Screen City Biennial in Stavanger, the first Nordic Biennial dedicated to the expanded moving image in public space, returns in October for its third edition (previously Screen City Festival 2013 and 2015). The Biennial presents artworks that explore the relation between the moving image, sound, technology and urban space. The architectures of Stavanger will facilitate exhibition of the expanded moving image in three-dimensional, multi-sensual and tactile experiences, together with screening programs and gallery installations.
After decades of intense globalisation, the world finds itself looking inwards – despite continuing technological developments and networked communication. The very idea of migration is trapped in the gap between a vision of global co-existence and fear of the other. Can art respond to that?
The Screen City Biennial 2017 brings these concerns to a global perspective following recent redefinitions of geographies, borders and identity in relation to space and belonging. Entitled Migrating Stories, the 2017 Biennial takes contemporary conditions of movement as a point of departure and thematic framework for examining the complex forms of transition today. The Biennial presents expanded moving image artworks from a broad international range of artists dealing with current complexities relating to migration. Artworks reflect upon journeys, diasporas and post-colonialism, transformation of place, and ‘alien’ realities. Hailing from several different countries across the globe, the artists’ practices will also address topics surrounding a post-oil future and, migration in relation to climate change.
Biennial Context and Program
The program unfolds primarily in the Stavanger harbour area, which – given its architectonic position in the landscape – holds a special position in addressing current complexities relating to migration. Exhibitions also unfold in Stavanger’s art institutions and venues including Stavanger Concert Hall, Stavanger Kunsthall and Kunstmuseum, Maritime Museum, Rogaland Kunstsenter and m.m.
The full Screen City Biennial program combines exhibitions, screenings and installations of the expanded moving image with particular attention to its installation in public space, and a symposium series that ties in with the Biennial’s Research Program. The Biennial program will be extended via an online research journal, audience app and printed catalogue.
Artworks include video, live cinema, audio-visual, light art, virtual and augmented reality, and computer gaming: each presenting contemporary spatial experience in technologically advanced image environments, integrating with the urban context.
Screen City Biennial 2017 is curated by Daniela Arriado and Tanya Toft.
Future mobility in the Trump-Brexit age
From crossing seas on a dinghy boat to commuting between countries, the world has never been this mobile. Nonetheless the recent nationalistic backlash resulted in the Brexit vote and calls for erecting border walls. Budhaditya Chattopadhyay and Duncan Speakman explore these contradictions in our societies. Chattopadhyay’s Exile and Other Syndromes (2015 – 2017) emancipates the nomadic self by juxtaposing real- time spatial information and memory of another place in another time in a generative installation featuring multi- channel sound diffusion and modulated text as visualization of field recordings.
Speakman’s audio walk It Must Have Been Dark By Then will enable users to reflect on disappearing spaces and memory preservation. With the app participants are invited to take a journey through their local environment and in various locations they will learn about specific events such as the flood plains of New Orleans, the rising Sahara across Tunisia or the abandoned rural ghost towns of Latvia. These distant stories and locations will connect to the participant’s immediate physical environment in Stavanger, emphasizing how the world will continue to be increasingly interconnected despite physical borders.
Virtual U.S./Mexico Border is John Craig Freeman’s augmented reality public art project documenting the North American migration crisis. This Screen City Biennial commission includes geo-located AR scenes produced on location at the U.S.-Mexico border, which can be viewed with mobile phones and tablets along the historic Stavanger waterfront.
Spotlighting the importance of personal diasporic stories
Migration and diaspora are sensitive subjects that oftentimes are best addressed when artists delve into their personal experiences. Yucef Merhi’s interactive installation Poet on Earth (2017) retells the artist’s very own 39 year-long journey as a Venezuelan immigrant and artist. Installed in a container, Poet on Earth presents a responsive network of memories showing significant moments of the artist’s life, which are triggered chronologically by the movements and intimate engagement of the viewer. Each memory will be a channel the viewer will be able to fast forward and rewind, playing on the fluidity of being an immigrant, a nomad and a citizen without homeland.
New conditions of “alienation” (displacement to a new place or reality)
Whether via technological development, the consequences of history or fictional narratives, humans are prone to create new realities for escapism. At the Screen City Biennial 2017 three artists deal with the theme of alienation, perhaps speaking to a situation when migrants feel alienated in their new environments or forced to feel “alien” in the midst of their new reality. Soren Thilo Funder’s Swerve (You’re Gonna Die Up There) 2016) revolves around the conversation between astronaut Billy Cutshaw and his future self. In the narrative Funder appropriates cinematic techniques to create illusions that reflect on propaganda and mechanisms used in ideological battles such as the Cold War’s Space Race. In Maria von Hausswolff’s Alien Tourist (2017) scenes of forests and sand dunes blur together to become one disoriented place where space and time is loosened and where human bodies appear in frozen positions, like sculptures.
Some stories sound fictional, but the fears and events behind them are certainly genuine. Tobias Zielony’s Ghosts tells the story of the residents of a refugee home in Berlin who heard voices and saw ghosts in their showers at night. Coincidently, one of the city’s largest synagogues had once stood nearby, as had a railway station that sent trains to concentration camps. Zielony’s film captures the fear and anxiety that the barrier between the past and what is happening today might be lower than common sense likes to imagine.
