Our perspective on the archive needs to be revised. The Norwegian artist Synnøve G Wettens’ recent exhibition shows us how. 

Q&A by Nina Strand, Objektiv


Nina Strand: Your exhibition HOW presents an archive in constant flux, as online content tends to be. Our latest issue of Objektiv, with the title Archive Art, looks at how different artists work with the archive. This isn’t a new tendency in contemporary art, but several recent exhibitions and institutional initiatives, both in Norway and internationally, indicate that an increasing number of artists are working with found material or the archive itself. What do you think about this tendency?  

Synnøve G Wetten: I find this tendency to be a natural consequence of the fact that more and more people are getting access to information. Our basic desire to share is blossoming in a groovy uprising. New ways of combining knowledge are giving a radical kick to experiment with/think/invent new concepts of archiving, new concepts of sharing information and new concepts of how to store information. More and more voices and subjects are intertwined in a flux of archives in motion. 

Strand: The exhibition catalogue essay states that all the works in HOW are fragments from a larger archive that belongs to a political, collective and inclusive movement named Trans Panthers. The films, images and text take a zigzag route between epochs and cultures. We physically move around in a mutating archive that’s constantly growing. And to have an exhibition that finally gives us back 1980s Vogue culture is very welcome. Could you talk about this exhibition?

Wetten: Today the internet is established as an important stage for suppressed minorities demanding visibility and freedom of speech. But voguing was created by a suppressed and neglected minority of trans people in New York in the 80s. It channelled – and still channels – pride and power through dance and performance in an emancipating way. This emerging culture made a highly political impact on the public view of queer people. We’re all born naked. Everything else is drag.  In HOW, Vogue plays a role as a backdrop for the staging of the exhibition  – a contemplative trans-political staging in poetic drag. Orange daylight illuminates the space, streaming through a colour filter on the skylight.  A curved wall softly breaks the squared lines of the gallery space. Here, I experiment with what I will call politically motivated poetry in a queer time and space.
HOW is an open invitation to include others. The exhibition stages fragments and traces from surfing and searches of gender politics on the web. The format uses these found fragments, performing a poetic and virtual archive. 

Trans Panthers is staged as a performative group creating a ‘we’. Real stories are synthesised with my own photographs and short essays. ‘Time and Free Will’, one of several essays presented in a fanzine in the exhibition, calls for new political visions by suggesting that we slow down our present high-speed race. There’s an urgent need for a more humanistic and loving climate in our political language. Soft resistance is suggested by reactivating intuition and awareness. Humour/comics are intertwined for those who want to join in, and see political language as an expansive territory happily challenged by humanistic dada poetry. I consider all contemporary art scenes, both deviant and central, as a politically potent web to share information.  

Strand: In a recent review in Kunstkritikk, a quote from the Trans Panthers Manifesto (2011) is used: ‘We demand an endless space of love that blurs the borders of gender and sexuality.’ We’d love to know how!

Wetten: Love as a political concept is rooted in our basic desire to share. Demands of equality, of political, juridical and social acceptance, are essential in this discussion. Open sources and sharing of information are required in a 'transparent society'. Diaries and personal stories are continually posted online. Sharing is caring, and knowledge is soft resistance towards discrimination. Freedom to be who you are is love. Freedom is love, and it might be endless.


9 May–15 June 2014