw a wonderful exhibition of the Ice Age art – I don’t know whether you saw it? It was people who’d carved very tiny pictures of mammoths and animals on bits of whalebone, or teeth – I can’t quite remember what it was, but it was quite extraordinary, beautiful things, and it was back in the Ice Ages, and they calculated that, to do a drawing like – it wasn’t a drawing, it was an incision, and to do that would take about 300 days, so the society must have, which is a very Eskimo-type society, and it hasn’t got an enormous surplus, it’s not like an oil sheikh, must have thought it was sufficiently important to, let’s set aside 300 days for that kind of thing to happen, not necessarily as art – it might have been as religion, because if you can draw this mammoth carefully, then maybe you can catch the mammoth – I don’t know, nobody has anybody idea, but it is predicated on a specialised, all it art, but a specialised manual activity, it might be seen as art, it might be seen as religion, but neither of those words might make sense to those people, and then that is very early; and the second one is producers and consumers of art which is definitely art not practice, or not ordinary life, and that’s a much later historical distinction, and so your exhibition is predicated on those two changes of culture or common sense, or anything you care to mention, for it to work, so in one sense you could say, in our type of society, which now covers pretty much all of the world, except maybe Papua New Guinea or something, and even they’re probably now working for tourists, but let’s call it the entire world, it is humanist universal, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t dependent on these early cultural revolutions, or cultural mutations of world culture. =
I think maybe we should have a pause, since I think we’re moving away from your text, in a way, but it’s sort of …
T: It’s interesting. It’s connected.
I: It’s connected, isn’t it? – in the sense, we’re moving into sort of, like a sub-session three activity, of the conversation about what you’ve said, before we’ve concluded my probing, pushing for PINs on what you already have said, so let’s stop and have a cup of tea or something.

Norwegian ARFP
Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

File 5: 1 hr 34’ 52
I: That’s already, and that may be a bit silly in my case, since you’ve written extensively about it, in a sense, what … well, we could put it that way – if you think about what you wrote about, I can’t remember what it was in, about that, so I don’t know, how much time did you spend writing that one, the report on the work work? – or the one, I’m thinking of the one with the women who went to Paris? – or am I confusing two things?
T: Well, it’s part of the same, which has some drawing illustrations in it?
I: Yeah.
T: Yes, so, well that’s maybe, thinking about it for a few months, and thinking how we could get into that, and how to solve that … but the work itself, maybe a week, a few weeks, something like that?
I: Okay. Can you talk about the getting into that, and what you saw as the problem, and how you came to quote that solution about it? Can you remember the stages of thinking, setting yourself the problem, and then discovering slowly a solution to the problem you had posed yourself?
T: Yes, because very often those processes, doesn’t easily allow themselves to be documented in one image, for example, so I used drawing for it to (speaks slowly) … (6) … to make a drawing, and then to have a text to the drawing explaining the project, so there was a drawing with somehow smoothing the text as an image, and … (2) so I thought, if I make these drawings of main features of what I want to talk about, they could be, it allows for a different kind of writing, so it’s very supportive towards letting myself just go into writing … (4), and in this text, for example, you have very strong images, for example, with the unemployed people, looking for a job, coming in the morning, waiting for the phone to ring, maybe there’s something, maybe not, then when there’s something, everybody wants the job, and this is again something which is now, but apart from the telephone, this situation that you’re sitting waiting, and you’re ready and eager, there’s an urgency in it, I think that’s something which felt like this is more of this, if you can say, this universal human situation, that somebody has something, somebody wants something. We’re waiting for it, we need it, so that’s one image, which is somehow penetrating more than the other image of the researcher sitting in the more office-like situation, he’s not a painter, he’s not a sculptor, he’s not a physical … I thought those images somehow could direct the text, and it was somehow, I don’t remember the exact moment, but as soon as that text image appeared, then you could also have speech bubbles to the images, so you allow for different levels of statements, that it’s not only the text explaining something, but you can think something, it’s different than saying it, but as a reader, you could read what the person thinks, but he doesn’t say it, because he wasn’t sure about it maybe, and then you can have, narrating the images, so it’s kind of, not suddenly, but it’s the first time that, it was a discovery that, I mean, it’s a cartoon, of course, or something like that, but it felt like that made it possible to explain some projects, very simple, which already existed, and then, which was the main challenge of this, to talk about some case studies which are ongoing, so the titles, notes, unfinished, and unfinished works, but by describing two finished works, you would set the scene for people to get something out from unfinished work, that you would recognise the grammar of those other case studies, and you could imagine maybe, it will open up and be interesting, or the case study itself is interesting, maybe for some people, so that was quite … quite a pleasant …
I: (he laughs) Discovery?
T: …a solution,
I: A solution, yeah.
T: … to be able to say, well, I have this, what do you think? – if you do it like this maybe?
I: Do you remember how you came to that solution? – the place where you suddenly thought of it, or the person you discussed? I mean, you may not at all, but just, it’s sort of, who you discussed it with, or didn’t discuss it with? You’re looking at a comic cartoon in a tobacconist’s?
T: I have actually worked, I’m thinking back, I worked in 2004, I had the project, which was going to be presented in the catalogue, but the work didn’t happen yet, because it was a programme of people going around after going to the exhibition, getting the programme, and then running the neighbourhood, to people’s homes, so it was again, like nothing to document, there’s no … so then I asked a cartoonist. I didn’t do it myself, but I thought, I can ask someone who knows the city, so we had a meeting. I explained, we walked in here, and said, okay, here will be the exhibition, here is the area, and if you can make the drawing of how the work takes place, people ringing the doorbell. Is this where I can look at videos, your home video? – yeah, then some image from the person waiting for people to come, and so, it was a beautiful rendering of a sense of the project, in the cartoon, so … it’s not entirely new, but what was maybe interesting is to write it into a more peer-reviewed journal, to use that in a more, to deliver something, you state something.
I: And you modify what goes into peer-reviewed journals? – the peers review something new, or something you … a double thing?
T: Yeah, perhaps, and I thought that it’s quite, that you could write with different voices on the same, I’m saying this, I’m thinking that, I can see it from outside, and he is doing that, or what’s happening now? – but you can move around these points of view, and then also a different way of being with the project.
I: So, I’m sorry, I’m infringing the rules again. I’m just thinking of the multiple voices, and I’ve been reading Bakhtin over the summer, and he’s always very good on multi-vocality, so you’re seeing it from different points of view, and I’m thinking of it relating to your reconfiguration, or re-constellation therapy, in which the same objects are reconfigured from the different points of view, the same objects by the different people who keep rearranging the room, or whatever it is, so it’s a similar sort of, how do you bring in a multiplicity of perspectives to stimulate the imagine, or something, whatever it is? I see a relationship between the two.
T: No, no, but this is exactly what we are maybe doing right now, because if we expose some of these sequences to a blind panel, this is exactly what, it goes into, okay, what he said, but there’s what we thought he was going to say, or we could imagine he might have said, so it’s also bringing this multiplicity maybe to …
I: And also, of course, reading who might you be, who said it that way, who had to choose this way? Well, I think he could have chosen between A and B – no actually, I think it’s between B and X. He’s a quite different person from what you imagined, so even the imagining what you do in the BNIM panel is trying to infer, at the first level, you’re trying to say, well what might they have chosen to say instead of what they did say? – and the other, which is predicated on that is, I’m inferring that they have a certain subjectivity, in which they’re choosing between A and B, and the person next to me says, no, I think they’re a different sort of person, they were choosing between B and X, and you can’t know, you just have to put up the hypotheses. So you’re always, whenever you say, these were the alternatives they might be choosing between, and obviously you don’t know, because you only have the record of what they did decide, you’re also implicitly inferring different subjectivities for the, attributed subjectivities for the person whose action you’re trying to read, and so, yeah, so it’s very similar, it’s very similar! (he laughs)
So can you tell a little bit more about sort of, those projects, both the sort of completed ones and the incomplete ones? I mean, do you put them all under work work, or do you, how do you … ?
T: So this particular article was just a request. Somebody came and said they would like to send something, we see your project somehow could fit what we’re interested in, and your institution is interesting for us, so we would like to also … so there might be different reasons. So, when you apply to this fellowship programme, you go into project mode, so this is my project, this is what I would like to do more. It’s linked to what I’ve been doing before. Here’s the documentation of what I’ve been doing before. I see my practice as relevant for research, art, so you bring your project into a suitable context, and then you revise your project, you discuss it with people who haven’t seen it before, and say, mmm, that’s interesting – have you thought about this or that? – so you can moderate it a bit, and then initially, like what we jumped, was the post-Forties (? 12:50). I mean, there’s a whole precariat, and this changes in the the organisation of labour in the last twenty years, especially, of course … so that was, a lot of art is interested, and I also was interested in that, and then, as you started to work, you could see that this is a field, it’s not possible to be following up this theoretical discourse, and decided to find a way that I can put my projects in, maybe using that as a backdrop, or to reference that as a backdrop, but I had to locate these, not these theories, but the reason these theories are popular, and these shifts in work, and what it needs to work, what’s happening to locate that in real experiences of people, so it’s very much about, for example, employment became, or I have the resources, I can give you a job – why don’t you come for an interview, because I work with this, I employed people who were unemployed, just for a short period, and we discussed different things. Some of those conversations led to a photograph, which were installed in the gallery in Paris. The same people were offered to travel to see that photograph, and then have an aesthetic kind of reflection, even if they’re not trained for that, so that allows that you can talk about work, you can mix it into the geographical reference point for that person, so they’re maybe talking about a little experience, or something else, and then they are getting a job, which is normally done by an artist or critiques, but without those skills travelling, reflecting having an experience, seeing that image which is somehow co-produced by them through the conversation for the first time, and then reporting back, having a meeting. A lot of those things could be read back into … because work is everywhere, and it’s so big, so you could always like, find a way to say, well, it’s collected in this way and that way, but more important was to be able to work with one person at a time, and this particular person says, what do you think about this, and how would that be for you, and then maybe bringing that person, early morning to the airport, and saying, good luck, but still being a stranger, but being, working on this, not intimate level, but asking for a not, private, but personal, what’s going on? At that time, it was maybe looking at, wow, that’s interesting, what the person wrote, but maybe the lack of capacity to reflect aesthetically tells a lot about what’s the main priorities in this kind of society, plus people are, not used to make a drawing, for example, because it looks like children’s drawing, why? – because drawing doesn’t count as an important skill, so you wouldn’t learn it when you’re off to kindergarten. So it has this interest, access to think differently a bit on labour or work work, but again, there’s this project, the project from art, and that could be a question – why does it have to be a project, in that sense? Why can’t you, maybe it’s necessary for application, but already, before you apply, the application procedures implies a certain format, it implies a certain practice, a certain budget, a certain cultural production, which I think is not necessarily the only one, and is, I think there’s not enough questions about … it’s taking as neutral, this is how we do it, but it’s a big construction, that way of dealing with cultural production or art production, or the theory for this particular project part comes from city planning, and this project, that project, that we are, instead of being the precariat, we’re, according a colleague, who wrote just a book on the “new projectoriat”!
