Christmas Gospel

The artist duo Trollkrem (Jennie Hagevik Bringaker and Tor Erik Bøe) had a busy autumn: last week the Norwegian launch of a fan-poster series, and tomorrow the performance of a brand new Christmas play at Unge Kunstneres Samfund. In between rehearsals, Bringaker and Bøe met Objektiv at Kunstnernes hus, where the poster series was still on show.

Interview by Anne Haga

In your fan-poster series, a number of Norwegian performance artists are portrayed. How did you get the idea to make these?

Bøe: We wanted to make a tribute to performance artists. Performance art has a lower status than other disciplines within the art context, and is often reduced to entertainment – something to spice up art openings – instead of being treated the same way as the other artworks represented in galleries. We stage the artists like pop stars, and create something very accessible.

Performance art doesn't have its own ‘scene’ and doesn't have the strong dialogue that many other art forms have. There are no performance gallerists, for instance, and many of the artists represented in our poster series don't even know about each other's works. So we want to be like a campfire for live artists, bringing them together and initiating collaborations between them. We like to combine artists who normally wouldn't be thought of as natural collaborators. Different kinds of creative disciplines, like music, performing arts and fashion are all being brought together.

Bringaker: We're not interested in making a concrete definition of what Trollkrem is. What's important is the process, the collaborative nature and what emerges from it. At first, the plan was simply to do a portrait series, with one or two photographers, but as we started working on it we realised that what was really interesting was the dynamic process, where graphic design, photography and the artist portrayed equally affect the result. It's an ongoing process where ideas occur along the way.

Bøe: The artists we’re working with are doing very different things, but one criterion is that we have to like their work.

 

So, do the artists you work with have something in common?

Bringaker: One thing is the way they all challenge the exhibition space. None of them treats the room as a neutral space; it's always charged with meaning. Unlike object artists, they explore their relation to the audience and situations that occur in the exhibition space.

Bøe: All of them are challenging the expectations of the audience. For instance, Synnøve Wetten has transformed galleries into night clubs, Geir Tore Holm speaks directly to his audience and gives them food, Marianne Heier challenges the power balance between people, Marthe Ramm Fortun makes curators nervous by taking her guests around the city, and so on. All of them go 100% with what they're doing – and they insist on their own methods. Performance art is an active form; it aims to create something direct, confrontational. This demands a lot of work and thinking, and it deserves to be acknowledged.

Bringaker: It is sort of the unappreciated art form, because the amount of attention and fees the artists receive never correlates to the amount of work they put into a performance. In a way, performance art has lower value than art objects.

Why do you think that is?

Bringaker: I think it has to do with the market. It’s easier for the audience to relate to an object than an act. It’s less demanding; they don't have to leave their comfort zone. Besides, art is a commodity, now more than ever, and performance art can't be a commodity in the same way as object-based art. It's a time-based event that can't be purchased; but it's nonetheless an art piece.

 

 

Bøe: I also think it’s a mistake to try to fit performance art into the same formats as other art forms – maybe performance art should have a different platform and audience from that offered by the regular art scene.

Bringaker: I agree. The white cube isn't necessarily a good place for performance art, so why not go outside of the institutions and make our own spaces? An essential part of what Trollkrem does is exactly this. We're being conscious about the spaces we use.

Bøe: I’m just as interested in fashion art as I am in performance art, and that world might be a more suitable crowd for what we're doing. What fashion artists such as the collaborative HAIK are doing can be related to performance art – they lose their ownership of their works, the creations disappear out in the world to live their own lives. Fashion artists deal a lot with time and context, and this way of working is easier for us to relate to than the white cube-based sculptor whose relation to time is completely different.

What should we expect from your Christmas Gospel that’s playing Friday at UKS?

Bøe: Being used to doing everything on our own, this is a large production for us, with technicians handling the light and sound. The traditional Nativity story is our framework. We started casting with a certain idea in mind, and from there we’ve integrated new ideas along the way. Different artists will do their own performances within the frame of the Christmas story. Monica Winther will be playing the Virgin Mary (she actually gave birth herself on Christmas eve when she was seventeen), Marianne Heier plays the angel Gabriel. After Mary gives birth, we'll send in a bunch of characters along with the three wise men, to share birth experiences with each other. But we’re not going to reveal the complete cast. The subtopic is mother and child.

And what are your plans for 2015?

Bringaker: We'll be at LA Art Book Fair at the end of January, and will hopefully have been able to do more shoots for the poster series by then.

Bøe: We'll also try to do a summer happening like we did last year, as well as the Christmas show. Days like our Norwegian National day and anniversaries in general are good days to do things, because there’s already something latent in the air that can be confronted and dissected.We'll do Skypa again, in which we invite artists to perform over Skype. We're going to do this at Atelier Nord ANX and at Landmark.

All in all, there are still hundreds of things we want to do. We’re not short on ideas, just the money to carry the ideas out.

 

Trollkrem is artist duo Jennie Hagevik Bringaker and Tor Erik Bøe. They host and create happenings and Live Art projects that are collaborations between artists from a broad range of artistic genres. Their posters are collaborations between Trollkrem, the photographers Morten Andersen, Tove Sivertsen, Fin-Serck Hanssen, Kristine Jakobsen, Ingrid Eggen, Ingrid Pop, Kim Jakobsen To, Simon Skreddernes and Renate Torsett, and the graphic designers Luke Libera Moore, Bjørnar Pedersen, Jone Fjellstad, Sara Risvaag, Dimitri Kayambakis, Rene’ Josdal, Prins Preben, Morteza Vaseghi and Mariann Steiro,, as well as the performance artists themselves: Marianne Heier, Nils Bech, Tori Wrånes, Marthe Ramm Fortun, Synnøve G. Wetten, Lisa Lie, Monica Winther, Sverre Gullesen and Geir Tore Holm.