Voices from the osloBIENNALEN: Rose Hammer and Dora Garcìa as Rose Hammer member
Curated by Daniela Veneri
“I believe Rose Hammer's objectives are first of all to enjoy and be satisfied as a collective of the long and sometimes arduous process of production, to discover each other subjectivities integrated in one collective subjectivity, maybe even a generational or public, common subjectivity. I think to research what notions such as public, common, collective, mean now and might mean in the future.” - Rose Hammer
NOTE: The answers provided below are given by Dora García as member of the collective artist persona Rose Hammer, who is the artist producing the project National Episodes for the osloBIENNALEN.
Which projects are you currently working on and which are you most passionate about?
Rose Hammer is engaged to produce two more episodes of the series National Episodes. The project itself is very ambitious and a big challenge for Rose Hammer, who is made of non-professional actors, dramaturges, or stage directors. We have started with a small episode, "Grini and the futures of Norway", presented in May in Perlen space, Oslo, and our intention is to work for the next two years in two new
episodes, that will be presented in an accumulative manner, so that in 2020 we will present again "Grini and the futures of Norway" plus a new episode, "The Plague", and in 2021 the trilogy will be concluded with a third episode, for now with the working title "The Wound", and in that year the work will be the three episodes, presented as three acts of one single opera. Right now we are aiming at writing as well the music and the songs for the next two episodes. It is a challenge because we do not dominate these techniques, but more than that, it is a challenge because we want to construct this artist persona who is more than the sum of our individual identities, and who refuses to comply with the playbook of the "individual artist oeuvre". It is also very exciting because we are trying to do sort of archeological work in order to recover and vindicate the form of agit prop theatre, which is not exactly fashionable, and also to unravel the secrets of Norwegian identity - by an artist persona which is made of 10 different nationalities.
What values and principles are guiding your work?
As I was saying, collective and group work, archeology of form, activation of history, repetition as a formal principle, research, and I believe a form of empathy with the audience: after all, agit in agit prop stands for agitation.
What are your most important objectives as an artist?
I believe Rose Hammer's objectives are first of all to enjoy and be satisfied as a collective of the long and sometimes arduous process of production, to discover each other subjectivities integrated in one collective subjectivity, maybe even a generational or public, common subjectivity. I think to research what notions such as public, common, collective, mean now and might mean in the future.
What does it mean for you to participate in the Oslo Biennalen?
Well of course Rose Hammer is very thankful for the support and possibilities that this structure of the osloBIENNALEN offers; such an ambitious, clearly non-commercial project, could only happen within such a structure.
What specific challenges and opportunities does the local context offer?
Rose Hammer as said is made of people of 10 different nationalities, all of them for different reasons temporary or permanent residents of Oslo. We know Oslo from many different points of view: the native, the resident, the visitor, even the tourist. Oslo is a very idiosyncratic city; through the work process, we try to find common ground among ourselves of what the local context is. In the current political climate, dominated by toxic masculinity, dumb and short - sighted liberalism, short-term thinking egoism, complete lack of solidarity, Rose Hammer believes that the Oslo local context provides still the possibility of the collective to happen.
What excites you most about this initiative?
The feeling that almost everything, if well planned, is possible.
What kind of impact do you see emerging from the Oslo Biennalen?
Rose Hammer hopes that the impact will be the general understanding that art is a need of society, a vital ingredient of the collective, a long-term asset, a liable investment in sanity and health, an alternative for consumerism, and a good mental exercise that no doubt will prevent great misfortunes in the future. Hopefully it will help divert art from entertainment, to stay away from oversimplified city-branding, and present art as a form of political thought and action.
How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today?
I believe that I answered the question a moment ago by making a statement that leads to the understanding that "art is a need of society, a vital ingredient of the collective, a long-term asset, a liable investment in sanity and health, an alternative for consumerism, and a good mental exercise that no doubt will prevent great misfortunes in the future”. Art and culture must divert from entertainment (but continue being a great pleasure, a joy to behold!), stay away from oversimplified city-branding, and become a form of political thought and action.
Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?
Every member of Rose Hammer is the most important partner and interlocutor for every member of Rose Hammer, then of course the curators and staff of the osloBIENNALEN, some authors like Sven Lütticken who helped us reflect the sense of this enterprise, and ultimately the public - or the passer-by.
Where do you see current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the role of arts and cultural players, institutions, curators, art managers, artists and big events like art biennials? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?
Here I will answer individually as Dora García and will say that two things have changed radically in big art events in the last years: one, the understanding that not all money is good money, and therefore, the need to decline certain contributions which are made to whitewash the image of shady financial partners - and in that sense, one could say (going back to agit prop mode) that no money is good money unless it is public money. The second thing that has radically changed in big art events and international art exhibitions is the imperative to abandon the colonialist perspective of "veni, vidi, vici" that has characterised biennials for so long (international artists and institutions that create international art – looking everywhere the same - with no return, or interest, for local communities), and instead choose longer durations and durable collaborations with the local scene (which is often more cosmopolitan than the international scene).
If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of arts and cultural institutions, curators, cultural producers, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?
Again here I will answer individually as Dora García, as I cannot represent Rose Hammer here, and would say: abandon the market and the speculation, the percentages and the commissions, shift art production so that it is not any more a luxury product but a practice, non-competitive, non-exclusive, educational, free for all, at the service of all. For the many, not for the few. This is my own particular opinion: I also strongly believe this does not mean, as many think, a loss of quality. A poem is always made by an individual, but it is written for everyone.
What forms of artistic proposals and contaminations do you think are particularly representative of current transformations and challenges taking place in modern society?
I think it is clear that time-based arts, live action, is contaminating all the arts. This is both a consequence and a cause of the politicisation of art, which is a phenomenon I celebrate: I believe everything is political, and those who want to take the politics away, are driven by dark motives.
What is one cross-sector collaboration that you find successful, inspiring or interesting and why?
I believe I already answer that question above: real time, durational pieces, live action, sharing the same space-time than the spectator, the audience, speak directly to them as in theater and performance, share the same spaces of community and discourse.
Which artistic proposals currently catch your attention and why?
Collective endeavours, political poetry, agitation of the audiences. We need to answer as a collective body to the abuse happening everywhere.
What I did not ask you that you think is important to mention?
Maybe it is important to mention that political engagement is not contrary to, but rather companion of, love, joy, beauty, and enjoyment.
Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about?
Commons, poetry, real time, song.
Rose Hammer, are, in no particular order: Kim Svensson, Emilie Birkeland, Élise Guerrier, Alma Braun, Mattias Hellberg, Niels Munk Plum, Arely Amaut Gomez Sanchez, Emil Andersson, Alessandro Marchi, Stacey de Voe, Nora Joung, Victoria Durnak, Sara Hermansson, Sahar Seyedian, Qi Tan, Ole-Petter Arneberg, Per-Oskar Leu and Dora García, and also includes the generous and gifted collaboration of graphic designer Alex Gifreu, scenographer Shiva Sherveh and theatre experts Samir Kandil and Jakob Tamm. We share an interest in: dialectical materialism, agit-prop theatre, classical theatre, Golden-era Hollywood productions, French film noir, turn-of-the-century literature, “Entartete Kunst”, histories of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, and Bertolt Brecht. Rose Hammer is the author of the work: a collective persona made of a variable group of individuals. The name “Rose Hammer” may, though not exclusively, refer to a) the hammer inscribed on Henrik Ibsen’s grave monument in Oslo b) the former emblem of the Norwegian labour movement c) the famous quote attributed to Brecht “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” d) the rose symbol which became popular among socialist and social democratic political parties in post-World War II Western Europe. So we are socialists, we are agit prop, we are Brechtians, we go for the dialectical, didactic, and collective turn. We go for formal experimentation meeting radicalism in thought.