Toufoul Abou-Hodeib is a Norwegian-Palestinian scholar and Associate Professor of History at the University of Oslo. Born and raised in Beirut, she received her graduate education at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Chicago. She is interested in material culture and the social and cultural history of the Levant, and is author of A Taste for Home: The Modern Middle Class in Ottoman Beirut (Stanford University Press, 2017).Abou-Hodeib contribution titled The Travelling Scarf and Other Stories. Art Networks, Politics and Friendships Between Palestine and Norway traces the personal relationships framing the artistic and political endeavours that led to the opening of the Palestinian Art Exhibition in Oslo’s Kunstnernes Hus (The Artist House) in 1981. Despite their geographic separation, the characters featuring in these three vignettes step on common ground in their belief that the personal is political. This sense of the personal also characterises the material aspect of their existence, where an artwork, a book, a scarf and other materials act as agents of interpersonal relationships, friendships and heart-to-heart commitments. Investigating how these objects came together across disparate geographies including Palestine, Norway, Japan and the US, amongst others, Abou-Hodeib highlights two timelines: firstly, the solidarity driven by the New Global Left in the 1970s that contributed to shifting Palestine’s image as a permanent refugee crisis zone towards one of anti-colonial sovereignty; and secondly, the development of cultural anti-imperialist work, especially emerging from the 1969 Pan-African Festival in Algiers (at the time dubbed ‘the Mecca of Revolution’) and culminating in the ground-breaking cultural international activities generated by the Plastic Arts Section of the PLO.
Launch Event: Art and Solidarity Reader — Radical Actions, Politics and Friendships
Welcome to an evening of conversations at Kunstnernes Hus celebrating OCA's new publication Art and Solidarity Reader — Radical Actions, Politics and Friendships.
18:00 – 21:30
Kunstnernes Hus (Cinema)
Free event with registration here
For the book’s first public launch in Norway, editor of the Reader and former director of OCA, Katya García-Antón will introduce the publication. Norwegian-Palestinian historian, Toufoul Abou-Hodeib will present her research for the Reader and her chapter titled The Travelling Scarf and Other Stories. Art Networks, Politics and Friendships Between Palestine and Norway. Mixe language rights activist and researcher, Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, and Southern Sámi PhD fellow, Eva Maria Fjellheim, will discuss Indigenous language advocacy and their contributions to the Reader. Curator of Contemporary Art at MUNCH, and assistant editor of the Reader, Liv Brissach will talk about queer solidarity drawing on the work Probably Chelsea by Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning presented as part of the ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ exhibition. Welcome words by OCA director, Ruben Steinum.
To give collective closure to the programme, the Latin America Solidarity Organisation in Norway (LAG) will lead a Mística; a political ritual and performative practice intended to create unity and solidarity.
About the book
Art and Solidarity Reader. Radical Actions, Politics and Friendships (OCA / Valiz, 2022) is a new publication featuring a collection of various accounts of artistic solidarity globally from the 1970s to today. The publication also acts as a companion to the OCA-curated exhibition ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ at Kunstnernes Hus (2021). The Reader emphasises the centrality of artist-led empathy and personal connectivity in building networks of solidarity and concrete actions that generate profound transformation in society.
The Reader considers the agency that artists, collectives and art institutions have generated from the 1970s to today to build the radical imaginaries of care and solidarity needed to transform the conditions of our collective existence in the face of local and global crises. Presenting new and historical material, the Reader narrates a series of stories of solidarity across geographies in relation to emergencies connected to ecocide, femicide, genocide, migration, neo-colonialism, inter-religious conflicts, class divisions and heteronomativity, amongst others. It also gives a central place to Indigenous perspectives rarely considered when discussing solidarity in the arts.
The publication includes contributions by Reem Abbas, Toufoul Abou-Hodeib, Noor Abuarafeh, Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, Ali Hussein Al-Adawy, Salvador Allende, Beth Brant, Wendy Carrig, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Emory Duoglas, Ntone Edjabe, Ingrid Fadnes, Eva Maria Fjellheim, Katya García-Antón, Soledad García Saavedra, Gavin Jantjes, Sholi Kanuga, Geeta Kapur, Lara Khaldi, Ixchel León, Audre Lorde, Chelsea Manning, Olivier Marboeuf, Barbara Masekela, Naeem Mohaiemen, Mário Pedrosa, Ram Rahman, Laura Raicovich, farid rakun / ruangrupa, Aban Raza, Devika Singh, Irene Soria Guzmán, Kwanele Sosibo, Eszter Szakács, Dulce Celina Ureña Hernández, Alice Walker.
