In the belly of the whale

Of all the word-classes, nouns are the ones that usually receive the most attention.

This is probably because they are the hardest working word-class, the one that actually carries out all the demanding work in language, at least if to consider that the main purpose of language is to reflect the world. But, of course, nouns are not all the same. Those that assign a name to invisible phenomena, or lead us astray when they denote something that doesn’t even exist, are considerably less reliable than the honourable nouns that exclusively concern themselves with naming objects.

One often thinks that language started as a solitary noun – a vocal sound entirely different to just a cry of pain or, for that matter, a sigh of satisfaction. With the first noun as a model, more nouns were produced. Together, they formed an irresistible advance guard in the language.

It was not until the most important objects had been named that other word-classes turned up, parasite-like and unable to survive by themselves. As adjectives and verbs are entirely dependent upon their host, they, at the same time, contribute with additional qualities.

The role of importance played by the noun is found in how we usually describe the child’s path to a language – like a journey that commences upon a child’s recognition of a voice pronouncing the noun that denotes the object she is looking at whereby the connection between the sound and the thing is established with a pointing finger. When the child no longer needs the help of the hand, she understands the meaning of the word. Her language connected with the world.

It is, therefore, that one generally starts with nouns when the functions of word-classes are to be elaborated upon in greater detail – as in school lessons but also in completely different contexts like in Anne Carson’s novel in verse, Autobiography of Red, in which the adjectives, rather than the nouns, gain focus. Nevertheless, they are still understood, like the verbs, in relation to the nouns:

"What is an adjective? Nouns name the world. Verbs activate the names. Adjectives come from somewhere else. The word adjective (epitheton in Greek) is itself an adjective meaning 'placed on top,' 'added,' 'appended,' 'imported,' 'foreign.' Adjectives seem fairly innocent additions but look again. These small imported mechanisms are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being."

The nouns are supported by the adjectives in their important task of naming the world; it is through the adjectives that the qualities of the things visible is made visible and ensure that they sustain. In their absence, we could not distinguish all those things that the nouns denote.

Nouns are at the very top of the hierarchy of word-classes. Just below them are the adjectives. Verbs follow in third place.

The alliance of nouns and adjectives keeps things in order in the world. The verbs fulfil an opposite function. They get things moving – to create uncertainty and confusion. Nothing satisfies them. They demand change.

*
In the very beginning of 2012, the curator Linus Elmes invited the architect John Robert Nilsson, and me, a writer, who together would take part in an initial workshop to cooperate in the development and realization of the graduate exam exhibition at the Department of Visual Arts at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

In the discussions that took place during these initial three days in February, verbs were the most frequently referred to word-class. Their frequency of use and discussion were followed by the prepositions, as signs for the places where the actions were thought to be taking place. The nouns were secondary, like something that the verbs were referring to. Overall, the nouns almost exclusively denoted materials such as wool, ash, wood, water, colour pigment, sand, cotton, clay, body tissue, metal, and paper pulp. Adjectives were hardly mentioned.

*
The materials are more modest than we think. They hide behind the living and the dead. They hide in trees, plants and animals. They hide in the air, in the mountains and in the forests, in the waterways and under them, like the blue clay at the bottom of the river that runs through Oslo.

The materials also conceal themselves in what is made. Material is all around us, inside us and upon us, without our awareness – in the housing, in the roads, and in the vehicles using them, in our clothes and in the machines that we always have with us, like growths on our bodies. As in Ingeborg Resell Elieson’s and Annika Isaksson Pirtti’s staging of encounters between the organic and the non-organic.

We don’t normally see these materials. We are far too busy engaging with the things in which they are concealed. Not until the objects become, in some way, unusable, do they return to their original form as material.

The adjectives don’t enter the scene until we encounter the material as material, when it forces itself upon us – as sticky, stinking, hard, soft, sharp, greasy, dirty, cold.

Materials are unruly. They demand that we do something with them. And if you just stand there simply looking at them, with your hands behind your back, you don’t understand them at all.

*
Trude Johansen shows in her work how remote we are from the everyday objects that surround us. She breaks down doors, chairs, stoves and water taps to their smallest units of meaning, which she then relocates to text and wood, and conjoining them together again, restores a lost relation to the world as a meaningful whole.
Siri Espeseth methodically investigates materials. She sorts, washes, spins and weaves wool into textile sculptures. By resorting to traditional, pre-industrial processes, the artist rewinds time to revive forgotten meaning and brings to the forefront the knowledge of the hand.

Magnie Liv Nilsen returns to the original processes of production and makes working material herself, by ripping paper into thin slivers which she soaks and mixes into a pulp before adding the other raw materials. While Siri Espeseth’s textiles retain their innocence, Magnie Liv Nilsen subjects her bulky paper sheets to a succession of violent attacks that are destructive and liberating at the same time.

Tian Jun works in clay and porcelain in a close dialogue with the Chinese pottery tradition. She references ancient utility goods while transposing them into three-dimensional calligraphic objects that connect the sign with what it signifies.

*
The incomprehensible within a material like wool, iron and wood is that which lies behind the very function of a final object such as a sofa, a water tap, and a door.

The materials in themselves do not make sense. They are either too large for our thoughts to be able to grab hold of them, or so small that they trickle out like finely grained sand between our fingers. They are not intended for us. They are totally indifferent to our needs.

The incomprehensible is nothing other than a noun without an adjective that exposes a hole within language. A gap in knowledge.

The incomprehensible arouses the will to know. And we can try to understand it. But when we fail to and it refuses to leave its incomprehensibility, the will is transformed into reluctance. Because we can’t tolerate our not comprehending. We hate watching our adjectives fall to the ground, or discovering how questions bounce back to us. Because the incomprehensible is a challenge. It turns our own questions against us.

The incomprehensible transforms us from the subject of knowledge to its reluctant object. Suddenly, you on your own, in your own common sense, are being questioned.

It is difficult to become reconciled with the suspicion that your own understanding is insufficient. That you aren’t as clever as you thought, rather the opposite, a bit daft. When facing the incomprehensible, you risk shrinking a little. You feel ashamed and sneak a vigilant look at the others. Try to see if they understand, if they see something you don’t see, or even worse: if they see that you haven’t a clue.

Often, we dismiss the incomprehensible as nonsense with a shake of our head and a condescending smile, often somewhat strained, lingering on a few seconds too long in order to seem completely unaffected.

But the incomprehensible can also fill us with such an aversion that we have no idea how to react. We are prepared to do anything to get rid of it. As if the incomprehensible is a mortal threat to the comprehensible. A threat to all stable nouns. A threat to the entire fabric of society. A threat to everything we believe in and have succeeded in achieving.

*
Today the Establishment makes a considerable effort to be as comprehensible as possible. They stick to distinct nouns and avoid verbs that tend to change. But there was a time when the Establishment was in alliance with the incomprehensible.

In Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes describes incomprehensibility as a resource for both divine and worldly dictators. He writes: “For the nature of God is incomprehensible; that is to say, we understand nothing of what He is, but only that He is.” And at another point: “And this fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion; and in them that worship or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition.”

Maria Johansen, historian of ideas, clarifies Hobbes’s position: “according to Hobbes, people worship that which gives rise to fear and they feel the greatest fear faced with that which is invisible. Fear, or horror, is the basis of sovereign power.” (Johansen, Maria (2005) Offentlig skrift om det hemliga. Raison d'état, SOU och varulven, p. 113.)

The quality of being incomprehensible, or invisible, appears here as a strategic instrument to maintain power.

The 18th century saw the start of the abolition of the sovereigns. Reason began to replace religion as a measure. And the new Establishment started to feel uncomfortable with the incomprehensible, or, in other words: the reverence that Hobbes thought that our fear of the incomprehensible would result in was transformed into distrust.

According to Maria Johansen, this took place at the turning point between the late Romantic period and the Enlightenment, which in this context represented two opposing positions. One averse to the light with a strong attraction to the incomprehensible, and one afraid of the dark which abhorred everything which couldn’t be immediately explained with reference to reason or nature, and which was deeply concerned about what might happen in those places to which the eye did not have access: the anonymity of the masses, the prisons and monasteries, inside people’s heads. Indeed, in all those uncharted spaces that could serve as hiding places for destructive verbs of various types that might conceivably attack the new nouns and hinder progress.

To see what was going on in those dark spaces, it was necessary to illuminate them. Not until then could one start the great task of identifying, registering, classifying and building up archives.

A series of techniques was developed to make visible and identify. The crowds in the towns were to be charted and registered. The architectonic ideal was a lit building completely lacking dark corners and spaces out of reach of the gaze.

The belief in reason, visibility and progress is even stronger today, although the techniques have been improved and the vocabulary has changed. Today there is talk of economic growth and transparency, and in any book on marketing or political communication, one can read that the messages should be simple and goal-oriented. Best of all, for the sake of clarity, is to only have one message.