I: Oh, that’s rather good actually – the projectoriat! – that’s very nice.
T: So, short term, there’s no permanent, it’s always like, maximised. It’s interim, it’s a whole year is also built like on this culturally, kind of existence, and so it does something to who you connect with, because we need to connect to produce, so it has a huge, huge impact on many different levels, and again it’s not, wow, this project is interesting – it’s like, it fulfils, it slips through the mechanisms of reporting, for example, so it’s not, I mean, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s very present also in the way these fellowship programmes are run. So, I think work work, I’m not in a hurry to change it or defend it, it’s just pragmatic, quite open, a bit funny, a bit, work work. It’s not like, (speaks quickly and with emphasis), “work! work!” obviously.
I: But I suppose there’s two things, and it is strange how we are slipping into sub-session three, but anyway, I think it’s because what you say interests me a lot, and therefore I’m thinking about the issues, which is perhaps useful. One thing seems to be … the aesthetics of the untrained, okay? – the aesthetic responses of people who normally don’t, aren’t trained to draw, who aren’t trained to draw, full stop, and who don’t see themselves as great consumers of art either, so they’re just … because you can’t employ people who are asked to do various things and all the rest of it, and so in a way, I can understand it’s like trying to discover, yes, the aesthetics, the implicit aesthetics of the non-aesthetic, ie, people who aren’t aesthetes, or artists, or however you want to put it, and it’s interesting that, I don’t think you said very much about what your discoveries are? – I mean, okay, so this is the methodology, and I’m not saying you should, I’m just saying, I note that for myself, what conclusions did he come to about it? I’d say, well I’m not quite sure really. I can tell you what he did, like in this article I sent you about anthropological experimentation. I can tell you the nature of the experiment, but I can’t tell you really the nature of the findings. I don’t know how the people who went to Paris, what they actually said, or how you evaluate what they’d said in the light of something else, whatever, what they might have said, or what an artistically-trained connoisseur might have said. None of that is there, and I can’t make out whether that’s because you’re just holding that back for the reasons that you’re only going to come clean about, or the double ontology – you’re only going to announce your findings in five years’ time, or because actually you, and it may be both, or actually, because you don’t actually believe that you can have findings in that sense. You put people through various experiences, but there isn’t any way of … I wouldn’t say this, but it feels as though you might be saying this, any way of knowing what it’s done to people. It’s done things to people, but they are not expressable, or they are not, you can’t say what it was, but you can describe, they went through this process, what did it do to them? – there is no way of knowing. So it could be that you do have some way of, from your point of view, of saying yes, well, I think this is what happened, but I’m not going to say yes, I’m going to say it later, or something, or you could be saying, I don’t think in principle you can know what happens. You can just say that whatever it was did happen, and I haven’t made up my mind which of those you’re saying – maybe you haven’t either.
But anyway, I think it’s a question for later, and I think … it might be worth thinking more about, and to the extent to which it’s something, let’s say, of the women who went to Paris, simply one of the things could be, this could be true of any of your things; the women who went to Paris, and they reported on their experience of going to Paris, whatever it was. Well obviously, it could be, well, I never read their reports – I just want them to report, and then we burn them or delete them, because actually it is something for them to bring things together for themselves, but actually it is of no interest, but it’s irrelevant to me, or it could be that you say, well, we guard this very carefully, these reports that they wrote, and we’re going to try to make sense, what do we make of their reports, as it were, later, and I’m not sure, it isn’t clear to me what you have done or what you will do.
T: So, of course, I keep those reports, but I didn’t enter into really studying and working with them more, so for the … (3), well, in this particular artistic context, it’s enough to say it happens. I have the reports, maybe I’ll do something with them, maybe not, so that’s great, but nobody’s demanding, well, I don’t care, like, but I just want to see the reports. Some people might, and that’s an interesting … (4) after work, and, or with these women working, like now, to interview them, and say, I hope you didn’t mind, or what do you think about it? – but it’s not always necessary.
I: It’s not your top priority?
T: No.
I: Or even if it’s not a priority, it’s something you could do. It’s not the main, a necessary part of the work, to look at their reports, or re-interview them – it’s something you could do as well.
T: And this is where you hang it, let’s say, hang it on the wall. They went to Paris, and they made reports, and this is maybe one image from one guy, which I asked a friend in Paris to check if they are really going there, so he was kind of looking and seeing where she was here. They made one image, or to explain the project, but then it’s up to the, then the work leaves for the audience, to say, okay, this happened, and then, it’s okay, maybe we told the audience not to read the reports. Maybe they’ll just see it as interesting. Like you said, it’s more about for that person, maybe to have that kind of task.
I earlier mentioned this 2004 cartoon, about this project – people can go through the gallery, you find the programme, and oh, like, round the corner here, at six o’clock we can ring the doorbell, and there’s like a screening of a home movie. He’s showing himself filming on location, or something like that, so again the project, the channel opened in this period, and the whole set up is more the work, than, what’s this actually showing? (with humour) – on that video?
I: (he laughs)
T: Of course, that’s interesting, if you … and that could be really, sometimes a very good way to wrap up, if you really want to go deeper into … so what was the project, then? Then it’s a different chapter, but of course, it could be very, very resonating back into the project, and giving it a certain … (3) character which would maybe interesting for other kind of people, or a person interested in art.
I: But I think what I find, for me, what’s one of the things of interest is that, and this is where you and I are not the same! (he laughs) – which is for me, if I was doing an experiment, let’s call it the Paris experiment, then I would be above all interested in what had happened to them, of which, what they wrote would be an indicator – what is the effect of this on people? – and what do we learn about aesthetics, or I mean, it would be an experiment in the sense in which the findings, however ingenious the experiment, the thing I want to know about it is, well, what were the effects of the experiment on those, so I would have a control group and an experimental group, and I would have people who did everything you asked them to do, but didn’t go to Paris, plus another group who did everything you asked, and did go to Paris, and I would either interview them or collect their reports, and try to say, well, what happened, and people who didn’t do it, another control group of people who didn’t do any of those things, but were sort of matched sociologically, if you like, or occupationally, with the experimental group, which itself is divided into … I’m not saying you should do this. I’m just talking about how I would think about it, and for me, it would be the results that I find that … here’s a description of the aesthetics of a non-aesthetic, before they’ve done any of this, or who haven’t done any of this. Then there’s the aesthetics of the people who did the experiment and didn’t go to Paris, and didn’t write a report, and then there’s the aesthetics of the people who did your experiment, did go to Paris, and did write a report. Are there any interesting differences between the three groups? – and then I would say, okay, well now we can see the effects of doing this sort of thing, whatever it would happen to be, and this is what we’ve discovered about aesthetics and their potential transformations through certain types of experience, and what I find interesting is, that that’s what would …. (with drama) oh right, okay, yum, yum, yum! – or whatever, and it’s, for you, it’s an after work. It’s something that might be done, but it might not be done – it’s not the main point, and I’m not criticising you at all, I’m just interested in that difference.
T: No, it’s interesting.
I: Anyway, I just wanted to say that, that I think it’s an interesting difference, and I suppose it’s maybe between somebody trained in a social science tradition to do experiments, and somebody, let’s say, trained in an artistic tradition, and what they think is important to do, and of course, the question is … I mean, the thing that occurs to me … it’s something about … (he considers) … (4) the experiment is the artwork, ie, you’re not interested in the longer term effects of people doing the this, and doing the that. It’s like an interest in social science and health research, there’s a thing called process evaluation, and perhaps end product evaluation – I can’t remember what it’s called, something like that, and you evaluate, and you’re interested in, but one person is interested in the process, and evaluating the process and what goes on in the process, and this is an interesting process, or is it a dead boring … or whatever it is, and the other is interested in the process only as a means to an end, which is not in the process, it’s after, or outside the process. It’s the difference between, I suppose, painting something and throwing it into the dustbin, and painting something to hang on a wall, so it’s a process product, division, and for me, perhaps the two traditions of creating an artwork, and your methodology of experiment, is the artwork itself? – and that’s why you don’t need to say, what are its effects – here’s a picture, what’s its effects? The picture is the picture, the experiment of the experiment. I don’t necessarily need to know what people made of it, and, of course, I’m more social science product-focused. I’m very interested in the process, and the methodologies, but my methodology is always to try and say, okay, well what has changed in people’s sensibility as a result of it? What’s changed in people’s practice? – something like that, what is the change that the doing of this has done to them? – and that’s my interest, even if I say, well I can’t know either of them. That’s the interest, doesn’t mean to say, God will arrange it, so I can find out, but just … anyway, those are some thoughts. Do you want to come back on that at all, or just leave it?
T: I think it might have, well I think maybe, in this particular case, in this fellowship programme, you were asked to have a reflexive part, but you are also asked to show that you’ve been really thinking it over, and reflecting on it, so maybe that’s, what you were talking about, after the experiment, maybe that could be interesting to look at in this particular, those three exhibitions, and to … that’s a bit, where the idea of bringing not documentation of the works, but to bring testimonies or witnesses in for the committee to say, well, I went to see this exhibition, and I had this and this experience, and maybe, I’ve been thinking …
I: This is what I make of it?
T: … yeah, and this is what maybe, not necessarily change my sensibilities, but I’ve been quite, thinking about it for a time, or in the long term, with those people, let’s say, travelling to Paris, or being part of this experience, maybe they will sit in a meeting at work and discussing something, and then say actually, twenty years ago, I was part of this something, so it becomes part of their …
I: Part of their life experience?
T: Deviation, or something like that.
I: Particularity.
T: So that could be a way of seeding, maybe some potential, allowing to think different in a certain way, or that’s weird with that, I remember that project, because people will say, well, I heard about your project, and somehow I’m deeply moved by this, that, or that element of it, so it stays with … so it’s an aesthetic, it’s a touch ….
I: Well, it may or may not be aesthetic, but it’s certainly a lived experience of some significance, which might be, I mean, for example, your thing might be that you went to … I’m trying to remember, there’s something you said about … becoming interested in people. I can’t quite remember what, this was in your first, I think the first interview yesterday, and I can’t remember what it was at the moment, and it may not matter so much, because while I’m thinking of it now is, from being, what were you interested in before, and I think it was to do with sort of individual work on your own, and then, working in a collective, maybe with a French collective, which I think was your earliest … I don’t know, anyway, that somehow, one experience, you could say, what was important is not that you learnt from that experience in France, well it wasn’t just in France, but let’s call it the French experience, working with the theatre, was it the theatre director? – what was his name?
