Rapturous applause was the response last Thursday when Camille Norment was presented as Norway’s representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Great speculation and excitement has surrounded the question of who the relatively recently appointed director of the Office for Contemporary Art, Katya García-Antón, would choose as her first Biennale artist. The widespread interest prompted by the Venice event in Norway was evident from the fact that only a small number of the large turnout at the press conference were in fact members of the press; the crowd featured many museum directors, artists, curators, and art hags.
The main character herself, Camille Norment, appeared happy and quite moved when she stepped forward, after a long introduction made by García-Antón, to speak about her artistic practice. Born in Silver Spring in Maryland, USA, Norment moved to Oslo in 2005 with her partner Knut Åsdam – who also represented Norway at the Venice Biennale back in 1999. She related that the project in the Nordic pavilion is inspired by “states of dissonance – sonic, cultural, and personal.” Norment’s work encompasses multiple media and is based on sound, installation art, light sculptures, drawing, performance, and video art. Her exhibition activities include MoMA (2013), The Cleveland Museum of Art (2013), The Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo (2012) and a range of other venues. The press release issued at the conference states that in her Venice project the artist “will explore historical and contemporary socio-political sound codes from a critical perspective while also reflecting on dissonance as a space for creating new and affirmative thinking.”
When questions were taken from the floor after Norment’s presentation of herself, the audience wanted her to say something more about the Biennale-project. The artist’s reply was “I would love to, but it’s a bit premature.” Another member of the audience wanted to know whether the project was collaborative in scope; the artist confirmed that this was indeed the case without revealing any names of the collaborator(s) involved. Audun Eckhoff, director of the National Museum of Norway, wondered about the challenges inherent in working in Sverre Fehn’s modernist pavilion: “The pavilion is a work of art,” stated Norment, and went on to say that the project will be site-sensitive and that the calm, shadow-less light that infuses the pavilion will play an important part in the shaping of the work.
OCA director Katya García-Antón, who curates the project, is no debutante on the biennial scene. In 2004 she was behind the Spanish contribution to the São Paulo biennial, and in 2011 she was responsible for the Spanish pavilion at the Venice biennale. The latter was constructed around Dora García’s work The Inadequate. García-Antón has also held the artistic responsibility for smaller biennials, such as the Prague Biennial in 2005 and the flagship exhibition at the Qalandyia International Biennial in Palestine in 2012. This time the planning stage was relatively brief. When she took up office as director of the OCA in February this year, there were no plans and no funding of the Venice project on the table. Throughout the spring and summer the director and her employees have conducted intensive research within the Norwegian art scene, and in August the choice of Norment was made. A total grant of NOK 2.5 million has been secured from public funds, but over the last months the OCA has also worked with fundraising in order to expand this budget.
The 56th Venice Biennale is curated by Okwui Enwezor and will take place between 9 May – 22 November 2015. The exhibition title was revealed last week – All the World’s Futures – as was the fact that one of the main questions addressed will be “How can the current disquiet of our time be properly grasped, made comprehensible, examined, and articulated?”