Claiming Space: Norway/Sápmi
Four temporary artworks across Norway/Sápmi about the freedom to exist in public space
August 2023-May 2024
“Claiming Space: Norway/Sápmi” is a project exploring public space’s role in creating norms for social expectations and “sanctions” through four artists’ performative and temporary artistic contributions. The performances will occur in six cities in Norway/ Sápmi, accessible to broad audiences.
Curators Miki Gebrelul and Bassel Hatoum write:
In light of the Queer Cultural Year that characterized cultural life in Norway in 2022, this project will examine the extent to which marginalized groups have the freedom to express themselves outside given frameworks, time, and space. “Claiming Space” departs from space and place as spheres with predetermined social rules and norms.
In 2022, the Queer Culture Year was marked in Norway, initiated by large national cultural institutions, and supported with earmarked funds from the Ministry of Culture and Equality. The Queer Culture Year can be interpreted as a door opened for queer artists in the Norwegian artistic community. Still, as artist Ahmed Umar stated, a door that has been opened can quickly be closed again. There are no literal doors in this new series of commissions, as the space in which the artists operate is, in theory, public. As they have not always been explicitly invited though, they demand space in the public domain.
The series of performances is a further development of artistic and curatorial methodologies explored within the Fotogalleriet Foundation’s four walls in Oslo since 2020, some results of which were seen in the “Claiming Space” exhibition in early 2022. Since then, unfortunately, the need to claim not only space but fundamental rights and freedom to exist has become more significant for queer people and cultural minorities across the Norwegian territory. The project will continue to problematize and articulate narratives around self-determination and physical and emotional security for national minorities and indigenous peoples, connect to local knowledge, and collaborate with local actors and cultural practitioners throughout Norway/Sápmi.
By moving the artistic performances into public space, the artists actively break with the expectations based on their appearance, including given expectations of gender and sexuality. It is a shameless gesture because the artists involved no longer accept the social norms attributed to marginalized people, who are often expected to exist in parallel with the majority of society. The meaning of the body changes depending on who one is, and one’s existence is always politicized. Who has the autonomy to claim space, place, and time without permission?
Our bodies as minorities are political, not because we want them to be, but because there is an expectation that our bodies should behave in a certain way. We are not allowed to show the poetry we carry. These are dynamics we want to redraft. We want to take up space on our terms and tell our story with our narrative.
Antonio Cataldo, Artistic Director of the Fotogalleriet Foundation, says:
Historically, photography has been an essential space for self-definition and representation. However, in its struggle for equating to other media, it has been equally restricted for centuries to those with the power of definition and the means of production. “Claiming Space,” a project that has been in development through conversations between the Fotogalleriet Foundation and the project’s curators for years now, is about trying to make visible a type of definitional power that is highly visible to some and virtually invisible to others.
Identity formation, especially concerning gender, is performative and enforced by social sanctions, according to philosopher Judith Butler. In a few other places, such performance becomes so clearly imposed by given roles as in the endurance of public space.
As public spaces worldwide become gentrified and homogenized, statues are taken down as part of political movements and uprisings against historical oppression. While statues retract from public spaces, gentrification takes over. In such movement, photography can temporarily reclaim space.
Through new artistic productions curated by the team behind “Claiming Space,” the Fotogalleriet Foundation will continue to challenge the normative definitions that affect bodies, identities, individuals, groups and environments that continue to be legally defined—and thus enable or limit someone’s agency—as transient and migratory.
About Claiming Space: Norway/Sápmi
The Fotogalleriet Foundation produces the program with curators Bassel Anis Hatoum, Miki Gebrelul, and coordinator Jennifer Garzon. Detailed artist biographies and project descriptions will be published before each project.
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Claiming Space: Norway/Sápmi is made possible with funding from LOK (Lokalsamfunnsordingen) from KORO (Public Art Norway).
For press inquiries, please get in touch with the Fotogalleriet Foundation’s Head of Mediation and Communications Håkon Lillegraven, at email@example.com or Fotogalleriet Foundation’s Communications and Events Manager, Faduma Mohamed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The graphic design for the project is by artist Ilavenil Jayapalan.