T: Tim Dalton.
I: Tim Dalton, okay, so working with Tim Dalton, what you were formally doing was contributing towards drawing the masks, or whatever it is that you actually did. The effect in your life actually has been to interest you in group process, and if you’d been doing family therapy, a group family therapy, you might have got interested in group process as well. It happened to be an artistic theatre production group which you stayed with for a year-and-a-half or two years, but from the point of view of the impact on your life, I mean, I’m not saying this is true, but this is a simple model, so if you like, this is not quite a double ontology in the same sense, but as it were, what you were manifestly doing was painting these masks to simplify what really, and importantly and significantly for you was happening, had nothing especially to do with masks. It had to do with, let’s say, group process and how people work together, and da da da da da. So of course, you never know, except twenty years later, well, what was now, how would you evaluate that experience in which you did this, that or the other, went to Paris and submitted a report? – looking back on it from now, what significance, if any, does it have? Was it just a freebie to get to Paris, and walk down the Champs-Élysées? – or what was it? Of course, you won’t know until they tell you.
Anyway, I’m sorry – a digression.
T: No, but I just want to, I was thinking about, there is, of course, when you are a young art student, it’s very much about finding out what you’re doing, and the focus is often, in my case, was about myself, and figuring out what’s this all about, and then there’s a shift to seeing that, well, you’re just, it’s a shift from being an individual to being this inter-subjective being, or something like that, so that I remember from earlier years in art school, there was this … well, it concerns me, but it doesn’t have to have my signature, so it’s those, kind of changing the rules of the game a bit, this shift. So it doesn’t make sense if I …
I: The structure of your preoccupations?
T: Yeah, or it’s not about my expressionism. It’s how you contribute to the interpretation of a bigger thing.
I: That would be a change of perspective, right, and if this is true, I mean, something, if I was doing a case reconstruction, what I would do is to try to find out, which I think would be very difficult, what, in the real history of you, triggered this shift from the individualist perspective of the artist on their own in Paris, if it were, that’s simplifying, to, the collectivist in a group in, wherever it was, in the Auvergne, or something. Can we pinpoint it, and can we describe the difference? Can we describe the transition, so as to properly evoke the state of subjectivity before, and the state of subjectivity after, even if they sort of glide into each other? – and that would be the sort of, the conceptual problem, or the descriptive problem of trying to do a case study of, let’s say, the change from perspective A to perspective B, and you might be able to find a solution. If it was me, I might be able to find a solution to it, or I might not, there’s no way, you can’t guarantee.
There’s something, I can’t quite read what I’ve been writing, and another example … a student for M with … I was getting tired, and my handwriting was deteriorating sharply. Unexpected turns, giving ownership to the students – I think this was where you were unrolling something that they had to do, and then telling them to do something else, and then they started taking ownership of what they were doing?
T: Yeah, I was inserting these self-organised study groups, topics, and trying to show that the resources are there, but they had to ask for it, or something like that.
I: Can you say a bit more about that more concretely? – because my notes won’t tell me exactly what it was? Where did it happen, and how did you do?
T: It happened at the art academy in Oslo, and … since this was the Master programme, we have quite mature students from different parts of the world, and in this particular case we had a meeting saying, because I felt that the students might have a much bigger influence on the (?? 39:35) than what they actually have, and that I wanted, so I was printing out the budget and showing, okay, 75% of this institution goes to salaries, but we have quite a lot of money here, and if you engage, and you get involved, you could really decide who you want to have here. You could have a different constellation, you could have a different structure, we are open, and so I was trying to do this, not as a workshop, but for example, we had one student from, originally from the Sudan, so instead of having a study trip to New York, why don’t we go to the Sudan? – or the Lebanon? – and then saying, if we want to do that, we need to build up a kind of preparation for that, theoretically, or let’s say in Beirut, has an important contemporary arts scene – who is there? During the next semester, maybe some of those are coming to Oslo – we can make a seminar with that person, so making that person in charge of introducing, or using the capacities, and building up a certain sense of, okay, so we can do it together, or it was like assisted, so I could say, I can help, but the people are really already artists, are already adults, so we had building up this group, two different groups, that although a student had to apply it to be part of this group, we couldn’t have like a hundred students going, so the motivation, so it was made into kind of arm’s length … it wasn’t like, I am teaching them, but I said, from the point of administration, that this is possible. If you want to run it, you run it, and we make it happen. So we did that, so we had like one study trip to Beirut, and one to the Sudan, with the students who then were involved, like a group of eight to ten people, to do different preparations, or they were reading up on this, the history of that, and meeting those artists and people coming in from the University of Oslo, which has a background in Lebanese studies, or about Beirut, and also the backdrop of why, the contemporary art scene like that, and the relation to theatre, so it was a very, I wouldn’t say necessarily a new way of working, but it was a different way of thinking, kind of, not empowerment, because they’re quite free and they do what they want, but it was providing new possibilities within using what’s there now, this year. Then, so I thought, to implement that’s a kind of, this could be always an accessible way of working, to have these like assisted student workgroups, or something like that, with a budget. But I realise maybe now that it was a lot of me in it. Maybe I didn’t teach, so it’s not like you go in and you suddenly teach, but you’re actually co-ordinating, but … it wasn’t something that my colleagues, who took over my job later on, so while, this we have to keep, this is very interesting, this is a new development, so it’s somehow very often the case, or at least in this particular case, it wasn’t able to fix it into this direction.
I: It didn’t become a tradition?
T: No, not yet, but again, potential, so on the value, I saw of changing the, Berlin, London, New York reference points for the contemporary art, and to look beyond that, and to look for other ways, and I know that some students, starting later, one from India and one from Columbia, and one from Iran, they, I encouraged them to, well, we talked, and I said you should bring some other of your students there, and make a study trip, and do it like we did it – it’s possible, but then I think you need really, like some genuine support from the office, to talk it through, and to make it happen somehow.
I: And that didn’t happen?
T: That didn’t happen, and that somehow, on the study trips, like we said, they still exist, but it’s made in a much more compressed and integrated sense, which maybe is good in some cases, but … I think it’s not the question of resources and budget, so that’s why we could co-exist with other things, so it’s not, you had to choose this or that. It was just like, not recognised.
I: So in that sense, it doesn’t build up so much their awareness, that they have these capabilities, and they are resources in themselves?
T: (firmly) Yes. I think it’s a different climate now, in this particular department, so it shows also how much one person could keep the door open, or …
I: Or close it.
T: … or close it, yeah. It’s very interesting, this working environment. But yeah, that’s one example of a particular … which was then one-and-a-half, two years after this in Brunow experience, I would be the kind of designated teacher, or you’re responsible to look at the work all the time and have a dialogue, but here was, make sure their curriculum is fulfilled, that they get through, that we’ve provided all the right staff to have this and this amount, and the space to show their work, so it was a different responsibility.
I: And pedagogic philosophy
T: Yeah.
I: (11) And then there’s the political party membership project, where people joined all the political … was it one person or several people, who joined up?
T: It was me.
I: Just you? – okay, right, so you’re project director, and project subject, or object at the same time. Can you talk a bit more about that, how all that happened?
T: Yes. I was just getting an overview of all the existing political parties in Norway, and then I …
I: But why were you doing that? Let’s go back to it as sort of, like why, why did you decide to do that? – because, a strenuous project?
T: Well, I’d been away from Norway, for quite, fifteen years, and I thought now I’m in Oslo, I can operate on a different way, than I would be able to do in Prague, or other places I’ve been living, due to, it’s my own language, and so I thought, it could be interesting to … well, I think I need some location to work, so instead of going to my studio, I need to go somewhere, or to engage somewhere, to have a framework to operate. So I thought that I’m preparing maybe on the horizon some new work, and I thought that I’d never been a member of any political parties. My parents have been very reluctant to say what their political affiliations, so politics has never been a topic when I grew up, so I thought, it’s interesting. I’m curious – who are these people in the political parties? You see the professional politicians in the news, in the public arena very often, but the political parties are kind of, mostly for me, some …
I: Backdrop, something vague in the background, yeah.
T: Yeah, and I had no idea what was actually implied. Maybe I had some cousins in some parties, I know, like something, but apart from … also at university, I met some Labour people, and I have a few kind of touching points with people, but never had any relationships with someone who is really engaged in something. So I thought that it could be a good point of departure to go into a political party, but then I’m not so much … well, maybe I have a political orientation, but I never was thinking that political parties is my arena to operate, so I thought I’ll rather just be a member of all the parties, as a kind of, invite all the directors, so there was this, chewing on a lot. So I started to register membership, and then paying the membership, and then receiving in the post the different welcome letters, and then being on the email lists, and then receiving information, and then going to meetings as often as I could, and some meetings were kind of formal, bigger group meetings, and some were small, like maybe six people only, so it was quite a different experience, and even in the same party, it could be different. I went to some local group meetings, and some local group meetings, and some more, city of Oslo group meetings, and it was also an interesting way to see where they are located, because some of the bigger political parties have their own big building, very prominent, and political history, and some have less, and some are hidden, a rented office almost, so it was also a way to discover Norway, in a sense. Some parts are not even in Oslo, so I was travelling sometimes later on, so it was going in with this curiosity, and then, for example, sitting in the meeting in the leftist party, and now seeing there’s a big rift between the older generation and the younger generation, and the topic for this meeting was, if we could look at a party programme, and to see if we could re-write the terminology or the language, because you cannot talk about proletariat and revolution in the same way, so we need to re-invent our language, so we had round the table and participating, and it felt … so this is one example where I was going out, and I felt that it’s at some cost, being there but not being there, or maybe this is not so far away. I could easily identify maybe with this group, but it felt like I’m not telling the whole truth, so this was the beginning where I felt that there is something growing in my methodological approach, which is something else, which some theorists, this has been talking about double ontology, or poaching – lots of ways that art is already work, a double agent. It surprised me that, we talked about it briefly, that this … not telling this, or being in this covert … it became maybe more intensified than I expected, and interesting as well, like wow! – that’s, how can I react so strong? I’ll wake up, it wasn’t that strong, but I would be surprised at how much energy it takes to keep, to maintain that role. (6)
And then sometimes, I would explain that I’m working as a research fellow, and I’m interested in putting together an exhibition, and I need access to the archives, so that will be a way to gain access to the archives. It was an interesting finding, for example.
I: The archives of the political party?
T: Yeah, so for example, the Labour and the left parties, they have very well-maintained archives, while the Conservatives and the Promise party, they have no archives at all, and one historian at the University of Oslo, he explained that, because he was doing some historical works, and he said, it’s quite interesting when it comes to sources. When you’re a historian, you need sources, and in Norway, the archives of the left has always been very well, I mean, it’s been also inspired by Soviet … but it’s been very well documented. Everything’s been very well organised, and because everything they did has been a victory.
