alienation | the nordic biennial’s take

Since 1998, the Momentum Biennial has showcased Nordic artists and their work. Every show centers around a specific theme or concept that allows for a varied body of work. Nearly thirty years later, the show features contemporary art from all around the world. This past weekend marked the opening of the ninth Momentum Biennial in Moss, Norway. Whether you’ve never been or attend the biennial every two years, you should try to visit the 2017 show if you can.


Fly Factory by Bui Adalsteinsson
Untitled (Carrier), 2006
by Jone Kvie


The 2017 Nordic Biennial, or Momentum 9, focuses on alienation, from welcoming the alien we see in ourselves to redefining what’s familiar and foreign. The show describes alienation as a starting point, “where alien processes and entities are becoming an integrated part of our lives through technological, ecological, and social transformations.” With that in mind, we see “aliens” everyday, but our hypervisual and connected world creates a challenge for them. Many aliens adapt and some change the world, but they all face isolation and risk rejection. What does alienation mean in today’s world? Who and what does it apply to? How do both sides navigate this clash? The biennial sparks this dialogue while also aiming to resolve the confusion circling aliens in our society.
Alienation was interpreted differently by each artist. The term sparked an encyclopedic definition; a masked figure; a fly factory; an eerie moonlit forest; and much more. For Norwegian sculptor Jone Kvie, alienation looks like a kneeling astronaut (Vannverket Venue). To Greek artist Stathis Tsemberlidis, an elaborate sketch demonstrates that the human body will cease to exist and transmutations will be commonplace (House of Foundation). Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Amanda Newall and Sweden’s Leon Tan together address social alienation by documenting public sleeping and dreaming (Galleri F 15). With few limits and  guidelines, artists proved that there’s more than one take on the alienated.
The showcase features 17 Nordic pieces and 14 international pieces, including a podcast by Tim Hinmanm & Krister Moltzen. For opening day only, the podcast Ozymandias Part 1 and 2 played in Moss Cinema and now lives on . It discussed communication with the far future and evaluated the present from the perspective of the far future. The group considers alienation to be the radical transformations in life that challenge present identity and the aftermath. Besides the visual platform created for the website, this podcast was the only piece that’s physically missing in Momentum 9. 

Transmutations of Human Bodies by Stathis Tsemberlidis
Public Dreaming


Momentum 9 would not have been possible without its team of curators. Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe, and Jón B.K. Ransu each oversaw an unique component of the show. With the exception of Laamanen in New York, the curators are based in the five Nordic countries and represent the region well. They managed to balance local and international work while also cohesively tying together unique pieces. Combined with the scattered venues, the curators truly determined the success of Momentum 9. 
By including diverse perspectives and an array of artists, Momentum 9 creates a distinct voice that compels the audience to engage and react. It suggests that an alien challenges the present and forces one to confront the extraordinary.  Momentum 9 maintains that those distinguished from society and the world could be considered alienated and that the familiar vs. foreign relationship is everywhere. If you’re interested, visit the biennial between now and October 11: it will give you insight into the thriving art community currently in the Nordic region. Besides the show, visit Norway to check out Moss for yourself! The 50 minute train or drive from Oslo will show you beautiful views of the fjords and coastline. It’s not only a picturesque setting for Momentum 9, but also a great atmosphere that’s worth a visit.
Words / Autumn Hill

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