Purchase Art and Solidarity Reader. Radical Actions, Politics and Friendships here
Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil is a Mixe linguist, writer, translator, language rights activist and researcher from Ayutla Mixe, Oaxaca, Mexico. Gil’s global influence has been growing since her publication of Nunca más un México sin Nosotros (Never Again a Mexico Without Us: Indigenous Nations and Autonomy), an essay in which she argued that ‘Mexico is not a single nation but a state in which many nations exist, oppressed’. Gil works as a legal translator and is a regular contributor to both El País and monthly magazine Este País. She also works as a project coordinator for Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo in Ayutla Mixe, Mexico. Gil’s contribution, Making a Territory of Collaboration Possible: Art, Solidarity and Indigenous Peoples, takes the Mayan book 'Conjuros y ebriedades. Cantos de mujeres mayas' as her starting point for writing about the possibilities art opens up for radical accountability and solidarity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The book combines poetry, incantations, and other writing, including that of Mayan women from Chiapas. Its sculptural cover was crafted by Norwegian artist Gitte Dæhlin, who spent several decades living and working in Chiapas, Mexico, as a committed ally to the local Indigenous people during the Zapatista uprising and beyond. In addition to speculating upon the reciprocal relationships and forms of collaboration that this book afforded, Aguilar Gil contextualises it within the troubled history of the word ‘solidarity’ in Mexico. The meaning of solidarity was emptied of its agency through the official propaganda attached to ‘National Programme of Solidarity’, a governmental policy that vigorously broadcast (theoretical) support of Indigenous people in the 1980s and 1990s but initiated land reforms facilitating the selling of Indigenous lands. Upholding the urgency of bringing agency back to the word, to replace the vacuity of governmental slogans, Aguilar Gil proposes a territorial model that empowers the ways of being and doing of Indigenous people in order to construct symmetrical relations from which solidarity, empathy and world-building can occur.
Eva Maria Fjellheim is a Southern Saami scholar/writer, indigenous rights defender, and radio documentary producer. She has a diverse background working with Saami and indigenous issues through solidarity work, politics, journalism, art projects and research in Saepmie and abroad, especially in Latin-Amerika. She is currently a PhD fellow at the Centre for Sámi Studies at The Arctic University of Norway, UiT, where she is researching ‘green colonialism’ and the dilemmas that occur in the intersection of climate-change mitigation politics and Indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of renewable energy developments.Southern Saami scholar and LAG member Eva Maria Fjellheim’s contribution reflects upon the solidarity offered by the Latin-Amerikagruppene i Norge (LAG – the Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America) peers in Latin America to Sápmi, deliniating LAG as a social and artistic enabler of broad alliances that work particularly against colonial land-grabbing of Indigenous territories on both sides of the Atlantic. This text was written in the context of protests against the construction of windturbines on the mountain Stokkfjellet that would destroy an area used for calving (the most vulnerable time in the life of a reindeer) by Southern Saami reindeer herders since ancestral times.
The Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America (LAG) is a volunteer, non-partisan solidarity organization established in the 1970s in Norway. For over 40 years, the organization has collaborated with indigenous and grassroots movements in Latin America. Through the long-standing project with solidarity brigades, the bonds linked with comrades across national borders have been strengthened. LAG works to spread knowledge-based and nuanced information about developments and conditions in Latin America, with particularly focus with how Norway influences countries and areas in Latin America through investments and political decisions.In 2021 OCA commissioned Solidarity Patchwork from LAG as part of the exhibition ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ at Kunstnernes Hus. Solidarity Pachwork is a collective art project of and about the organisation's history and work, and weaves together this multifaceted unity.
Katya García-Antón is the former director/chief curator of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway. She graduated as a biologist, and transitioned into the arts with a Master’s degree in nineteenth and twentieth century art from The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She has worked at The Courtauld Institute of Art, Museo Nacional Reina Sofía Madrid, ICA London, IKON Birmingham, and the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. She curated the Nordic Pavilion, Venice Biennial in 2015 and the Spanish Pavilion in the Venice Biennial 2011. She has curated over 100 exhibitions of art, design and architecture, and was most recently chief curator for ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ (2021). In OCA, García-Antón has generated significant Indigenising practices and programs, the most complex of which regards OCA’s role as commissioner of the transformation of the Nordic Pavilion into the Sámi Pavilion at the 59th International Venice Biennale, 2022. García-Antón is part of the curatorial group for the Sámi Pavilion. In August 2022 she became director of the Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM).
Liv Brissach is Curator of Contemporary art at MUNCH and part of the MUNCH Triennale curatorial team. Brissach previously worked at Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) as coordinator of OCA’s publications and as assistant curator for ‘The Sámi Pavilion’ exhibition at the Nordic Pavilion of the Biennale Arte 2022. As a writer, Brissach contributed texts for Munchmuseet on the Move, Kunstkritikk, Billedkunst, OCA and Fotogalleriet. As assistant editor for Art and Solidarity Reader – Radical Actions, Politics and Friendships, Brissach had a major role in the making of the publication. For this seminar, Brissach will talk about the work Probably Chelsea (2017) by US artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, with Chelsea E. Manning. It was exhibited at Kunstnernes Hus as part of the OCA-curated exhibition ‘Actions of Art and Solidarity’ in 2021. Probably Chelsea (2017) is a sculptural installation consisting of 3D portraits based on Chelsea Manning’s DNA, installed at different human heights so as to resemble a diverse crowd. The installation is a solidarity work operating across both the complexity of the technology of DNA phenotyping and Chelsea Manning’s own story as a transwoman, activist, whistleblower and former US Army intelligence analyst sentenced to prison in 2013 for leaking over 750,000 classified and sensitive US Army files (documenting war crimes) to WikiLeaks. Moreover, Brissach will reflect on queer solidarity in the current context.