I: (he laughs)
T: Being, coming into existing, and working for the negotiating rights, and basically it’s been from an all rights to normal rights.
I: A progressive story, or a progressive victory, yeah.
T: So it’s been like, if you take a curve, it’s been a series of victories, and democratic victories, while for the Conservatives, it’s been a series of losses (he chuckles), so they haven’t been in the same way keen on maintaining, so that’s one way of … but that’s only the beginning. That’s interesting, I hadn’t thought about that in that way. So, that’s very tiring, I mean, you can go to meetings, and I went to Christmas tables, and when I could, I tried to go, but it was exhausting. I was bringing my partner for those Christmas tables. It even becomes more of … so it’s maybe, lots of funny stories, or you get access to the parliament, because they are the members, because most of the members are, those who are not paid, they are volunteering, so it’s lots of ideal work, which was interesting.
I: Lots of what, sorry?
T: Ideal work, like volunteer work. Kind of now, you have a campaign, and give out flyers, and all the time there’s emails. I was asked if I could do, at one meeting, if I could do the … because when they have elections, then you run the, it’s not the electorate, but the place, the school where you go to vote, is run by members from all the parties, so you have a watch group, make sure that everything is going right, and if it’s run by not everyone, then it’s a lot easier to get suspicious. So I was nominated to this school in part of Oslo from the Conservative party. I accepted the political, it was my first and only, I think, political nomination, so I was representing the Conservatives, and I went to this school, and we came one day before to set up everything, and there was people from the social left and the centre and everyone … oh, so you’re this guy, so you carried an identity, and that was quite a new experience, because you spend three days with these people, and then you’re sitting in the end, counting the votes, and reporting into the central hall there, so that was, I mean, that’s the things I’m thinking about now, and I realised that … because I thought for a period of time that, if I choose a party, then I could engage in that party, and maybe I could work politically on something, and that could be my work, so I could say, well, this legislation, I was part of getting that through, or I’ve been working on this and this, and putting my, let’s say, competence and capacities and effort into fulfilling that, or I could go more into the progress, and be this kind of, leaking, what they’re actually planning or talking about. I mean, in many ways, I could have gone much further, if I focus on one part, which didn’t happen, because I was more, well, it was too time-consuming, and I was travelling, and I didn’t have the exact, it didn’t happen that I was jumping on something, but there is all the time, and I’m still a member somehow of several … I didn’t pay, because it’s quite expensive to maintain this, but I’m still a member of most of those parties, and I receive still reminders, and if I would like to be in political workgroups and so on. It’s still possible to, if I find out, that might be interesting to continue. It’s still ongoing, or it’s not a totally shut down project. It can always be open again at least. There were big cultural differences in the political parties, how they talk, how they behave, how they are between each other, and also within one party, you’ll find lots of variations. Because it’s a part of politics which is not visible, as it’s a very personal find, you see in the news, you see in the hearings, you see only those nominated people, so this is also nice. It was interesting to get a bit closer to …
I: Right. Can you remember, you mentioned this moment where you went, representing the Conservatives involved, sort of voting, the day of voting, we work for three days, and then it was the voting day, and suddenly some Leftists, the Left emerged too. Can you tell the story of that moment, or as it were, your experience of being the Conservative rep, and suddenly the Left emerges, and how you handled that, or how they handled it, or what happened?
T: I think … (he considers) (6) … I think that, I kind of enjoyed it, even if it was a bit weird, and since it was my first time, the other, were telling me how it works, and how we are doing it, and how we share the kind of work, and I was talking a lot with especially this guy from the Left, from the party Red, which is, it’s a more leftist, he’s a veterinary, educated, and so it was, he was, well, I was spending most of the time discussing with him, but we didn’t discuss politics, so we were more, I think it was a very polite environment, and everybody wants this to be smooth and nice, and even within Norwegian electorate, there is lots of migration.
I: Lots of migration?
T: Yeah, that people, it’s not like it was before, that you’re either a Conservative or a Labour, that’s your life …
I: Oh, you move between parties?
T: Yeah, but people are more and more moving between the Christian Democrats, Centre, Centre Left, maybe Left Left, it’s more stable, and Right Right is maybe more stable, but somehow they meet, the ultra-right and ultra-left, but somehow there’s … and I felt many times during this conversation that I cannot, it would be very natural to say, well …
I: I’m in your party?
T: Yeah, I’m actually in your party, or I voted your party actually, now, just now, because I was also voting.
I: And you felt like saying that, but you didn’t say it?
T: Well, I felt like that would be the natural thing to say, but somehow that would, then maybe the whole school would be, I don’t know, I cannot say.
I: Yes, can you describe a bit more, the thoughts or images you had, what would happen if you said, so you attempted to say, but you had these ideas, what were the ideas, images or whatever, that stopped you?
T: It’s a little bit like, if I would say, listen Tom – I’m not Jesper actually, because it becomes, there’s a trust involved. There’s a human mutual respect, and at some level, when you’re in this environment and people are behaving how we agreed to behave together in a good way, and at a certain point you can pull a practical joke, but this is far beyond a practical joke, so it will be really insulting, and … (10), well, my ethical construction is that it’s more important for me to keep the project, and then there’s no direct harm for anyone, but there would be maybe, disrespecting, if I would say, listen, I’m just doing a joke, and don’t tell anyone else. I mean, that’s impossible, so I just felt that this is, I didn’t dwell with it really long.
I: You didn’t what?
T: I didn’t dwell on it, and say, no, this is exactly the image, so this is, but this is something I’ve recognised, which is very similar to a lot of the projects that you know that if you say, it’s over, but you need to be close, and you have to have this, to maintain the access open, or to … it’s a bit like with these directors, listen – we think we know, we’re going to use what you say, but just say something, then it is over, and they’re going to do it. So, I don’t know, it’s probably you will find it in many, or at least, a few other professions maybe, or you would have … because I’ve been looking for, so what is this then about, if I’m more concerned about these kind of moments and these situations? – where you have this twilight of …
I: Overt/covert?
T: Yeah, and been looking for, if it’s a double ontology, it’s a term for steering right, you have double consciousness, which is a black theorist, like how it is to be black living in a white society, so you have this, or you have, from anthropology, you have now a recent book coming out, like talking about dual anthropologies, like CIA, overt/covert, using research and demographic and anthropological research, as a kind of foreign policy as well, so I’ve been looking for a way to open this up more, this specific … because it’s quite interesting, and it’s also, well, it’s distantly connected to leaks, you’re leaking something and then you … so that’s been a big topic now, about the leaking body, for example, so you’re inside, you actually, you’re not this …
I: No, I know we are – Wikileaks and the rest, Assange, Snowden.
T: That’s kind of a different, appearing, political mechanisms, so, but it’s not that. It’s not like I’m going in and leaking, that aspect. It’s not that I’m spying either. I don’t have any interests, so I’m not working for someone else in that sense, so it’s a bit … (3), I was mentioning that, because a lot of these projects are interesting to keep, not to say, well, this is how far I got, and now it’s the final assessment.
I: Keeping the secret, or its owner?
T: Yeah, so also beyond the time of the research fellowship, so I’ve been looking for a way, well it’s important that they get a sense of what’s at stake as well by doing this, not of the stake, but how it operates, or how the ethical thinking around it, what keeps it going, so that’s why I thought it’s interesting to give the committee a kind of insight into a real, ongoing situation. They could really talk with people, and those people would have some information, but this committee would have … so they could (sniffs) smell this.
I: They could feel, yes, the …
T: So, but I haven’t yet found a good area to open this.
I: Way open, opening up the area of non-openness.
T: Like the veteran spies! – Sunday club or something.
I: It’s the le Carré  school of artistic research. I just thought of a book, which I’ve never read, called, it’s by an anthropologist, probably about 20, 30 years ago I should think, and it’s got a title, something like, “What Do We Do, Now That They Can Read the Books We Write About Them?” – do you know it?
T: No, I don’t know it.
I: It’s precisely about the coming to literacy of primitive peoples, and suddenly, instead of, they will never read what we write, they will. They’re sending their children to university, and they can read the anthropology of the Papua New Guinea tribe, or whatever it was, and it’s just that heralded a sort of, the sort of concern you’re talking about, and also what do we do when they start to understand what an anthropologist does. Anyway, I just thought, it’s a similar sort of issue.
The other thing is, sort of, I can’t remember – did you do an exhibition based on this political work, or not?
T: Yes.
I: Yeah, okay, so I was going to ask you, you said something, I think you said, about metaphors, that you wanted to find metaphors for what you were talking about. You didn’t just want to do a sociology, you didn’t say that, but that’s what I took it as meaning. Can you talk a bit about the exhibition that you did do, and the finding of a metaphor, or the not finding of a metaphor? How was that work presented in an exhibition? – and then we could perhaps stop and have another break, because this is all quite tiring for you, and me.
T: Well, I can take you through the elements of the exhibition, and look at how they’re constituted metaphorically, and based on the research, or the findings. So for example, looking for early political formations in Norway, I found that there’s first this precursor, which is the civil organisation, or volunteering organisations, then you have the first political party, and then you have the Labour Party, so these ideas of political parties was quite new in Norway, and a lot of the first local emblems of these political parties was kind of a handshake, so it’s both an agreement, but it’s also linked together, so if we are two, we could negotiate. If we are more, then we can have the power.
I: Unity is strength.
T: Unity is strength, so then I found the sculpture, Norwegian sculpture, who, in front of it, it’s a very particular building in Oslo, and I knew this exhibition was going to be in that building. It’s a house of artists’ building from 1929, and the same year, or the year after, one sculptor, he was making two lions, like you have in front of important buildings, lions guarding, and it’s a courtroom or it’s parliament, but here, these lions are playful and funny, so for me, it’s like, okay, there’s a certain authority, but the authority is on the premises of the art, it’s spontaneous, playful. So I found that this same artist made lions. He made also in the Fifties, a commission competition for a monument for the workers, it’s a special type of Woodie Guthrie worker, a Scandinavian type, this kind of labourer who travels around.
I: Tramps.
T: And make roads, a tramp, yeah, so this same artist, he made then in the Fifties a sculpture, which is called The Breakthrough, so it’s basically one of these workers with a hat, and in the background, there is a quarry, or a mountain, and you see that there is a small hole in it, so it’s the work of the tunnelling, so they’ve been … and you make a tunnel, you start from both sides and then you unite, and you have champagne and so on, so it’s a bit this metaphor of …
I: The shaking hands.