*
The world is completed. Objects are clearly defined. There are standards that describe what is what. What is true and false. Right and wrong. What belongs and what doesn’t. Every thing has its particular place. Even the incomprehensible. Art as well as political ideas have been sent off to special places where people have applied themselves to understanding them.

*
Last year I attended Re-thinking Marx at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. The conference took place over three days at the end of May.

On the second day, I left the conference in the afternoon. It was like leaving a cinema auditorium during a film screening. When I opened the door, I was bedazzled by light, the overheated early summer day embraced me like a damp blanket. I pushed my way through the group of conference participants standing below the stairs in small clusters, who talked, smoked and drank coffee from paper mugs.

I crossed the gravel yard in the direction of Unter den Linden, deep in my own thoughts, whereby sequences from the day’s lectures repeated themselves. Voices mixed over each other. The perfect British voice, always apologetic, the very tone polite. The one with a Spanish accent with so many important things to say, but far too little time in which to say them, and thus rapidly delivering sentences like speeding tennis balls against the listeners. The concentrated low voice, its flow of German words far too rapid and monotonous to allow to follow its actual reasoning. I could hardly identify the words.

Then another voice reached me, mixed among the others. A distant cry sounding as if it came from within the building. I listened. But when I didn’t hear anything, my thoughts returned to the conference. I heard the cry again, this time more like a scream, that managed to disperse the other voices. It came from someone very closeby.

I looked around and caught sight of a man only about twenty metres away who was walking very quickly and gesticulating. There wasn’t anything special about his appearance, or the way he was dressed. Still, one could immediately recognize that he wasn’t a participant of the conference.

The man was extremely angry and walked quickly but unevenly, governed by the rhythm of his fury, directly across the yard towards me before stopping and roaring again. I wasn’t able to hear what he screamed, except that it sounded broken down into words. It wasn’t just a scream. Then he moved on in his spastic manner, with heavy steps while waving his arms.

It didn’t look as if he was going anywhere. He just walked in his zigzag pattern, back and forth across the university grounds where he had happened to end up. He could have been anywhere in the city. Now I could see how dreadfully alone he was.

I had fetched my bicycle and as I was about to get on it to cross Unter den Linden, I heard his screams once more. I stopped. He stood only a few metres away. I looked toward him and he became aware of me when our eyes met.

I approached him and asked how he was. “Ich hasse Deutschland,” he answered after a short while with a thick voice. I realised that these were the same words the man had screamed out earlier – that he hated Germany. I asked him why.

His anger dissipated to give way to massive resignation. He started to tell me. Or rather he began to lament. He had arrived to Germany fifteen years earlier from North Africa. I can’t remember now from which country it was. He had long since lost count of all the jobs he had applied for and for which he was never hired. He attested that Germany was a racist country. That it didn’t make any difference what he did, or how much of an effort he made to assimilate. He was in Germany, and yet, he wasn’t there at all. And now he had had enough – had enough of seeking out a place in a country from which he was shut out.

*
In essence, the conference was about this screaming man. Only nobody gave it some thought. Despite him being in such close proximity, he was completely separated from it, as he was from everything that went on in the city. He couldn’t manage to gain a footing anywhere.

Many words of importance were spoken at the conference. But the day after my encounter with the man, I felt that the words only had a meaning within that context. It was only a feeling. But it was such a pervading sense that I could almost touch it.

As if the conference took place in a cool and nameless fiction like roles being played out in some of the university’s rooms. A parallel world, with a logic of its own, encapsulated in the real world, concealed behind the university’s thick stone wall.

The world of the conference did not allow itself to be translated to that which was located just outside. Where tourists walked in the shadows of the lime trees and ate ice cream, rode around on ‘bierbikes’ while drinking beer and bellowing while pedalling. Where sight-seeing buses awaited the green light to drive further onto Brandenburger Tor.

And where the lonely man walked around screaming.

*
That which is accused of being incomprehensible finally really does become incomprehensible. One by one, the adjectives fall off the noun. When this has happened, it is only a matter of time before the noun itself falls from the societal body. It works like a sort of auto-amputation, the body rejecting the part or the organ it no longer recognises as part of its own.

*
When something unfamiliar crops up, we immediately start to compare it with what we know. We count similarities and differences. We try out our adjectives. Test different similes until we eventually find one that suits the frame.

This is part of an ancient technique of understanding and explaining practiced by Plato. To explain the form of the good, the highest of all forms, Plato compared good with the sun in making everything visible and allowing us to grasp other forms. And to describe the relation between the world of forms and the world of senses, he carried out his famous analogy – of prisoners in a cave who experience the world as a shadow play on the wall. He did this despite his having rejected every type of mimetic reproductive practice and all artistic literary techniques – he thereby also banned the poets and the artists from his ideal state. But for Plato’s part, he had no hesitation about breaking his own rules, and expressing himself as a poet. Because otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to make himself intelligible, neither for us nor for himself. He had no other choice but to transfer the forms to the world, and when put into language, they immediately started imitating everything that surrounded them.

As for language, that which is inside it can be comprehended, and that which is outside is incomprehensible. But language itself is rather hard to comprehend. Perhaps because it can neither be said to be inside nor outside itself.

Language has been described in many ways – like a second-hand piano, like an enormous garage with ample room for thousands of semantic vehicles that are hardly ever there because they are busy creating order in the world, like a game with dubious rules, like a symphony of differences.

But rarely like an animal.

What do you see when you shut your eyes and imagine language as an animal? A tortoise? Or a wild dog? Or perhaps a being that is reminiscent of yourself? With ten fingers and ten toes.

In this picture of language as a humanoid being, adjectives are firmly attached to nouns. Which leads to language expressing itself unequivocally in relation to all things. On the difference between women and men. Around the reason for the latest economic crisis. On what characterizes good art.

At times, language has been accused of expressing itself about things that it knows little about. About things that will neither allow themselves to be verified or to be falsified. But language has not cared about this at all. It just goes on speaking as always.

We never meet language face-to-face, at least not since the time we learned how to use it because at the very moment this is achieved, language disappears within us. Or we are devoured by it. Let us try another analogy.

A blue whale is suffocated by its own weight if outside water and stranded on land. Language doesn’t face this fate because it is completely weightless. Nevertheless, let us conceive of language as an enormous whale in the ocean. We live our lives within its belly and comprehend the world through the whale’s perspective. We sit among ourselves and discuss what we perceive. We explain, we discuss. For the most part, we agree with each other as we see things in the same way through the whale’s means of perception. As other language whales occasionally swim past, we perceive them only as dark shadows. If we peep out when the whale opens its mouth, everything looks wholly different as an altered universe – completely indescribable whereby no one sees the same thing as the other, and what appears externally shifts in appearance throughout. The adjectives are forever on the move. They swim in shoals between the various nouns. Back and forth. Ever changing places.

The graduate students at the Department of Visual Arts illustrate the way toward an understanding located outside the belly of language.

*
At the initial workshop with the students, the curatorial ambition was to find a platform and a relevant starting point for both the exhibition as a space, and the publication that this text is a part of. Linus Elmes stressed the importance of engaging everyone in a collaborative process and to reach beyond the obvious fact that an exam show is a random gathering of students with individual agendas. The workshop consequently became a search for a common ground. The plan for carrying this out was that we would abandon a plan. Instead, we were to have a series of conversations aimed to be as open and unconditional as possible. The idea was to embark upon a process without adopting any fixed positions in advance with the hope that the workshop would develop organically.

We gathered around a flipchart in the smaller of the two rooms in which the exhibition was proposed to take place. The ensuing conversation revolved around what we hoped to achieve with the exhibition – about the possibility for an exhibition to formulate an essential common ground that entailed a cross-section of being a student at this particular time, at this particular school, in this particular country, in this particular society.

We talked about failure. About what makes a failure a failure. The students elaborated on their individual experiences of folding a piece of cloth, of uniting the organic with the non-organic or combining perfect squares and circles in expanding systems only to see them dissolve into chaos, of manipulating one’s own body, embedding secret messages within jewellery, of building objects from language and texts, of weaving as a political act, of following the will of the material, of making paper, of freezing the moment, of baptising, of retaining one´s presence throughout the process of making, of following rules blindly and of refurnishing public environments.

They all worked with their own questions and there was, at any rate, no obvious connection between them. It was evident that it wouldn’t be easy to find that common ground we were looking for, without ignoring decisive differences.

After the presentations, the discussion revolved around art and craftsmanship. The question of craftsmanship was a “sore spot,” as somebody put it. Because essentially it wasn’t craftsmanship, but art they were working with. At the same time, the years at the Department of Visual Arts at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts had taught them to master several techniques of, in fact, craftsmanship. Even if the individual student opted not to apply this or that particular technique or to abandon making a physical object, the introduction to different materials and to the way they had been taught to handle them, were undeniably still present in their work.

