The road towards the establishment of OCA

In 1999 Anne Katrine Dolven was one out of several artists in Norway who saw the need to establish a professional organ working for the promotion of Norwegian visual arts abroad. She presented a paper called ‘Jeg ser inn’ (I am looking in) at Arts Council Norway’s annual conference in 1999. In her presentation, Dolven pointed out an alternative to the current model of support for Norwegian artists abroad, calling for a living, dynamic and active arena between the contemporary visual arts field and the institutional apparatus in Norway. She saw the importance of a new and flexible, well-informed institution with the funding and knowledge to support projects by individual artists.

At the time, The Museum of Contemporary Art was in charge of the Norwegian representation at the Venice Biennale (1997–2001), but the Norwegian art community asked for an independent Biennale committee. Art critic and historian and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Per Bjarne Boym initiated SIB / NoArt (the administrative board for Norwegian participation in major international art exhibitions), which in turn took over responsibility for the Venice Biennale in 2001.

In 1999-2000, several meetings took place between representatives from NoArt (Velaug Bollingmo, Per Bjarne Boym and chair Bente Stokke) the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the possibility of establishing a new institution.

That same year, the Tor Erik Rudeng Committee was appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to write a report on the role of culture in Norwegian foreign policy. The goal was for the MFA to be able to draw some conclusions about future Norwegian cultural diplomacy. The report gave an overview of experiences and traditions in Norway related to this field, comparing them to countries with long and strong traditions in cultural diplomacy such as France, United Kingdom and Germany, as well as the other Nordic countries. The conclusion of the report was that “Norway’s international cultural policy should contribute to supporting and organising cultural dialogue, international collaboration projects and the exchange of art through professional circles and public institutions,” further proposing the establishment of a new centre to promote the internationalisation of Norwegian arts and crafts, design and fine arts.

In 2000, the Norwegian parliament decided to establish a foundation to promote and professionalise Norwegian participation in international cooperation projects in fine arts.

In 2001, the Norwegian Parliament approved the budgetary allocations and NoArt was finally replaced by a new foundation: Norwegian Contemporary Art, or NOCA. The institution was founded jointly by the Ministry of Church and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a trial period of three years. The mandate now included most of the tasks related to international collaboration in the field of the visual arts: studio programmes and funding programmes as well as projects, publications, seminars and lectures. Office and studio space at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo was rented by the Ministry of Church and Cultural Affairs for NOCA. A board was appointed, consisting of Tom Remlov (chairman), Aicha Boulou, Per Bjarne Boym, Jeannette Christensen and Ann Ollestad.

In 2004, NOCA was evaluated by Odd Are Berkaak, a professor at the University of Oslo. The conclusions were overall positive, and NOCA was appraised for the activities over this three-year period under the directorship of Ute Meta Bauer. The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) was made permanent on 1 January 2005 with a clear ambition to foster the internationalisation of Norwegian culture. In 2007, OCA moved into the premises in Nedre Gate 7, comprising a project space, the office and three adjacent studios.

About Marta Kuzma
OCA Director 2005–13.

Marta Kuzma is a curator and theorist. She received a BA in Art History and Political Economics from Barnard College, Columbia University in 1986, and an MA in 2002 in Aesthetics and Art Theory from the Centre for Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, London. In 2014, she was named rector of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden where she initiated ‘Philosophy in the Context of Art,’ ‘Critical Habitats,’ and the ‘Domain of the Great Bear’ public lecture series. She served as director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway for eight years to establish the OCA Semesterplan as an internationally recognised, research-based programme of exhibitions, lectures, seminars, and projects which included ‘On Negritude: The Politics of Art Production in Africa’ (2012), ‘Whatever Happened to Sex in Scandinavia?’ (2009), ‘The Grammar of Forms: On Art Criticism, Writing, Publishing and Distribution’ (2009), ‘Nasreen Mohamedi – The Legacy of Indian Modernism’ (2009), ‘Film as Critical Practice’ (2007), and ‘ISMS: Recuperating Political Radicality in Contemporary Art’ (2006). Kuzma curated OCA’s representation at the Venice Biennale with the projects ‘The Collectors: Elmgreen & Dragset’ (2009), ‘The State of Things’ (2011), ‘Beware of the Holy Whore: Munch and the Dilemma of Emancipation’ (2013). She was the founding director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Kiev, Ukraine; served as artistic director of the Washington Project for the Arts, in Washington, D.C.; and as head of the international exhibitions programme at International Center of Photography in New York City. A member of the curatorial team for documenta13, Ms Kuzma has extensive experience curating international exhibitions, research projects and conferences, as well as editing and authoring numerous publications, including the Verksted series, and contributing to journals such as Radical Philosophy, Afterall and Artforum. She is a visiting Professor in Art Theory on the Graduate Programme of Visual Arts at the University of Architecture (IUAV) in Venice and at Bocconi University in Milan. Kuzma was appointed Professor of Art and Dean of the Yale School of Art in 2016, the first woman to hold that position in the history of the school.

About Ute Meta Bauer
OCA Director 2002–05.

Ute Meta Bauer is a curator of exhibitions and presentations on contemporary art, film, video and sound, with a focus on transdisciplinary formats. Since October 2013, she has served as founding director of the CCA – Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore – a research centre in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where she is professor at ADM, NTU’s School of Art, Media and Design. In 2012–2013, she was Professor and Dean of the School of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London. Prior to that appointment she was Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, where she served as the Founding Director of ACT, the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (2009–2012) and as Director of the MIT Visual Arts Program (2005–09) at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. She served as professor for ten years (1996–2006) at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria, heading the Institute of Cultural Studies and serving as Vice Rector for International Relations. During her tenure as Founding Director of the Office for Contemporary Art (OCA) in Oslo, Norway (2002-05), she was also commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion (Norway, Sweden) for the 50th edition of the Venice Biennale (2003) and Norwegian contributor to the São Paulo Biennial (2004). Furthermore, she was co-director with Hou Hanru of the World Biennial Forum No. 1, Gwangju, South Korea, 2012; Artistic Director of the 3rd Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2004; and Co-Curator of documenta11 (2001–02) on the team of artistic director Okwui Enwezor. Bauer has edited numerous publications in the field of contemporary art, most recently Intellectual Birdhouse, Artistic Practice as Research (co-edited with Florian Dombois, Michael Schwab and Claudia Mareis, 2012), World Biennale Forum No 1 – Shifting Gravity (co-edited with Hou Hanru) and AR – Artistic Research (co-edited with Thomas D. Trummer), both 2013. For the CCA, she curated ‘Paradise Lost’ along with Anca Rujoiu as the CCA’s inaugural exhibition, featuring video installations by Zarina Bhimji, Trin T. Minh-ha and Fiona Tan. She also curated the exhibition ‘Theatrical Fields’ commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden (2013-14), shown at the CCA in Singapore in 2014.