T: Yeah, the breakthrough, the shaking hands, the unity, or this … and it was also mounted, so through that, you could see the rest of the exhibition, so it was kind of, the first repertoire, so it was reflecting that you would tune in, you enter through the gates where the lions are playing, and you go through, and then you progress to the exhibition, and then the first you meet is this kind of, is a breakthrough, it’s an opening. It’s this kind of, the repertoire of the show somehow. It’s interesting that this backdrop, so I was finding this, and then I talked with the daughter of this sculptor, and she explained a bit about this period, that there was this figure in front, and then this backdrop, which was, if you take away the figure, it’s like, what’s that? It’s like a rose, or a … so if you take away the figure, it looks like the logo of the Labour Party basically.
I: (he laughs)
T: Which was exactly where, they had one of the editions at the headquarters of the Labour Party in Oslo, so it somehow was interesting, with this topic of work work, and the construction and the dismantling of the welfare state, to make it very simple, so that was the first metaphor, let’s say, in that show, and this sculptor, he was, so if you read it more artistically, stylistically, that in the early Fifties, what was happening was abstraction in the arts, so it was, in this, it was this figurative worker, but in the back, if you take away the work, you have a beautiful abstract – it could be a flower, it could be an anus, or it could be something, you don’t know, right? So it also explained a bit at the time that, if you wanted to have a public commission, abstraction, the public commission is not ready for an abstraction, but artistically, you could, with integrity, you could combine the two?
I: You could combine the two, yes.
T: And that’s what he did, so that’s a different entry to the exhibition, but all that comes up when you work close with it over time somehow. So of course, what I did, which I think is a mistake, I didn’t tell that story. I expect that people will come, and they will spend some time, and they will see similar things, but no chance!
I: (he laughs)
T: No, so it helps a lot, that you really lose perspective, when you’re involved yourself. But I made a radio broadcast, which was like, when you entered, you got the headphones, those isolated ones, and so it was tuned into the radio, so you had a voiceover addressing all the different, five different objects, so that’s one part of the exhibition, and the idea with the radio was again this, the public sphere. It’s not always been in the public sphere, and the history of the public sphere goes back to the, maybe some people could claim, to the sermon. It’s like a proto public sphere, but there is this, addressing the audience in different ways, so I was reading a little bit about that, and I thought, that’s really interesting, this addressing the audience, and I think the radio broadcast is very much addressing the audience, and institutionally we are addressing an audience, come and see this exhibition. It’s also another part of this, who are we when we enter an exhibition, and are you ready to be touched by the art inside, or something. So I was interested at the time with this, you have the producer, you have the institution presenting the work, and you have the audience, which is also a bit like in the … it’s like a trinity, a constellation in a way.
So that’s one work, and then if you continued, so you’re listening, and there would be one work, because working in the (?? 1:15:14) of the Labour organisation, the headquarters, I noticed that they had this small, like Oscar statues, small bronze, and it’s a copy of a bigger worker …
I: A bigger statue.
T: … on the main square, it’s a small version of that, and they explained that this is something the local organisation, they could apply to get one of those, and to give it to, very often, people who are retiring, so the secretary has that, she said, I’ve worked 25 years minimum, and then you should be with honours, you know what you’re doing, so it was a way of honouring your colleagues after a long and painful service. So I was asking if there’s a list of the people who received this, because that might be an interesting source, so they put me in touch with some people, and I was trying to figure out what they, let’s say, we need, and say, yeah, I see you have received this, and I’d like to know what you worked on exactly, because that’s never mentioned, what you did, and you said, well, I worked a few years against nightshifts, or particular directives you were working on, so when you were listening to the radio, so I borrowed those sculptors, but I didn’t unpack it, because they also had the mould, so I was just showing the mould, and then you could somehow sense that there is this human figure, but was was interesting with the mould is that it had this collection part, so you poured bronze in, so like a building kit, so it was semi-abstract. So again, you had this figure of abstraction in that artistic, stylistic, that was one way of finding it. So you would listen to all these extreme boring things, where you can sit down, and you can watch this … so it’s very much based on empathy, that you’re interested in being led into listening to my voice, and hearing just very, as if somebody would read poetry, it was reading this …
I: List of achievements?
T: Yeah, what they had been focused on during their lifetime of work. Should I continue this way?
I: Yeah, no, do.
T: And then, so then there was this very subtle light shifting, so now this light is a bit stronger, so that means that I’m going to go over there, and then the voice is going to be talking about this, with the co-ordinator with the radio broadcast, and so I moved over there, and there was a big work of maybe four square metres of piled pieces of wood, and it looks like a sculpture, a big sculpture, very precisely cut, and immediately it would have referenced some American minimalists, so it looked like that. So then you were listening to the radio on this spot. It would reflect, it was a big public commission in Norway at the time. (?? 1:18:29) was an artist, she was preparing for, I mean, (?? 1:18:34) had a big commission, this was the biggest after that. It was a huge public, in the government area, government buildings. She was preparing three murals, or it was actually not directly on the wall, but it was on cement, or a baton, and then it was mounted, so it was mounted, so it was kind of permanent, but she was working on it somewhere else, and then it was mounted, huge. So one of those three, she made two, they’re installed, and then the third one, they said, from the Ministry of Health, I think, said, we actually don’t want the third one, I mean, this is a state-organised organisation who is implementing, and step by step, having all the necessary meetings, and so it’s quite a surprise, and the reason they didn’t want it is that it was too much putting the memory back to the terror attacks of what was it, in July in Norway.
I: Oh, Breivik.
T: Breivik was having this, (?? 1:19:37) at the government building, and it was all flying, everything around, and she had these kind of papers flying in the air, and it was kind of bureaucratic, and this was very childish.
I: They didn’t want it.
T: They didn’t want it. Since the size and the integrity of art and artists, and this kind of commission projects, you cannot say now that you don’t want it. You had a chance along the road, all the time. So it became this huge public discussion, which you rarely see, so it’s like the morning, 40 headlines about this, what’s happening, who decides what’s what, and it became a farce, because they investigated it and said, so who doesn’t want it exactly? Well, there’s lots of workers here who get the traumatised experience every time they pass, if they will pass by this, and so we want to protect our workers, and the whole idea at the workplace, is the opposite, not to traumatise people with art, but to give them a sense of pleasure.
I: Possibility, yeah.
T: So it entered into this, and so, how many people are actually bothered? – if it’s only a few, maybe we could put them in a different office, and they don’t have to pass by, if it’s okay with the others, so it became quite clear that …
I: It’s very interesting.
T: … this is not actually the problem, and then they said, well, it’s because the sound, it became a farce, totally, and then, well, they checked this out, and it was totally below, so it was just also nonsense, and then it came that it’s perhaps because a lot of news, are coming to this building to shoot, and in the background they want maybe different, not this kind of childish art.
I: Oh right, okay, they want something serious and important.
T: Yeah, something representative for the Norwegian state, so then that became, so the focus shifted, and it’s unbelievable! (with humour)
I: It sounds extraordinary, yeah!
T: And along this, discussions in the media, and all the important people having a say, and it ended that the Ministry of Culture, in the end said we will take the last part, and we will put all three works together in the future, when we have a good place for it, or some kind of diplomatic solution to save face.
I: Not today, but later.
T: But meanwhile this was going on, and I was preparing my exhibition. I contacted this artist and said listen, if this work is just in the storage now, I wouldn’t mind to have it stored in the show, since I’m working on this discourse a bit, and I’m interested. It’s very close to my topic, and somehow I want to track it, so we met, and she said that, well, she doesn’t own the work. Anyhow, it was now being transported somewhere, and it’s huge, it will cost a lot, but I asked if it was okay if I just make a replica of the actual, if she would bring it, it will be exactly this volume, so it would serve my, it would be a prop instead of the real work, which was fine.
T: So that’s that one, so what you would hear is all the headlines in this discussion, and what it became, how I read it a bit, is that it became a competition of principles, like we don’t want your art, we don’t have to explain it to you, just to say a very simple one, and we don’t want to talk about it any more, we just don’t want it, so what more can you ask from us?
I: Go away.
T: Yeah, and it became interestingly about mental health at the workplace almost, or who can push something on someone else in their working environment, because that’s the offices of the government, so I felt it’s very close to what I was interested in, and so I was finding a document, a research document of people who, because they did, it’s a trend in many places, that they say, we have four hospitals, we can have online administration. We have like these different art schools, they want to be in the same place. We have different communes, they want to have …
I: This idea, yeah.
T: So we just have to do it, and we do more of … we try to give you ownership, but it’s already decided, so it’s just a harm reduction thing. So there’s interesting research on this resistance, emotional resistance to changes at the workplace, this was the document about this, and if we are the leaders, and in between leaders, or not on top leaders, then we will sit in meetings, saying, let’s do this, and this is the first step, that’s the best way to do it, and we’ll have a meeting, and we all explain, like this, we need changes, and but there’s this idea that you should do it in this way to … you know that some people are going to be damaged, they’re never going to get over it. Some people are going to adopt … I mean, all this is finely researched. There’s a calculation, like, how to do it, and finding people to do it, get people in on the boat, and so, after these headlines and this discussion, I was putting, there’s these four stages of resistance to changes at the workplace, emotional assistance, so I was just quoting the headlines, two words. It’s not possible to explain or translate examples right now, but that was kind of the, it became a bit poetic, a bit unclear, what is it actually, but it was setting one, hierarchical values against another, and then you could see really, this is the structural changes in the working environment for a lot of people. Almost in all fields, you had this affectation (? 1:25:31) and so on, so that was the third element.
The fourth one was in (?? 1:25:40), and doing an interview with a very conservative Christian party, a little bit crazy, this political programme they have, and it’s like, almost like a Christian fascist, although this is clerical fascists, so we were having cake and coffee in his private apartment, and I didn’t record, so it was more like to, I was taking notes, so we were talking about how he was doing his election. First, he was giving a story of his personal belief, how he got this, that was one story, I remember, and then another story, he was talking about his … because there was a scandal in the party. One guy, the leader of the party came home, found his wife with a carpenter, and he became crazy, or something like that! (sounds amused) So he was telling all these stories, which he assumed I know, and that’s why all the talk with these people, but I didn’t know, and then he was saying, and then he’s travelling around in December mostly, to visit elder nursery homes for elders, and then playing music and the piano, and I asked, so what do you play, and then said, I’m playing, for example, the Honoured Mother, and you don’t know it? I said, I don’t think I know it. Then he was turning around, and he had the piano, and then he was somehow just playing the song, so that’s an interesting moment, which I don’t know why, but I thought that was the background for the fourth element in this exhibition, was kind of the built screens. It looks like you sit down, you wait for a cinema, but there’s no cinema. It was just the sound, and on the radio would be this song. So I had this song recorded, because it’s (?? 1:27:47), it’s this kind of … but I had it recorded without instruments, just like male and female, to take away all the irony, but just to stick with the song and the melody, and it’s quite an interesting weird text. It’s from the Forties, so in Norway, it means it was from during the occupation, the Germans, and about a son, he’s coming home, his mother is dead, and he’s by the grave. It’s like a tribute to the honoured mother, can you see me now? So there’s this, it’s not a religious song, but it’s like, can you hear me up in heaven?
