Actions of Art and Solidarity
Solidarity has re-entered the global zeitgeist with resounding force in the last decade. It has driven new thinking focused on countering systemic failures and outright abuses related to climate, economy, surveillance, health, gender and race amongst other issues. ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ considers the central role that artists play within this historical shift in the new millennium, drawing parallels to synergic cases of the twentieth century.
'Actions of Art and Solidarity' presents 76 works by artists, activists, collectives and thinkers from around the world, including Norway, catalysing cultural, socio-political and environmental solidarity across different geographies and contexts from the 1950s to the present day. Looking back in time and forward into the future, the exhibition displays artists’ extraordinary ability to narrate and build empathy around fundamental global conflicts and injustices, and provide the radical imaginaries of care and solidarity that can stimulate their resolution. The venue, Kunstnernes Hus (The Artists’ House, Oslo) has a symbolic value, since the institution has played a recurrent part in Norway’s own contribution to artistic solidarities – from presenting Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in 1938 during its international solidarity tour, to organising exhibitions of solidarity with other parts of the world. The exhibition also presents central instances of Norwegian solidarity artistic practices, as well as new works especially commissioned for the exhibition.
The case studies included in the exhibition have been sourced across four continents, and cover a 70-year time span of artistic creativity. The exhibition is the result of a three-year research period and is made possible by the various friendships, alliances and collaborations with its participants, for which OCA is deeply grateful. They include the radical Delhi-based collective Sahmat and their 30 year-long artistic mobilisation against inter-religious strife in India (with works by Pushpamala N., Ram Rahman, Inder Salim, Nilima Sheikh, Vivan Sundaram and others); the two decade long anti-nuclear women’s peace camp in Greenham Common, UK, where artists and citizens innovated non-hierarchical forms of female and queer protest and co-habitation (with works by Tina Keane, Wendy Carrig and others); artistic and allied testimonies from the legendary PLO’s exhibition ‘Palestinian Artists’ at Kunstnernes Hus, 1981; the radical museology of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende (with works by Chilean Arpilleristas, Gracia Barrios, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Öyvind Fahlström, Claude Lazar, Kjartan Slettemark and Teresa Vila, amongst others, as well as archival material); artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s collaboration with whistle-blower and technologist Chelsea Manning; personal stories from the 40-year commitment of the Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America; as well as artworks and contributions by Carolina Caycedo, Chimurenga, Gitte Dæhlin, Maritea Dæhlin, Beatriz González, Maria Hupfield, Gavin Jantjes, Bouchra Khalili, Naeem Mohaiemen and Hannah Ryggen.
The exhibition proposes that the solidarity imaginaries expressed by art works, and embodied by specific artistic actions, are always the outcome of the extensive processes of artist-led care-building that precede and succeed them. Moreover, it is those very networks of personal connectivity and empathy created by artists over time around a particular issue (in alliance and in friendship with everyday citizens and activists) and configured within their art works of solidarity, that inspire society at large to imagine life differently and step-forward in ways that generate profound transformation.
'Actions of Art and Solidarity' is curated by Katya García-Antón (Director/Chief Curator, Office for Contemporary Art Norway), with the research and coordination support of Liv Brissach (Project Officer), Itzel Esquivel (Project Officer) and Drew Snyder (Programme Manager) in Oslo, and Aban Raza (Project Coordinator, New Delhi). The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Kunstnernes Hus. The public programme is co-curated by OCA and Kunstnernes Hus and will consist of a film program, dialogues and performances, as well as a solidarity songs playlist (created by artist Elin Már Øyen Vister aka DJ Sunshine in collaboration with contributing artists, researchers and collaborators).
The exhibition will be followed by the publication of the Actions of Art and Solidarity Reader, edited by Katya García-Antón; assistant editor Liv Brissach (OCA / Valiz, 2021).
Header image: Beatriz González, Mural para fábrica socialista (detail), 1981. Courtesy of: Colección de Arte del Museo de Arte – Dirección de Patrimonio Cultural – Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Photo: Wilmar Lozano