Migration in relation to climate change
Human migration and climate change are intertwined in more ways than it is reported in the news. Shezad Dawood explores that in Leviathan, a cycle of 10 films where the artist connects human activity to marine ecology in an epic narrative. Based on findings that the route from north Africa to Lampedusa goes over a bulge on the seabed that influences climate change, the film links the fates of crayfish and phytoplankton with that of refugees who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean.
In Water Will Be There Eric Corriel imagines what it might feel like if sea levels rose to the point where cities found themselves underwater. Playing with assumed consequences of climate change, the site-specific installation turns the issue of rising sea levels into a more tangible affair. HC Gilje’s Barents (2015) takes on a more conceptual approach with footage of the sea border between Norway and Russia from a camera that slowly rotates around its own axis, illustrating invisible borders and thresholds and the potential for disaster inherent in the ocean. Enrique Ramirez contributes with a symbolic gesture of empathy towards the refugees who’ve crossed seas. In Arriving with Nothing the artist invites four foreigners to simply jump into the North Sea water and float. Hence responding to Norwegian immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug’s similar act in the Mediterranean about which she said that despite not being able put oneself in their positions we can attempt to see from their perspective.
Re-conceptualizing the screen in public spaces
Departing from its origins in the source of light, today the moving image continues to expand cinematic, sonic, mobile, augmented, responsive and computational modes of expression. It continues to challenge human perception in the conditions of our contemporary communicative existence – which is becoming increasingly multi-dimensional, multi-temporal, and multi-sensual. Part of that evolution is the role of the “screen” and how artists are using it in novel ways. With his Augmented Reality audio-visual walk and installation, John Cleater’s Consequence (2017) is a virtual narrative that plays out over the Stavanger harbour area. Developed in collaboration with Stavanger Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the piece will create a journey that migrates the sound from the hall to the harbour, and bring the harbour back to the hall.
Olivia Mcgilchrist will incorporate video sequences with sound, oculus rift, headphones, and a wooden structure on a boat. As the viewer puts on the Rift, they enter a 3D space in which the audio-visual sequences reveal snippets of the performance from both sides of the mask by proxy of a GoPro head mounted camera worn by the traditional Jamaica Carnival ‘Jonkonnu’ band members. Finally, Telcosystem will create a new 3D audiovisual journey that explores the boundaries of the human sensory apparatus.
Online program – guest curators
The online program reflects the Screen City Biennial’s aim to be accessible beyond the geographic locality of Stavanger and further exhibition practices with the expanded moving image in online, mobile and hybrid presentation formats.
Today we are witnessing an emerging line of digital platforms for exhibiting and distributing the moving image, which has opened up a new path for independent online curatorial work, events and biennials. Dealing with global subjects we need to explore the proper ways to reach a global audience and take advantage of the Internet’s social, cultural and political potential for distributing artistic content beyond borders and restrictions. The Screen City Biennial wishes to encourage this effort and highlight the artists and curators forging this path.
Invited guest curators Inês Grosso, Fernanda Parente, Vanina Saracino, Tina Sauerlander and Olaf Stüber, each of who has selected one work, curate this online exhibition program, presenting artists: Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo / David Blandy & Larry Achiampong / Marcel Odenbach / Sam Wolson & Trevor Snapp / Vasco Araújo.
The SCB Journal extends the Screen City Biennial as a discursive platform for knowledge, questions and curiosities. It discusses and excavates new emergences in expanded art in public space – significantly art forms that expand the ‘moving image’ (in the broadest sense) in interferences with urban environments and current urgencies. In addition to theoretical articles the journal presents artistic research inquiries, artist interviews, curatorial reflections and research papers in addition to articles by among others Nilgun Bayraktar, Maeve Connolly, Teresa Dillon, Catrien Schreuder, Peter Weibel and Annika Wik. The journal coincides with public program events and intersects with the Biennial’s Research Program.
Daniela Arriado (Norway/Chile) is the Director and founder of Screen City Biennial, and the Art Republic, a platform dedicated to digital art and public space. Her work explores new curatorial approaches towards expanded borders of cinematic experiences and the audio-visual: the origin and vision behind Screen City, founded in 2013. This approach has also empowered her work on pilot projects concerning urban screens and online streaming platforms for video art and animation, aiming to pave new waves (ways) for the distribution and dissemination of the moving image to the public. She is a member of PNEK – Production Network for Electronic Arts, Norway, and curatorial advisor for Art organisations in Berlin, Tel Aviv and Lisbon. Arriado is based in Berlin.
Dr. Tanya Toft Ag (Denmark) is a curator, researcher, writer and lecturer examining urban media art as a domain of criticality in contemporary digital culture and urban, media aesthetic contexts. She is Curator and Head of Artistic Research at the Screen City Biennial 2017. She has held lectures and keynotes worldwide and curated the São Paulo Urban Digital Festival in 2013 and 2014 with Marìlia Pasculli, presented on the SESI Digital Art Gallery (Sao Paulo); Nordic Outbreak in 2013-2014 presented by the Streaming Museum in New York City and across the Nordic region, co-curated with Nina Colosi; and Voyage to the Virtual (2015) at Scandinavia House (NYC ), among other. She is editor of Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art (Intellect, 2018) and co-editor of What Urban Media Art Can Do – Why, When, Where, and How? (av edition, 2016). Toft is based in Berlin.