I: It’s definitely a Christian song.
T: Yeah, but it’s not a human role (? 1:28:27) or something.
I: No, it’s not religious, no, sure.
T: It has this, take these flowers, thanks for being so good, and so it’s kind of like, this guilt with being absent. I asked my parents, and they … yeah, yeah, this song I know. This was very popular (sounds amused). So somehow that became the title of the exhibition, of their mother, and I didn’t have to understand more. I just felt that this is some kind of very surprising point. So this song was played, and …
I: And that was the fourth one.
T: Yeah, and to combine it with this union, the others, so it was first being a vocal single, and then it became a duet, so it was quite interesting, just to work on something else. But metaphorically, just if it, it somehow … and it’s also, the song, the melody of the song, traditionally, because it’s somehow imported from, I think, Germany or some other country, it’s this kind of shilling (? 1:29:30) song actually. It’s this song which has a simple melody, you can remember a message or something like that, so it has kind of distributional, a disseminational effect or something like that, (?? 1:29:43).
So it was kind of, decentring things, not that concrete, but it somehow gave a different flavour to the whole installation, and the fifth and last part was the public programme, which I put up during the exhibition, which was then installed on some screens, so if you come late in the exhibition, you will see the documentation of those people, and being intervening into the show, and if not, I will just add the screens, and with an announcement at this date, and this, it will come on the screen. So it was quite demanding, it was 40 minutes’ radio broadcast, and you’re isolated, so if you come together, you’re kind of separated, and it’s very slow. Well, you can change channel, you can listen to something else.
I: (he laughs)
T: So that was the option, opting out, so it was very kind of, I think people are not normally used to this dedicated 40 minutes to … some people did, and some elders, and if you spent time, it was interesting to, if other people are there, then you go, because it’s the same broadcast at the same time, so you would make this …. something would be a bit interesting, but maybe in the daytime, it was hard to see, so there was complaints about this kind of dictatorship of the authority of, I decide what you’re going to see, when, and it’s all choreographed and planned, so that was kind of a challenge for a lot of people. It was in Norwegian, and I thought it was a good opportunity for me to work in Norwegian, and also for me to taste this language, and of course, when you hear these different elements, my idea was that you also have to feel how this language is resonating, how this voice is resonating in your own language, and in your own, who are you as a political subject, so that was kind of the idea of, or the link from the political parties, to a certain kind of transitionary time. For me, it was lots of stuff, but I think it didn’t go through, well, I received a real headline in the biggest newspaper in Norway, a full page, with a really negative …
I: Oh, really negative? What were they saying …?
T: “Dry analysis without appeal” – (loudly) that could be great, right! (he laughs)
I: (he laughs also)
T: But that was also, I was very sad, you know? I mean, it’s a national … I mean, it’s good to get …
I: All publicity is good publicity.
T: And then there was one from the left party, it was very kind of, I was very glad, because obviously the person had spent lots of time to discover the exhibition, and then one more, which was also catching a few points, which was philosophically relevant, and I think it was quite acceptable.
I: That’s how you worked up your political experience, into metaphors?
T: Yes, that’s how it came out into this metaphorical sense.
I: Okay, right. We probably ought to have at least one pause quite soon. You then go onto the Prague exhibition of the hand, and the drawing of the hand. Let me just have a look. I’m not sure if this is a separate thing. There’s something here … as I say, towards the end, it’s a long interview, and my notes get … so co-production should be for children and refugee groups who promotes this … a child psychologist … I’m not sure if this is the same exhibition?
T: Yeah, that’s the same exhibition.
I: So that is the hand exhibition, okay. I think maybe we should stop at the moment. We’ve had another hour-and-a-half of sub-session two, so maybe, after lunch, we should just have a short hour or something, on the last bit. We are more or less, I think … I don’t like rushing through it, it’s a waste of potential, so I think it would be a good idea to stop at this point, and have lunch or whatever, and then do a short thing afterwards, which would sort of keep going at roughly the same tempo, which I think is a good tempo. Okay, so let’s stop at that point.

Norwegian ARFP
Tom Interview 14 – 15 September 2016 London

File 6: 46’ 06
T: Yeah, it’s a long day!
I: The last lap, and luckily in principle, it’s a short lap. Right … I think the last lap in a way is really about, starts with, and probably is mostly, about your last exhibition that you were talking about, and the four weekends in spring. Do you remember you told … and so, could you tell me the story of that? – how the project happened, and what happened in the weekend?
T: So I have a colleague, and he’s working as a curator, and he was involved in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and he said that they’re working on a group exhibition which might be interesting for me to be part of, and they were asking if I’d be interested to think about something specific, like a new work, and I told him that it would be very good for me to develop one more case study in my research-y context, and that will be an ideal situation to do it for real in an exhibition context, in a museum context, and especially it’s a very acknowledged museum now. They’ve been doing a lot of interesting activities, the last few years, so it was very attractive to be maybe working with them, or in that context, so we were discussing, it’s not the first time I’m discussing my practice with him, and so we were thinking, what could be an interesting approach, and I thought that it could be interesting to maybe work with volunteers.
I: Work with what?
T: Volunteers, so that was the point of departure, and then we were discussing it, we talked with, I was put in contact with the person who is responsible for the volunteers, and I was asking how they normally worked with volunteers, and how they see it, and then we discussed on the phone at the beginning, and on the email, and I thought it’s relevant for my project, because volunteering, it’s a way of working, but it’s maybe motivated and based not on the exchange with the salary, but it’s something else driving it, and I noticed also working in Poland before that, it’s very different from the Czech Republic, or different from Norway, that there’s a huge pressure, how to, there’s a lot of volunteers, so the situation in Poland, I thought it’s also interesting that there’s such an environment for volunteers, while in Chechnya or in Norway, or maybe other places, it’s less, I’ve seen less of that while working, and so when we developed the project, it became clear that it could be a project, because a lot of the volunteers, they are working in the educational department, and a lot of the volunteers are, which they accept, are art historians, students, people with a certain useful knowledge, so it’s not a social initiative to take care of people, but it’s also to see how we could have a win/win situation, that the volunteers could come into the institution and do some work, socialising, and fulfil their need to have some experience, or everybody has a different need and reason to be a volunteer, and also that the volunteers are really good, cheap labour in a sense. It’s a delicate exchange, which we discussed a lot in the beginning, and I think they have developed quite a mature, or it seems like they’ve been thinking about it for real, so the idea was not to disclose or to look at how they exploit the free labour and the contra-institution (? 5:37) and so on. So it was more interesting to see what maybe motivates the volunteers, so I was proposing kind of a workshop format, that I would come four times, and then be like doing it, Saturday and Sunday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, depending a bit on the dates which we planned out, and we made an announcement to the volunteers, in case somebody would be interested and they could join, and they can sign up for this kind of, a bit special work, which was in a way part of the exhibition, the group show, which was (?? 6:13) the use value of art, or the use-ology of art, but not talking about art and craft, but looking at artistic strategies which were used in other fields, like outside of art, for example, so it was also, of course, very close to my topics, and looking at artistic process, non-skilled labour and so on.
So, I started to work, and I was meeting with a group first, and we started with the very simple exercises, which we’d been talking about a little bit earlier, like the clay on the tummy exercise, for example, and doing several very temporary, we were using, for example, we started before the show was installed.
I: With what, sorry?
T: We started our workshop before the exhibition was mounted, so we had an empty exhibition space where we knew there was going to be an exhibition, so we were working on imaginary exercises that people were presented, and work, they either knew were going to be there, or which they imagined would fit that exhibition from any points of their imagination, so we already started to work, were directed on stretching the imagination, that was somehow the working title formally for the …
I: “Stretching the Imagination”?
T: Yeah, for the workshop, for this work, and … (3) yeah, there was a question, if the people who sign in, if it should be that we propose that they get their honorary, if they stay for the whole case study. They just present as they’re doing this work, and it fits the exhibition, but then I’m also doing a research thing, so then we thought it’s better to not mention that, and to see who’s there for their own motivation, or for monetary interests, so we did, we started up, and of course, I was curious to see how many will be there, and how many will be there next time …
I: (he laughs) Yes!
T: … this kind of indicator, but somehow the first time worked, and the second time also was working, so it was clear that there was some kind of interest for this, and we continued these exercises, which were very, like I explained, from the human universal …
I: Humanist, yeah.
T: And they also received, before all this, some information about me and my practice, so they knew a little bit like, they don’t know exactly what they’re getting into, and I didn’t know really what’s going to be the outcome, but who was going to be starting, and for the last time, we tried to produce some, to bring in the film camera in this, and that they were asked to think about how they could make short recordings, and then we did that the last time, so it was a question, if we should present the work publicly, or if we should just remain, like what we’ve been doing, and in the end we just remained in the group, and then I came back a month after, in the beginning of June, and I did a series of individual interviews with all the participants, and it was the first time I’d been sitting with one person at a time, so otherwise it’s been always a group, who have always been doing things together, and doing lots of exercises.
I: A group thing.
T: And stretching the imagination, and now it was, I was trying to learn more why this particular person has been part of the group, and is part of this volunteering or educational thing, so I was approaching this with this kind of method of the BNIM, so I would just stretch it into asking about the life story, which was a bit surprising, and some people really told their life story, and then it came to the point of where we are sitting, and some people were welcome to tell their life story, but just focus on why they joined the museum in Warsaw, but it was starting in that broad sense, and trying to, well, I think I had a good experience from interviewing elders about their artistic career, that it’s better not to say what you’re exactly looking for, because they serve something, and you don’t get it for real, so learning from that, I think that this is also interesting that, the first time we meet alone in the room recording, I was asking if it’s okay to, so I explained like, I’m interested, I’ll do this method, but it had to be about your life story, so I kind of introduced it, and convinced everyone that it was a good idea, and then I was doing the recording, with ten people.
I: So, you haven’t interpreted the material?
T: No, I haven’t really (?? 11:45)
I: I won’t say you should, I’m just checking that I know where we are. Right, okay.
T: Maybe I’ll just say, because I was quite surprised to see the variation of what actually, it’s the driving motivation.
I: The motivation, yeah.
T: So that was kind of, not like a drawing, but it was opening up something I didn’t know, which I hadn’t seen that clear.
I: It’s always good to learn something new. Can I just ask, that was motivation, and if they went up, so the interview was the last thing after the four groups, the four sessions. Did they talk at all about their experience of the four sessions? – like, their motivation was X, what was their experience? How did the experience that they actually had, so they volunteered, then they had the experience, so how did the motivation and the actual experience, as they perhaps quite differently experienced it, how did they match or didn’t they match, or did that not get discussed very much?
