MOMENTUM 10: The Emotional Exhibition
8.Jun - 9.Oct 2019; Moss (NO)
Curated by Marti Manen

Pre-text is a work created for Momentum10: The Emotional Exhibition that existed in the form of exhibition inside Momentum Kunsthall and in the form of outdoors and a sound installation in the public space of Moss. Pre-text is a continuation of a project started in 2012 in which I find texts in books and paint over the pages to capture words and phrases I want to (but never can) remember forever. The original context of the words is made available to new interpretations, turning other’s narrations into our own.

Departing from the emotional as a thematic premise of the biennial, Pre-text investigated the tension found in feeling and how it is expressed through individual and collective textual experiences. This also brings forth the concern about how to archive the tension between emotions and words. Pre-text sought to find ways to archive emotions in a way that would reveal not only how they exist inside of someone, but how they can relate to how one cares for the world beyond the gallery.
Pre-text developed these concerns in four steps that fed each other through forms of making that were connected instead of segregated. The first step corresponds to the installation inside Momentum Kunsthall which presented hundreds of painted pages and a lightbox with large-scale pictures of two specially selected pages. The text on the frontside of the lightbox read: "Who cares about politics when there are flames licking at your insides?” (after Karl Ove Knausgård). On the backside of the lightbox was the phrase: "Words had always represented a wholly unrealisable territory of the feelings, of the heart," (after Lawrence Durrell).
The second step extended the installation inside Momentum Kunsthall to multiple spaces outside and around the city of Moss by using ten advertisement lightboxes on the streets. They showed digital compositions made from a selection of painted pages and included translations of the original texts to Norwegian. These compositions were organized in different categories according to their textual content: excess of feeling; life as a repairable work; words and emotions; depression and failure of imagination; self and others; work; and, what do people want?
The advertisement lightbox is a device used for grabbing attention. It suggests a type of readership of information and visuality in the public space that the consumer’s eyes can quickly read. By inserting my compositions in the lightboxes, I proposed a different relation with distance (the text in the compositions cannot be seen at a distance) and with time (to read the multiple texts). It required closeness; it required spending time. I think of this as a parasitical situation, accommodating media in order to occupy the public space through a different encounter with the other.
Each composition also posed the questions: “What do these words make you think about?” and “How do you feel?” This was followed by instructions for the public to react to these questions and to share their responses by telephone and email. This was a necessary aspect of the third step of the project. The responses submitted by the public were documented on Momentum’s website and converted into an audio recording. This was continuously updated, and the sound recording was played outside of Moss’ City Hall throughout the duration of the exhibition. An early decision had been made regarding the responses received; as long as these were standpoints about the collages, there would be no censorship of the received material.

On the walls surrounding the light box are hundreds of pages from books that I've painted into memory.

Text from curator Marti Manen about Pre-text:

“The colour is blue, the space is somehow dark, outside is Norway. The first work we see is filling the room with pages of books. André Alves, the artist, has been cutting pages of books that have affected him generating something in between poetry and a way to feel the world with words. He leaves some sentences untouched so we can read them, but the rest is covered with paint. The paint, the words, the language, the narrative becoming concepts and a desire for an emotional connection. A couple of these pages are occupying the central part of the room in a light box. You know, these light boxes filling cities with commercial language and desirable images; these light boxes that have been changed the aspect of bus stops to include you in this economic realm. The first page in the light box – the first one that you gave seen – comes with a sentence by Karl Ove Knausgård. Also surrounded by the blue colour. “Who cares about politics when there are flames licking at your insides?” I would say something to you about politics, about the personal being political, about how many political fights haven’t been considered political because they weren’t using the traditional language of politics. But no, this is not the time for this speech. It was flames in almost darkness. The room – with the blue colour filling the walls and reflection on your face – is full of words coming from literature. This great escape. Now we want to decide if we like it or not.”
Marti Manen “You say, I say” in Klontz, A. (ed.) Momentum 10: The emotional Exhibition. Viewer.Stockholm: Art and Theory Publishing, 2019:24

In addition to this installation, I've created 10 compositions for lightboxes that are placed around the city of Moss, posing the questions: “What do these words make you think about?” and, “How do you feel?” which gives the public the chance to react to them by sharing their responses by telephone and email. The responses will be documented on Momentum’s website and converted into an audio recording that will be continuously updated and played at the square outside of Moss’s town hall for the duration of the exhibition.