Ann-Cathrin Hertling SEMINAR: The Boon Project Revisited
Program: Politics of Memory
Place: Department of Fine Art KIT - Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Kustarken, Innherredsveien 7, Trondheim
Participant: Ann-Cathrin Hertling
SEMINAR (Presentation and discussion)
The Boon Project
During my academy years I was fortunate to take part in a long durational workshop with Milica Tomic & Mika Hannula. It was part of a project hosted by the former art platform NIFCA. As you read these names, you can see that they derive from Finland and Serbia. Politically the workshop aimed to reconnect students from a prior war zone to the peaceful Scandinavia. For me this specific goal created an ambivalence; how independent where we as artists in this given context? Knowing that art commonly is used as diplomacy in the politics of Soft Power, this very ambivalence became a significant drive in the art project to come; to speak of the backdrop of Norway as a Humanitarian Superpower and draw attention to our given altruistic identity. This is inappropriate, because it is a topic I’m not supposed to confront as a Norwegian citizen. It is urgent; here reside some of the core issues in the production of the Politics of Memory. By developing The Boon Project, I wanted to investigate this memory, the memory of “Norway as a benefactor of peace and aid, and Serbia & Montenegro as receiver of aid and a victim of war” or in other words, Norway as a Humanitarian Superpower.
To uncover the invisible structures of this ideological apparatus and avoid artistic interpretations, I created a fictive humanitarian foundation holding the name, THE PILLAR FOUNDATION and I became the institution myself.
In this process I consistently used and misused the language of the humanitarian apparatus, with its symbolism and rhetoric’s. By mimicking an already existing model, the narrative of monuments, I could materialize this investigation: THE PILLAR FOUNDATION launched an open competition as a sign of gratitude for the Norwegian assistance to Serbia and Montenegro. Where THE PILLAR FOUNDATION invited citizens of Serbia and Montenegro and the Kingdom of Norway to propose a monument to mark a long-lasting humanitarian activity.
The competition was launched in both Norwegian and Serbian media, to highlight individually sides. The participants where completely free in articulating the conceptual solution, physical form, choice of the location for the monument, as well as the content of the opening ceremony commemorating the erection of the monument. With this competition I saw an opportunity to expose, in a subtle matter, the ambivalence of raising monuments, which revealed it selves in the submitted suggestions from the participant. The submitted suggestions were exhibited in a protestant church in Belgrade, where the Pillar Foundation arranged a Public Voting. When the votes where counted, the Pillar Foundation organized an award ceremony. Here the main 3 prizes, hard cash in envelopes was delivered by the ambassador of the Pillar Foundation. After the ambassadors ceremony, I revealed the event as an art project, this to create and provoke an authentic discussion between the participants, the audience and The Pillar Foundation.
Is this scenario relevant today? Why revisit the Boon Project?
The production of Monuments and places of commemorating has become an industry, where national interests tend to camouflage in the virtue of general-interests, or as something universal, but should it not be comprehended as a site of symbols and rhetoric’s? Not a neutral site disconnected from its power structures.
Very often in this scenario the artist are merely reduced to producers of diplomacy, instruments in the production of politics of memory, to commemorate the super-ego of the state. Circumventing any doubt or ambivalence in the memory of the public. Editing our memory in the interest of the public, removing our rights to explore the complexity of both individual and collective memory. Removing our rights to retain and process the diversity of life and politics.
In this seminar we will revisit the Boon Project and use it as conversational piece, to ask the question: How can we deal with this scenario?
Ann-Cathrin Hertling (1976) is an artist based in Trondheim, Norway. She took her diploma in 2004 at The Bergen National Academy of the Arts. Since then she has worked with living materials like time, human relations, sites and contexts. She calls attention to how the governing institutions affect us, trough its production of alienation, collective descriptions and dogmas.
She confronts these narratives by suggesting different situations and encounters with a variety of people and institutions, where she specifically avoids to control, as an attempt to circumvent artistic interpretations, but rather to provoke a collective process where the people involved start to experiment and produce new situations or a temporary state of emergency. These situations are always unstable, shape shifting between art and every day life. In this way her works are related to social art and neo-avantgard.
All collaborations are long term, both playing with and producing different formats. For instance she has worked with institutional environments such as an elderly peoples home and a Norwegian prison. She has co-initiated the museum Fredrick Chance Museum of Coincidence (2005- d.d) a humanitarian organization called The Pillar Foundation (2004-7) and Miracle Ministry a gospel-performance. Among other self-organised platforms to mention are: c/o Bristol (2011- d.d) Wild at Art (2011- d.d) Camp Zero (2011- d.d) Trondheim Open (2011- d.d) and Marienborg Project Room and Art Collective (2005-10) She is also working as an artist in residence with in the vocal ensemble Trondheim Voices, where they create long durational-performances. Hertling is the other part of the artist duo Hertling & Andreassen who works with city development processes. As an important part of her artistic practise she also co-curates situational rooms at different art institutions, often as round-table talks or other artistic tools from the educational turn, constantly discussing the role of the artist.