T: Like their motivation to do their general volunteering work, in the workshop?
I: Well, there’s a double one, isn’t there? – one is the general motivation to do volunteering, and then there is the particular thing of volunteering to do the workshop, and I suppose I am particularly interested, well in both actually, as to whether their general experience of volunteering matches their particular, their general motivation, whether their particular motivation for volunteering for the workshop matches their particular experience of the workshop, so there’s sort of two things, a broad and a narrow, and I don’t know whether you have data on that, or haven’t? It might perhaps say we’ve got some …
T: I think maybe my workshop, it’s maybe one of, the way they work with the institution is that we have this and this project, if somebody’s interested to work on that, so it’s not the first time it will be a serial commitment. Let’s say we start to work on the sculpture part, and we need someone to watch that over time, or we have some artists preparing new work, and we feel this is, or something like that, so I think they are quite used to these, either you commit or not, but I think, if you want to maintain your position as a volunteer in this prestigious context, let’s say …
I: You have to keep volunteering.
T: You have to keep volunteering.
I: Well, that’s already an interesting discovery, isn’t it?
T: And if you want to move on, and upward mobility, maybe get employed, because they employ sometimes on the volunteer, so you would rather give it all, if you’re young, and there’s not really …
I: So they didn’t require a special motivation for your particular project, because it was powered by the general motivation to volunteer for anything?
T: Yeah, so I think, they had the choice to take part, but maybe there is not actually that much of a choice, but many people didn’t participate, so it depends if you, maybe you have something else, those weekends.
I: Now, I was just asking whether in fact you found data on that, on their experience, perhaps disappointing, perhaps enriching, of working with you and your project?
T: I found that everyone enjoyed, who stayed. There was one person who left the first meeting, in this month, and she said, I have the impression this is kind of too much – can I do this imaginary stuff? That’s quite common, I think it’s quite okay. I was surprised that the group is still quite dense, it’s like eight, ten people, and I think that it was a very dedicated group actually, and they made new, they met in a different way than what they normally would do, and their boss was also part of the group, so that’s also, it was interesting again, I think.
I: That’s interesting to negotiate, yeah.
T: It was interesting, for some of them, so I think a lot of them needed to be seen or wanted to be seen and they were like, it was helping, but nobody knew what’s going to happen next time, so I was again, like trying to give a sense of what it’s about, but without saying exactly what it’s about, so we always met, and everyone’s curious, what are we going to do now?
I: It’s really a bit like a BNIM interview really, sub-session one – you have to decide. Anyway, that’s an aside.
T: So my feedback from all those people, giving their life stories, I think for the most cases, I got the feeling that they enjoyed including my interview, and of course it was a bit scary alone with me, and telling their life stories in English, but most of these people are quiet fluent, but it was scary, I heard, that was like weird, a little bit. I think that was a good way, I think a mutual …
I: Mutual interest?
T: My feeling was that it was a mutual ending, which was somehow wrapping things up a bit, and I got to hear if they were being really concerned, and some people choose to talk more about the workshop itself, but maybe most people were talking about how they came into a meeting of this institution, and what was their different reason why they had been out of work, and then by volunteering, you can gradually decide how much you’re going to work, but it’s important to socialise, and to get your health, mental, maybe going, or you’re a student, and your dream is to work here, or you’re an artist.
I: A lot of very different things, yeah.
T: But all in all, I think … (6) it was quite an interesting … because in all these, or most of these exercises, which are imaginary, you cannot pretend, so you’re there and you imagine.
I: You either have an empty head, or you imagine something.
T: Yeah, and you cannot protect your, let’s say, there will be this kind of self, that you reflect yourself, what did I say actually, and it’s somehow connected, but you have to, if you play, you play, so it’s not … so it was also quite interesting to spend so much time somehow going into this institution, into this exhibition, but going through the back door in a sense, that you go through the inner corridors, and the volunteering programme, and you talk to all the people who are normally representing the institution, so it was, I don’t know if it will be a great art piece, but it was a very subtle way to … I feel it’s not finished yet, and maybe this would really need more extracts, or I’ll have to look at those films which they made, and we made, and to see if something is there.
I: I suddenly had a thought, which is nothing you’ve said, which is, another possible perspective on that practice, and the other, maybe not one that you have anywhere, but it just suddenly struck me, maybe, which was that you said that their supervisor, or their line manager or whatever, was with them, and they had to negotiate, what all that would mean, and I suddenly thought that maybe what is happening, or one thing that may be happening, with all these non-art students, people that come in and do this, that or the other, is an education of the officers of the organisation itself. How can you sensitise, let’s say, the director of the National Gallery? – which is an exaggerated version, but how do you sensitise such a person, or people in similar sort of positions, to be more aware of the complexity of the general population for which they are in principle trying to do, to run museums or run shows, or provide exhibitions or whatever, and so by getting them in, I mean this is just a possibility, by getting them in on situations like that, just as, for example, your three art historians will be coming in, and will be either participating in a BNIM panel, or at least watching it, that this is a way of educating them without them realising they’re being educated, or perhaps with them realising they’d been educated. So when I say, well, what are the outcomes – I said this morning, I think, where are the outcomes? How do you measure the outcomes? – and maybe at least some of the sets of outcomes in which you might be interested, or might happen whether you’re interested in them or not, is actually the education of all the people in the art institutions, who, in some way or other, have been involved in the practices you’re describing, and reading the reports, or being within it, or watching it or something like that, and that all this is, the English phrase for it is staff development. How do you develop your staff by about x, y and z? Well, you get them to be exposed to the thoughts and the discussions and the group work and anything else, of people who wouldn’t normally go into an art exhibition, or something. Anyway, it’s just a thought – I don’t know whether that’s …
T: No, no, it’s interesting.
I: … part of your intention, but it may well be one of the effects, may be one of the effects. (5)
T: Yeah, I think that’s very close to one focus, which is there somehow, it’s happening, and you’re maybe exactly part of it, and you’re not realising in that way.
I: Yes. It’s a bit like, for example, right at the beginning with the directors of the museums, reading this other stuff, and maybe realising, God, I did a really boring interview, but this is much more interesting than what I said. In a way, that’s a deliberate, it certainly is a sort of educational, it could be an educational process, and it may be that there’s quite a lot of that in your work, as a sort of strand which is, you haven’t made explicit or fully explicit, but I suddenly realise, is likely to be happening, whether you’re aware of it, or not.
T: I think especially those with the compensation portraits are, it’s like a kick in the bum.
I: Yes, a sort of shock to previous thinking, or previous assumptions.
T: And I think it’s not satirical, but it is something else, but it’s exactly in that.
I: Yes, you talked somewhere about the disruption of assumptions or something, I can’t remember where it was. Anyway, something like that would be going on, but for that particular group, which of course, in terms of doing art work in Norway, is quite a critical group, an important group to have access to, and they would have access to it not so much by reading your reports on your experiments that they’ve never seen, but by actually, in some way or other, being part of an experiment, whether they’ve been … you’re experimenting by having, presumably in principle, your three supervisors in with a panel. From their point of view, they are getting to know what you’re doing. From your point of view, they could be teaching them to appreciate something like that. I mean, one doesn’t block the other.
T: This is very close to where those, I think, positive reactions might occur. If you talk about the location of the work, it’s actually there as well.
I: No, I think that’s all, sort of, but not quite all – there’s always a little extra bit, and the extra bit is something, so we’ve completed, we’ve run through the main, your main interview, I think. So, the question is, is there anything you would like to add? – and you might want to take a break for that, and have a little walk about, or you might just want to sit there and think, but we’ve now completed, and this is the coda, so having done sub-session one, having gone through that in sub-session two, having revisited a lot of the points you’ve made, having explored whatever you explored, missed out whatever you’ve missed out, or whatever I’ve missed out, is there anything else that you think needs to be said?
T: I’m quite satisfied, or I feel quite, that we had a very good last day on this, that we covered a lot, with a lot of returns, which brings light into things we’ve been passing by already, so I think that feels quite good, so I’m quite, there’s nothing I’m sitting in with right now. (4) I just noticed two things, one from yesterday, I was like holding back a bit, which I think, it’s kind of, (?? 26:31) you suggested to take some notes, so for example, you remember in the beginning, we were talking about this drawing of the lion?
I: Oh yes, yeah.
T: And then just after, we were talking about this one incident from the Olympic Games, cultural thing that I was watching this guy fighting for his artistic project, and actually I told his wife that he was fighting like a lion!
I: (he laughs)
T: I just think, I can’t say lion twice, it’s too weird, right? – but that’s just an incident, kind of probably by chance. Then I also felt like, sometimes I felt the obligation to mention the names of people, even if we’re not really talking about that, so that may also be that I’m not totally free from the people, you know that there is some … that I need this interview or these sessions to be as if, if I would talk with a journalist or someone, then I’d say, I’ll have to mention his name, and this is like this and this person, the curator, so just being quite free from all that, I feel, just a few times I feel that I’m talking, that I’m touching on this area of, you understand what I mean?
I: Yeah, no, completely.
T: That’s the only thing, and because I think it’s a bit embarrassing, but I think it’s important to mention, but that’s the only thing I could recognise. That’s something I would like to add, just to clarify that aspect.
I: It’s interesting. That meshes in with something I’ve been thinking. I mean, I think that’s all sort of, just not much thinking, but yeah, thinking, I mean, I think yesterday I was not certain how far you would go into PINs. I had a sense that you weren’t a spontaneous anecdotalist in that way, and so I think, (?? 28:35), so in a sense it felt as though it was going to be quite hard to get him to tell particular incident narratives. I haven’t felt that today. I haven’t felt it, though occasionally I’ve had a little feeling like that, but that’s fine. And so yesterday, I was thinking, well why might there be this resistance? – if I’m right. It doesn’t matter whether I’m right or wrong, I felt that was the case, and so like one would be, he’s not somebody who goes in for telling anecdotes, or telling stories about particular things that have happened to him. He’s somebody who thinks in a different sort of way, so although I’m doing a narrative interview, in a way I thought, well maybe what he needs is an argumentation interview, in which his position is argued with, and he has to counter-argue, or, I don’t know, anyway I didn’t spend much time on that, because I wasn’t doing that type of interview, but I did have that thought, that … so that was one thing, that he spontaneous, he’s not generally, in general terms, he’s not an anecdotalist. Some people are only anecdotalists; some people never tell a pin; most people, like you, sort of move between it, and that’s, everybody does what they do.