Some students felt that the role of craftsmanship ought to be emphasized in recognition of skills attained. “After all, we have mastered particular skills,” as one of the students said. Others thought the contrary – that it wasn’t at all something one should make a big fuss of, that instead it would be better to emphasize the liberation from the technical aspects of craftsmanship and to applaud instead its role in imagination. Regardless of what each student made or conceptualized, or what attitude each reflected and projected, each professed a sense of tension and indecision as to where their work stood in relation to art and handicraft. In this sense, they were held in the optimality of the gap between the two.

On the last day of the workshop, we came to the conclusion to make that gap the common point of departure for the ensuing process – around Linus Elmes’s curatorial idea, around John Robert Nilsson’s exhibition architecture, and around the individual work of each student as in the text and the visual concept of the publication that would manoeuvre around this gap.

The students noted down a number of verbs on large sheets of paper and notes that I packed in my bag before I left. In all – 126 verbs. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with them. Or what they had to do with the gap. But their presence is now located within this text and embedded within the project as a whole, both visible and invisible in various degrees and tempos.

*
A gap is the most ambiguous of spaces – a space in-between, a superfluous place lacking an identity of its own. An unfinished and completely incomprehensible space we generally rush through so quickly that we don’t even have opportunity to notice that we once occupied its space, let alone to understand what was there. Perhaps a man screaming.

For the man I met outside Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, the gap was nothing less than a prison he carried with him, regardless of where he went in the city. He strode back and forth desperately between the invisible walls of the exercise yard.

But the gap can also be a place that is not guarded. It can be the most liberated of all places because it is essentially unfinished. A material that can become anything. In the gap, we can do what we want. We can fail as many times as we can tolerate to – time after time, until we realize that we stand against something completely new, something we would never have achieved if we had been successful.

*
Nouns and adjectives struggle to keep things as they are. Verbs envision something else. They sabotage and build again only to demolish.

For the students, verbs are the most important word-class. But the word ‘art’ is a noun. Just like ‘craftsmanship’. The Norwegian word for craftsmanship or handicraft, ‘håndverk’, comes from the German ‘hantwerk’. The same word is applied in Swedish, Danish and Icelandic language to mean – the work of hands.

It is time to stop the discussion about handicraft and craftsmanship because none among the graduating students works with designing or making objects entirely subservient to practical use, although they can, at times, be used.

Susanne Hjorth Joneid’s coded works function as jewellery in the form of necklaces and brooches, but also serve as more ambiguous objects of art that evoke repressions, emotions, and desires. They are cathartic devices that entail both a process of precision and details while serving as open-ended ciphers of the psychoanalytic. Hege Hønsvall Grønstad also makes jewellery pieces that extend beyond mere decorative objects or adornment. These works address entropy, the dialectic between chaos and order, and the mystical, even irrational, within rational systems of natural science.

Now let us address the term ‘håndverk’ and what that means in relation to the hand and its facility. And to do so while considering that ‘håndverk’ is something different from handicraft or craftsmanship.

The work of hands directs our attention to the actions that verbs refer to, that is to an activity, a doing, a movement. Actions that are forever inscribed as mysterious tracks or traces in the works, like the tribute to the original encounter with the hands that made them.

These implicit traces are usually deemed invisible. Ingeborg Resell Elieson’s works combine traditional sculptural techniques rendered with traditional sculptural materials such as marble and wood. And yet the artist ruptures this initial inclination by morphing these traditions with one more ad hoc in nature merging the composition with fragments and technical remnants from various industrial apparatuses. In doing so, Elieson disengages the sculptural process from the constraints of craft-making into a less composed and conceived trajectory of form. They give the impression of having self-morphised in a slow process that can be interpreted from two positions – either from a point of aliveness or from a point of the inanimate in symbiosis.

Sometimes the traces of the hand are fully visible. Anne Kristine Togstad’s clay works are anthropomorphic creations combined with everyday objects that attempt to reflect a particular set of social relations that are forged in a given point in time. Their uncanniness and hints of alienation impart the artist’s wish to convey the foundation of group dynamics.

The physical traces of the hand – as a means of production – are central to Pauliina Pöllänen’s work. In an apparent tension between the finished and the unfinished – that can be read as a struggle between verbs and nouns – is a resentment against the physical result of the ultimate action. It is the process of making as such that carries meaning. Paradoxically the action relies on the eventuality of the ultimate object of its consequence. The object rests upon the verb of action in which it manifests itself, and through which it constructs itself to reluctantly succumb to the form of a thing (a noun).

