Coast Contemporary: Rugged, weathered, above the sea

A reportage on the second edition of Coast Contemporary in Norway, written by Lorenza Pignatti


Coast Contemporary, a program held on board of the MS Trollfjord, constitutes an unusual and unique way to promote the Norwegian arts and literature scene. Rugged, weathered, above the sea, the second edition of Coast Contemporary, was held over four days and three nights (October 21–26, 2018), that offered an immersive experience to architects, writers, arts professionals, and artists from Norway and abroad. The ship sailed from the northern archipelago of Lofoten to the southern city of Bergen. The experience on board is meant to strengthen the Norwegian art community and grow its international links. Founded by Tanja Sæter and curated this year by Charles Aubin, Coast Contemporary has been a pretty surprising journey.


“The country’s passion for its own  landscape seems to me a quite effective tool to investigate the sense of nationhood, pictorial and literary depiction that has been used to create the national myth of the limitless territory. We will address the complex relationship Norwegians entertain with the wilderness through a daily program of screenings, readings, discussions, lecture-performances, pop-up exhibitions aboard and visits onshore in Lofoten, Trondheim, and Bergen” Aubin states at the opening speech held at the North Norwegian Art Center in Svolvær, Lofoten island.

The following day we visited Villa Lofoten, the saltery and fish-oil factory of art historian Aaslaug Vaa, that aims to preserve the culture of local fishermen situated on the quay in the fishing village of Kvalnes. Aaslaug is an amazing woman: she is a filmmaker, and she’s established Artscape Nordland, an international art collection in public spaces across Nordland.


«Cooking Sections» (Daniel Fernandéz Pascual and Alon Schwabe)

«Cooking Sections» (Daniel Fernandéz Pascual and Alon Schwabe)


Artists and curators Kjetil Berges and A. K. Dolven introduced their own work in their studios, and we visited the Maaretta Jaukkuri foundation, before getting on board.

The Coast Contemporary program sets off in the auditorium of the MS Trollfjord, with arts professionals giving institutional presentations. Hanne Beate Ueland, Director of Stavanger Art Museum, gave a lecture titled “Landscape Painting and the Construction of a Norwegian Identity”. Her presentation was followed by those of OCA (Office for Contemporary Art), Screen City Biennial, Sami Centre for Contemporary Art, Norwegian Textile Association, and Performance Art Bergen.

After this dense series of presentations, art historian Marit Paasche gave a lecture on Hannah Ryggen, one of the most distinct Norwegian artists of the 20th century, who had a clear, witty view of 20th-century politics, although she lived in a remote farm in the Trondheim Fjord until her death in 1970. Ryggen tapestries represent a renewal of textile art through her strong political involvement and disapproval of World War II and, later, of the Vietnam War. Ryggen’s art is still very relevant today, and we had the pleasure to see her work at Nordenfjeldske Art Museum on October 24, when we stopped for a few hours in Trondheim. We also visited the Kunsthall Trondheim, and the exhibition Rivers of Emotion, Bodies of Ore.


Coast Contemporary, Hannah Ryggen: Weaving the World, Nordenfjeldske Art Museum ,  Courtesy Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum / Museene I Sør-Trøndelag. Photo: Anders S. Solberg/Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum. © Hannah Ryggen / DACS 2017

Hannah Ryggen: Weaving the World, Nordenfjeldske Art Museum , Courtesy Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum / Museene I Sør-Trøndelag. Photo: Anders S. Solberg/Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum. © Hannah Ryggen / DACS 2017


Back on board, a series of talks, meetings, performances and cabin shows was waiting for us for the last two days. Cabins turned into intimate sets for different interventions: Ina Hagen andDaitsuge Kosugi (founder of artist-run gallery Louise Dany in Oslo) presented Kosugi’s investigation on his father’s life through a 3D helmet; Ina Hagen talked about her residency in Brazil, prior to the election of Bolsonaro. Søssa Jørgensen presented her performance piece Song of Kind, and Marthe Ramm Fortun performed in different locations on the boat. Bergen Art Book Fair, HEAVY books, MONDO books, and Lodret Vandret set up an ephemeral art book fair in the library on board, offering passengers an overview of independent Norwegian artist-run publications and printed matter.

We had a film night with Rhea Dall, Director of the Young Artists Society/UKS, with film screenings by A. K. Dolven, Richard Alexandersson, Anne Marthe Dyvi & Mao Mallona. On the following day, Sissel M. Bergh, represented by the Sami Center for Contemporary Art, presented one of her films.


Coast Contemporary, Lawrence Lek. installation at Rivers of Emotion, Bodies of Ore

Lawrence Lek. installation at Rivers of Emotion, Bodies of Ore


The book presentations were pretty engaging. Randi Nygård and Timotheus Vermeulen gave a talk on the book The Wild Living Marine Resources Belong to Society as a Whole, written by Randi Nygård and Karolin Tampere. Writer and comedian Are Kalvø held a stand-up comedy show on his latest book Hyttebok fra Helvete / Cabin book from Hell, a parody of the relationship Norwegians have with nature and landscape.

Kalvø’s comedy was pretty inspiring. He made me think that, even though the national tourism department claims that “Norway is powered by Nature”, the “real” power is not Nature but the oil industry, that has completely changed the country’s economic system since the 1960s, as well as the intensive fish farming industry. These topics were addressed by Cooking Sections, London-based duo of spatial practitioners, who presented “climavore”, a lecture-performance that investigated the ecological landscape of the North Atlantic coasts and the seawater pollution by intensive fish farming.


Coast Contemporary, Kvalnes landscape

Kvalnes landscape


Once in Bergen, I was finally able to enjoy a “real” landscape, snowy mountaintops and green trees, as we visited galleries, artist-run spaces, and KODE, a unique combination of art museums and composers’ homes. KODE 1, 2, 3 and 4 organized temporary exhibitions and have extensive presentations of works by Edvard Munch, J. C. Dahl and Nikolai Astrup, that I really enjoyed, since I had the possibility to see all the landscape paintings that were presented on board of the Coast Contemporary journey.

Lorenza Pignatti is an art writer, curator, and professor at the New Academy of Fine Arts (NABA) in Milan. She edited Mind the Map. Mappe, diagrammi e dispositivi cartografici (Postmedia Books). With Franco “Bifo” Berardi and Marco Magagnoli, she co-edited Errore di sistema. Teoria e pratiche di Adbusters (Feltrinelli Editore). She is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers such as Il Manifesto, La Repubblica, Frieze, Art Review, and e-flux. This her first contribution for Droste Effect magazine.

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