The second one was that this is completely the opposite of a normal BNIM interview in one particular respect. The normal BNIM interview, well the most typical BNIM interview, is one in which the interviewee is, from the point of view of any publication beyond the interview, is anonymous and it’s all confidential, so they have no, provided that looks plausible, they have no problems about being identified, or somebody saying anything, why did you say that, or you look rather weird, whatever it would happen to be, and this is the exact opposite. That’s to say, you’re planning to use your photograph, your video of yourself and your tape of yourself, in two quite vulnerable-making ways (unless I’ve got you wrong, but that’s what I understand). First is, in terms of doing a blind, future-blind, chunk by chunk, two panels, but you will be choosing the people, and they will know that you’re choosing them, and they will probably know that it’s you.
T: Perhaps. It’s not clear.
I: You have to think about that, but this is the most extreme version, so there is no way you are not going to be, at some level or other, concerned about the impact on the people you choose, because I’m assuming they will know who you are. I mean, let’s pretend, if it’s not the case, then this argument falls, but if it is the case, then this is the opposite of confidentiality and anonymity, and they will know that you might very well ask them, you will look at the results of that, so this is not the confidential anonymous thing at all; it’s, as I say, the opposite.
The second audience is another panel, which has not only the same people or similar people, it also has three people who are coming to make a judgement about you and your work. They are your examiners, or whatever they’re called in Norwegian, so they will be looking at some material, and they will be participating in a methodology and making their own mind up about it, and I’m not sure if you’re going to be there or not?
T: I will not be there.
I: But nonetheless, they will know, I imagine, that it’s your material they’re looking at, and the method that you’ve used to look at the material, so there’s a double vulnerability there – non-confidential, non-anonymous, and authority, peers in relationship to the panel, and examiners in relationship to the externals.
Given that, it is not surprising that the interview doesn’t flow as it would if you were anonymous and confidential, and nobody knew, so I was just thinking, well, I’ve never really thought that through at all. I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve been in the situation where just one person has wanted to be interviewed for their own reasons, but not that they were going to put that stuff on the public, a slightly small, but nonetheless a sort of public arena, so I thought, well if that’s the case, then maybe that would, that’s the real situation. Of course, you might not think about it – unlikely. So if that were the situation, and you were aware of it at some level, then it would influence your capacity to talk freely, da da da da da, in both sub-sessions, so that was my thought about it. In a sense it fits with, not so much the hypothetical journalist, but, well, it would be a journalist or an examiner, or your peers, or whatever it turns out to be, so that’s a thought I had.
T: No, I think that’s there, definitely, and of course, even if you try to put yourself out of it, it’s still there.
I: Yeah, it’s still there, so …
T: But at least there’s a transparency on that! (he laughs)
I: (he laughs) No, no, it’s just, but I thought afterwards, well, it’s pretty brave, what you’re doing, by actually doing what you’re planning to do, and that’s not for me to decide. You said that’s what you wanted to do, and I’m helping you in this project, and what you do with all these materials is up to you, but I just thought, it’s quite a brave thing to do, not so much to be BNIM interviewed yourself, and get the materials, but in a sense, doing it because you are planning to present it to other people for interpretation and assessment, so that may have well made you more self-conscious about, in a sense, that’s not so much the journalist, but the examiner. I don’t know, I’m playing about with it.
T: It also enables me later, if I want to make an extract, and you can imagine, the first article, that I could use moving image, and say, for example, we would sit in Tom’s kitchen, and then this is how sub-session two looked like – it was quite interesting, especially this moment, to have a look, so you could this stuff, or a commentary.
I: No, no, I think it would be very useful. I think, if I was in your position, I would find it incredibly useful to have at least some of this stuff available for whatever you want to do. The bravery comes not so much in that, but in a sense, the panel interpretations and the panel with the examiner interpretations. So what we may have to do at some point is to liaise quite closely about which particular materials, I mean, what will happen is, I will try and get – not, I will try and get, I will get it transcribed, and we must talk about that in a minute. What time do you have to, oh, it’s only …
T: Seven o’clock’s the plane.
I: The plane is seven o’clock, so you should be there at five-thirty or something. Which airport?
T: Gatwick.
I: Gatwick, okay, it’s quite easy to get to Gatwick. You go down to Victoria, the Victoria Line, and then … yeah.
T: One technical question, which I’m just, I’m curious, it’s a bit technical in sub-session two, and then three, and how you now, with the transcripts, how you work with the sequentialisation? – because you have like, the one, two and three, so how you mix that chronologically?
I: The sequential, I mean, well, first the sequentialisation takes what you’ve said in the order you’ve said it, and you stick precisely to that sequence, so even if you come back to the same topic several times …
T: You just insert it.
I: No, no, in the sequentialisation, it occurs that minute ten, minute 60 and minute 72 and a half, and nothing has changed. That’s the point about the sequentialisation. It’s like a contents page – it goes through the contents, and instead of being the whole transcript, it’s reduced to say 30 pages, and you can see exactly where things were said in what way, and all the rest of it. What you then do is you can then do different things, but the sequentialisation is, what was said in what way, at what point in the sequence of the interview. It’s not real chronology, like, he started talking about the last thing he did, and then he went back to the first … I mean, we’ll put it together and we’ll reorganise it. For this purpose, the sequentialisation is a sequence of what was said, in the order in which it was said – that’s what it is a sequence of, not in real time, but in interview time, or not in real history, but in interview history.
T: Because what you do in the sub-session two, you return, and are looking for PINs, so you arranged something which was said at minute eight, and you open it up, so even if you do that, you don’t insert it later on?
I: No, no – you don’t mess with the record. The record is … it’s not like taking, sort of cutting and splicing. When you do your interpretation, for example, if you’re interested, let’s say, in one particular exhibition, then you look at all the references from anywhere to that exhibition, bring them all together, and then say, okay, what have I learnt about this exhibition? – and that’s a perfectly, or, you’re interested in a particular theme – I don’t know, let’s say the theme of overt and covert work, or double ontology, or whatever you want to call it, so you look for, wherever it’s mentioned, you bring it together, and you say, okay – here it is, my seven pieces of paper laid out – I will now think about that issue, but that’s like a thematic or a topic use of the material, but the raw thing is basically the sequentialisation, which tells you where you’ll find those things. The sequentialisation is, okay, I’m going to look through for the topic overt and covert, so there’s one on page seven, one on 67 and one on 97 – I’ll go and get them and put them separate. You don’t change the sequentialisation, you just get the stuff you need from the places, you know where it is now.
T: Tag different topics, and then you can do different readings.
I: Yeah, you do different, whatever. Think of the sequentialisation, for most purposes, as like a contents page. The other use of it, and that’s where the tele-flow analysis comes in, is, why does the person move from telling this to telling that, in this way rather than that way? – so, let’s say, to begin with … I mean, this is an imaginary example, on page ten (of the transcript, so to speak – we’ll think of pages of a transcript), on page ten of the transcript, he refers to this thing as a success, then later on, he says, on page 22, he refers to the same thing, and says, well it wasn’t so good after all, and on page 33, he says, probably it’s the best work I’ve ever done. Now, obviously, if you’re bringing it all together, then you think of it in one way, and what I was just talking about, you look at the contents page, you paste and whatever. However, when you’re thinking sequentially, the teleflow, what is it about the change in the subject, your subjectivity, that you think of it as one way first, then you change your mind and think of it as negative, and by the end you’re thinking of it as very very positive indeed, and that requires you to stay with the teleflow, because it’s only, as you tell the story, that you can understand why you told your story about the same thing in three different ways, so that’s what the teleflow analysis does. It doesn’t at all bring things from elsewhere, because that’s another type, really important, for lots of purposes, but the teleflow analysis is, how does the flow of the telling affect what is said at any given point? – and for that, you follow the chunks of the sequentialisation.
T: And the teleflow is not visible in the transcript, except like roughly?
I: Well, the teleflow is, well, what you’ve got, it’s a double thing – what you’ve got is the flow of the telling, the transcript. There’s the transcript, so there’s three different levels. This is the transcript, or if you like, call it the video record, just for fun. Then, let us pretend you’ve got a transcript, which leaves out the pictures, but follows that absolutely precisely, from beginning to end, transcript. Then, on the basis of the transcript, forgetting the video for the moment, you do a sequentialisation, okay? – which basically takes your 80-page transcript, and turns it into a 30-page contents, a contents page version of that transcript, but still, it’s all sticking to the flow. Now, what this sequentialisation does, is the flow of the telling. It is the flow or the sequence of the telling. Now, as you go through the flow of the telling, and this is where it gets a bit interesting, chunk by chunk by chunk, and obviously you don’t go through all of it, but that’s the principle, you are trying to infer, from the change, this chunk to that chunk to the other chunk to the whatever it is, you are trying to infer something about the flow of the teller, had, for technical reasons, keep using the same – the teller-flow. You’re trying to understand the flow of subjectivity, which is sort of like inferred from the telling. From this movement, from chunk to chunk in the transcript, or in the sequentialisation, I’m trying to imagine the teller’s subjectivity, which I infer from the way they told their story, so it’s also, it follows the flow, very closely it follows, because that’s your only evidence, apart from field notes and other things which are not trivial, but anyway, so you’ve got a flow of the telling, which is the sequentialisation, and the chunk by chunk by chunk thing, you start inferring something about the subjectivity of the teller, and this is where you start, so this is where you’re making inferences. Given that he first talked about this, then like that, and then the other way, what can I infer about the subjectivity that was doing that telling? – so it’s from the telling flow, which is just given in the transcript, more or less. You add very little when you do a sequentialisation, like a contents page. You then start inferring, which is much more arguable obviously, but is where it becomes interesting, about the subjectivity of the teller, as the subjectivity of the teller flowed, so the reality of the telling changed; or the other way around – you look at how the telling changed, to infer what was going on to the subjectivity of the teller.
T: In the moment of telling it.
I: In the moment, and over the moments, and over big moments and small moments and whatever. Does that make sense?
T: Yeah, no, absolutely.
I: Okay, so the telling/teller distinction, up to this point, you’re always, for this purpose, you’re always going through the thing in the same way, but you’re doing different things. Here you’re getting, by the flow of the telling, and at this point, when you start doing chunks, and you start interpreting the chunks, then you’re starting to infer to subjectivity, which you can’t really before, because you haven’t been thinking about it. You’ve been saying, what have they talked about, in what way, at what length, etcetera, so this is where it gets interesting – the teller flow analysis, looking at the telling flow analysis, as the process data. If you like, this is, the video and transcript are the raw data. This is processed data, ie, it’s taken and compressed and condensed, and thought of in various ways, that’s processed data, and this starts becoming interpreted data, because you’re interpreting a flow of subjectivity behind the flow of the telling.
T: Great, we can continue this …
I: Okay, well that may make it clearer. Now, a couple of administrative things we need to sort out. Are there other things you want to raise about it? – no, okay, I’ll just say what I was going to say, and which I started to say.
T: Shall I stop this, maybe?
I: Yeah, whatever you like.