Det arkeologiske rommet — Et samtidskunstprosjekt om hvordan kulturarv blir til av Nina Torp



The archaeological space

Museum of Cultural History in Oslo 2018[/fade]


[fade]The distant view: about archaeology, art and knowledge

Excerpt from essay by Peter Bjerregaard, Senior Advicer, Museum of Cultural History, UiO

What exactly is an artist doing in a museum of cultural history? What can an artist´s perspective bring to a research based university museum?

When Nina Torp approached the Museum of Cultural History back in the autumn of 2014, the museum didn’t know what a joint project with her would lead to. We were in a process of developing a new exhibition approach, and part of this involved seeking inspiration from art and artists. We were interested in exploring how knowledge could unfold in other ways than through words and text. Could we find aesthetic approaches to research that could be expressed by the way in which objects and materials were organised? And if so, could exhibition work become a method of research in its own right, not just a medium for presenting research results that were already completed in the form of a written article.[/fade] 


↑ Series of photographs from the excavation work on the Tvedestrand-Arendal project. Digital C-prints.



[fade]Art is often regarded as the immediate expression of the artist´s intentions. The artist has something she or he wishes to communicate, and through art has the freedom to express it by any means she or he chooses. This view of art is in direct contrast to how we often regard the pursuit of scientific knowledge; as the systematic and stringent formulation of questions with the goal of finding precise answers.

Our collaboration with Nina has shown this to be far from the case. Nina´s works in SITUATIONS are in no way arbitrary. The artworks have come about as she followed the archaeologists at work during two excavations seasons; asking what they were doing and why, and about their knowledge of the Stone Age. But instead of replicating the archaeologists’ knowledge, she has used her own position as an outsider to transfer her impressions into other materials. During this process, these transformations have undergone a number of changes, as Nina systematically experimented with different materials, sizes and combinations of materials in order to find her own way of expressing what archaeologists do and what this means to our understanding of the past and cultural heritage.[/fade]


↑  Series of photographs from the excavation work on the Tvedestrand-Arendal project. Digital C-prints.



↑ Sculpture in pine and series of three photographs of excavation work in 2015. Digital C-prints.


125x200 cm 75x50 cm each photograph


↑ Sculpture in yellow yellow silk with base in oak.


80x193x15 cm



↑ Sculpture of layer 1 of the excavation of A9 in pine.


200x200 cm

[fade]Far from being an immediate response to her observations, Nina´s work is the result of a systematic process. A systematic pursuit of chance, one could say. A systematic process where the result is not to prove or delimit interpretations, but rather to find a form that we didn´t know existed, thus telling us something new.

And here, perhaps, is where art meets science. On the surface, science may appear to follow its own rules and procedures when presenting proofs and eliminating uncertainties. Creating evidence. But what comes out of this process are often new doubts, new questions that suddenly come to light – questions which had not occurred to us before we began our investigations. While evidence helps us do things – build bridges, develop medicines, travel to the moon – the doubts and new questions are just as important as they make it possible for us to envision a world larger and more multi-faceted than we had previously imagined. It´s these questions that remind us that we must accept that our own way of seeing things and understanding the world is only one of many, and must always be challenged.[/fade]


[fade]Studying others in order to understand ourselves

Excerpt from essay by Lars Sundström, archaeologist researcher, PhD

Archaeology is the study of people based on the material remains they leave behind. This is why archaeology is our most important tool for learning about the prehistoric past; the times before people recorded things in writing. Archaeology also gives us the opportunity to study later historical contexts. Written sources often portray events coloured by the spirit of their times and can paint both too light, or too dark a picture. We speak of manifest (conscious) and latent (unconscious) remains and almost all archaeological information belongs to the latter. Archaeology is, in this respect, the study of the rubbish we unconsciously leave behind us when we are busy doing other things. In order to understand these material remains, archaeology relies on theories to help explain how humans interact with material culture. As our actions are interwoven with the contexts in which we live, archaeologists have had to look beyond our own societies in order to find explanations for the phenomena we encounter. By looking at other lifestyles, we can find perspectives that help us to understand our own, and begin to seriously question things we once thought were self-evident.[/fade]

↑ Sculpture of the excavation of A1 in three parts made in birch plywood. 


125x150 cm / 130x165 cm / 180x200 cm


[fade]The simplicity of archaeology

Archaeology´s scientific basis is, at best, quite simple. The most important premise, and perhaps the only one exclusive to archaeology, is that things that are found together, belong together. Another important premise is that finds or layers found on top are younger than those found below. The more often these patterns occur, the stronger the evidence. Why is this so important? Because this is what makes archaeology a science. Scientific knowledge is often built on these types of principles. It´s these simple and basic principles of science that make them so potent. Our capacity to reason scientifically has, in all probability, been an important part of the human evolutionary progress. Even Stone Age people were scientists.[/fade]


↑ Sculpture of layer 4 of excavation of A9 in birch plywood.


200x320x150 cm


↑ Testpit in Papier-mâché.


50x50 cm


Photographs by Øystein Thorvaldsen.





↑ Sculpture of the excavation of A1 in three parts made in birch plywood.


125x150 cm / 130x165 cm / 180x200 cm