Sebastian Makonnen Kjølaas’ work does not hold this same trace of resentment, rather it conveys a sense of irony. Kjølaas breaks into the material storeroom to immediately delve into an investigation of what is there. Adopting a number of different techniques, he samples various media to create works on paper and three dimensional objects that are cartoonish in nature – a drawing drawn with coffee grinds, a figure sculpted from marzipan, a book produced and entitled The Institute of Art and Crime, and a relief of a panopticon insinuating that the artist understands he is being watched.

Hedvig Winge’s three-dimensional action paintings are inseparably linked to the immediacy of expression. The works, both bold and fragile, are in essence a kind of documentation of a performative act. Rendered from paper or textiles soaked in clay, they are tangible in an extremely physical way. These works are neither actions nor objects in their own right, neither verbs nor nouns. They are all and between these states as a hybrid form transgressing time and space.

Herman Steen Eriksen also reflects an interest in the process over the end result. He is not concerned with authoring the action himself but rather in setting out the rules for any course of action to be taken. His work assumes the form of an open examination reflecting a formulaic state of nature whereby the artist stands to the side and observes from the same position as the spectator, or rather – with the inquisitive act of a child who has taken ants from different ant-hills in an effort to see what happens when they meet each other.

In Annika Isaksson Pirtti’s art, it is the action as such that is important: the bodily modification she goes through to wear the jewellery pieces she makes. Instead of letting the objects acquire form from herself, Pirtti acquires form from the objects to turn her own body into a material as any other material. Meanings start to shift when the metal takes a position beneath the skin, and the border between inner and outer, nature and culture, is transgressed. Pirtti’s works tell us that both ‘the natural’ and ‘the unnatural’ are just two different figures in a fiction the logic of which we maintain with our words, actions, gestures and gazes. A story that is confirmed by the plastic surgeons who regarded the very operation as ‘too unnatural’ for them to carry out.

Kirsti Willemse carries out open studies of the relationship between consciousness and matter, whereby she transforms text and fleeting thoughts into textiles. A hanging and loose net of woollen yarn may be read in several ways – as an idea that begins to take form, or a dwelling for the spectator’s own thoughts. Siri Sandersen also invites the spectator to enter into a participatory work. That which first appears as a room is better described as a scanning machine that activates as soon as the observer has closed the door behind her. With icons of a playing field illuminated by fluorescent lights, the observer is left to decide her own rules.

Maria Brinch’s narrative textiles communicate with printed images, patterns and folds. The action of folding involves the act of hiding through enclosure but also makes room for another narrative. The fold could be a haven for collected memories that can stretch far back in both time and space, but can also point to the future. As folds hold hopes of a continuation, the folded cloth lies there as if in a torpor and waits to unfold itself again.

*
Marthe Karen Kampen is a relativist who gives the same value to a found object such as a shiny jacket with an image of a Viking and emblazoned with the words “Lands are conquered, but the sea is wild” or the small decorative figures at a flea market, or a set of tubes with acrylic pigment lying beside a sheet of paper, with a poem or other forms expressed in language. Kampen shows us that nothing is ever completed. Everything can be reformulated and become parts of new stories that can be pulled apart again and put together in an infinite amount of ways. In a film produced by the artist, which works perfectly as an entrance to the exhibition, we see Kampen in a struggle with Edvard Munch’s old printing press. The message is expressed in action: To understand is to do and to never give up.

Sandro Alan Steger stages interventions in public spaces. If given the opportunity to exhibit within a given space, Steger resorts to an imaginary process of architectonic reinvention – exploring new uses for the original containments of a given space and the objects existing within. By withdrawing himself altogether, he makes visible slight shifts of architectonic meaning that alter the original space and routes of navigation within it. With this perspective, Steger encourages a participatory role in the revisionary schematics or alternatives to thinking about habitat.

The participating students and their work illustrate how adjectives hold the world together without being as firmly attached as we think. If we unscrew them, the world of meaning may fall apart only to be built up again in a new way. In this project of common ground, the group proposes an alternative approach to both the comprehensible and the incomprehensible. An understanding that makes less use of one’s eyes for purposes of activation, with attention more from one’s hands, with an emphasis less on the nouns and adjectives, and more on the verbs.

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Soneryd, Jens (2012) "In the belly of the whale", Destroy all nouns, Master, Visual Arts 2012, editors: Linus Elmes & Jens Soneryd, Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

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 Trude Johansen, The Stove