I have played a key role in a biennial that has accumulated a significant deficit. In times like these, when many people in the arts are struggling financially, it is especially important to spend money in a responsible way. I share the responsibility for the biennial’s inability to fulfil its financial obligation. At the same time, it is important for me to emphasise that the deficit is entirely the biennial’s responsibility. Participating artists are in no way responsible for the biennial’s financial deficit, despite possible insinuations and vague wording in the media
My curatorial work is about collaborating closely with artists in the development and presentation of art. The relationship with the artists and the confidence they show me is an essential and meaningful part of my work. Working for, and strengthening, the local arts community has always been very important to me. As the Norwegian member of Oslobiennalen’s curatorial team, I feel a special responsibility for the art scene in Oslo. From the start, via the sharing of spaces and resources, the biennial set out to establish a good relationship with local artists and the many art milieus in the city. Artists’ working conditions and financial situations are always an important consideration for me in my work.
Walking in new and unknown terrain is always risky and difficult, but also exciting and essential. As co-curator for the first edition of Oslobiennalen, I have been allowed to take part in an incredible journey together with the team. We have played a significant role in facilitating fifty artists’ studios in the middle of the city. We have produced new and groundbreaking works of art in public space in close collaboration with artists. We have challenged commonly held ideas of what art in a public space can be by including artistic media such as maps, postcards, LPs, parades, and public television screens. We have begun the work of making a film production unit for artists, the only one in Norway. We have received supportive, insightful and positive reviews, and were voted the most memorable art experience in 2019. Not least, we have built up expertise and networks between local and international artists. Of all of this, I am glad and proud.
However, the criticism from the local art scene expressed in recent days has been extremely loud and clear – and it touches me especially, as a longstanding part of this community. To prevent mistrust of the biennial and the institution as a whole, I have tendered my resignation to the Cultural Agency as curator of Oslobiennialen First Edition 2019-2024, with immediate effect. I hope my departure will give way to new forces that can restore confidence and regain trust.
The biennial is a bold and unique initiative from the City of Oslo. Artists receive conditions and access to resources that enable them to create new, comprehensive artworks that are presented locally and launched internationally. There are few other Norwegian art institutions doing anything similar.
It has been an absolute honour to work with the artists in the biennial and with everyone in the biennial team.
Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk