When I arrived at Galleri F15 at Moss, Norway, the Gudkitchen was unoccupied. A collective cooking space installed in a temporary structure on the farmhouse gallery’s grounds, the Gudkitchen results from a collaboration between Tenthaus, the Oslo-based collective behind this 12th edition of Momentum, and Gudskul, a 57-member educational platform comprised of three Jakarta-based collectives ruangrupa, Serrum, and Grafis Huru Hara. The project is modelled on dugnad, a Norwegian practice of collective voluntary work that translates into the Indonesian practice of gotong-royong. Whilst Gudskul members were in residence at Galleri F15, they transformed the makeshift kitchen into a site of constant activity—a swirl of delicious meals, conversation, and cleaning. In their absence, the structure was inert, awaiting activation. I too could have enlisted fellow exhibition-goers to join me in rummaging through the kitchen’s dried goods and condiments to prepare a meal but I made my way instead to the gallery café. Yet the structure remained with me, indexing both the potentials and limitations of relational approaches to the exhibition format.
Momentum 12 is curated by Tenthaus on the principles of gathering and polyphonic co-authorship. Emerging from the collective’s mobile artist-in-schools residency P1, the model and unifying principle here pursues ‘more than one independent melody simultaneously in a single composition’.[i] To achieve this aim, each member of the collective has selected artists to contribute to the biennial. Articulated in the event’s elegant broadsheet-style publication edited by Billie MacTernan and Bukola Oyebode of the BB Collective, Tenthaus’ focus on gathering and polyphony seeks alternatives to the prevailing logic of curatorial inclusion that tends to subsume and homogenise art practice, just as the process of biennialisation homogenises global cultural production.
In their effort to break with these logics, Momentum 12 very much follows a path set by documenta 15, recently curated by one of the collectives here, ruangrupa. Tenthaus’ gathering method presents itself as a translation of ruangrupa’s lumbung, an Indonesian concept of collective sharing that refers to a communal rice barn, which established the core principle of documenta 15. Momentum 12 underscores ruangrupa’s paradigmatic shift from thematic to process-based curation and its reflexive understanding of the exhibition as a relational and communicative ecosystem, a transversal ‘medium’, as Yuk Hui and Adeena Mey propose, ‘irreducible to its physical, architectural, and spatial structure’, that ‘modulates’ sensibility and information.[ii]
How does this ecosystemic and polyphonic practice manifest at Galleri F15? The exhibition presents a fairly standard balance of postconceptual formats, largely installations and videos driven by research and/or community collaboration. Anawana Haloba presents a richly textured dialogue that brings the weaving practice of Wee Tonga people (Southern Zambia and Zimbabwe) in dialogue with the textile-based works of Swedish-Norwegian artist Hannah Ryggen (1894–1970), focussing around the latter’s 1935 tapestry denouncing Italy’s attempted colonisation of Ethiopia. On the same floor Andrea Parkins’ multi-channel sound and film installation documents the performer’s daily studio-based experiments in improvisational movement—a mode of research rooted in sonic, spatial and gestural materialities.
In some cases Tenthaus’ polyphonic method produces organic refrains between works. An emphasis on site-specific materials runs across Germain Ngoma’s wooden-log constructions, using trees and stones sourced on Galleri F15’s grounds. Stephanie Lüning’s large-scale Collectivity Paintings is produced by visitors using pigmented ice cubes derived from organic waste produced by the gallery café. Thomas Iversen’s quasi-scientific process transforms building material fragments collected around Moss into brightly hued prints. Ecosystemic mapping also emerges as a concern in Fotobook DUMMIES Day’s reading room, which contains a map listing the distances that collection items travelled across to reach Moss. Alessandro Marchi’s cartography of Norwegian wealth and inter-generational asset transfers, while charmingly earnest, unfortunately does little to illuminate mechanisms of accumulation and global capital.
In many cases, works speak over or past each other, creating spaces of dissonance. In the extended video Hua-shan-qiang, So Yo Hen presents a compellingly imaginative mediation on death, ritual, and the architectural legacies of Japanese colonisation in Taiwan. But it sits awkwardly next to the WET collective’s cave-like and acrid-smelling environment based on their train-hopping journey from Czechia to Norway—a purportedly irreverent yet in reality trivialising take on ‘graffiti’ culture. While these dissonances index Tenthaus’s rhizomatic curatorial approach and the exhibition’s efforts to address multiple publics, it is not clear that the primarily conventional exhibition format employed here entirely serves these objectives.
I wonder what forms the biennial might take if Tenthaus had more substantially reimagined the exhibition format from the vantage point of their ecosystemic approach. Where would they have taken the format had they dwelled more deeply on the potential for dissonance and friction as a positive within their polyphonic method. A hint of these possibilities appears in Morag Keil’s autostereograms surreptitiously postered on advertising billboards around Moss and on canteen trays in the Galleri F15 cafe. Much like Daniel Buren’s Affichages sauvages (wild posters), these green-and-yellow ‘Magic Eye’ illusions undertake a critical mimesis of urban advertising. To glimpse the three-dimensional image hidden within these swirling patterns, viewers must organise their attention in a particular manner, at once focused and detached. These images ask the viewer to become attuned to the logics of spectacle as well as the potentially disruptive existence of alternate optical frequencies in the context of the biennial, whose function has become part of the process of urban rationalisation, smoothing over a city’s social contradictions. More dissensus and disruption are needed.
Kylie Gilchrist is a London-based researcher and writer.
Momentum 12, Together as to Gather, Galleri F15, Moss, Norway 10 June to 8 October 2023
[i] Momentum 12: Together as to Gather, exhibition catalogue, ed. BB Collective, Oslo and Moss: Tenthaus and Galleri F15, p. 8.
[ii] Yuk Hui and Adeena Mey, ‘The Exhibition as Medium: Some Observations on the Cybernetisation of the Institution and the Exhibition’, Afterall53, 13 September 2022, 80-82.