On June 1st, 2012, the not-for-profit arts venue .NO on the Lower East Side of NYC will be renamed NOoSPHERE. Our new name reflects our expanding geographic scope,* and on this occasion, we are proud to present our first truly transnational exhibit. Curated by Russian-born Yulia Tikhonova, POWER GAMES is a staged dialogue between two artists who share a willingness to challenge boundaries and to face the consequences this brings.
NOoSPHERE is pleased to pair Peter Fend, a U.S. artist known for his collaborative practices melding art and science who recently returned to New York after being active in Eurasia for the past decade, with Morten Traavik, one of Norway’s most challenging and productive artists, who exhibits in NYC for the first time.
For POWER GAMES, the gallery space will be transformed into a single installation where works by Fend and Traavik converge to present the artists’ different takes on borders, distribution of resources, and what constitutes wealth ‒ both physical and mental. Their approaches are poles apart: while Fend is stern and formal, Traavik is witty and sly.
Fend, who has been labeled a “global architect”, applies ideas from art to major real-life problems. He produces maps and models for: deconstruction of dams, diversion of rivers, collection of aquatic or marine biomass to yield methane, ultra-lightweight city structures to reduce sprawl, and replacement of monoculture with wild-animal terrain, suited for hunting-fishing-foraging. To the dismay of some, Fend shows how art can serve to end dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels, change political borders, and convert military technology into eco-industry tools. For controversy, he developed “Geopolitical Billiards”, “Global Soccer Fields”, TV scenarios like “Italy Wins World War” and a gas-station advertising campaign for “Global Warming.”
Traavik operates in many different artistic genres, often in mental and/or physical conflict zones. For instance, his MISS LANDMINE ANGOLA (2008) and MISS LANDMINE CAMBODIA (2009), a beauty pageant for female landmine survivors, sparked massive international attention and debate, also in the US. His latest project, a trilogy titled THE PROMISED LAND (2012), is still being developed in North Korea in close collaboration with the country’s cultural authorities, and has already made world headlines, not least through its clever use of social media (nearly 2 million YouTube views so far) and playful deconstruction of our established preconceptions about the world’s most reclusive state and its people.
The two artists share a belief in ‘truth disclosure’ projects conducted to challenge their own and others’ comfort zones. In this pursuit,they both play many roles: activist, pundit, craftsman, conceptualist, realist, fantasist, bad-boy artiste ‒ sometimes all at once!
Peter Fend (1950), currently based in New York and New Zealand, studied history in college. Believing one could make history with art, he teamed up with Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince, Robin Winters, Coleen Fitzgibbon, and Peter Nadin to form The Offices, then set up the legally-incorporated version Ocean Earth Development Corporation (1980-). The firm pioneered the broadcast TV analysis of hot news sites using civil-satellite data (Falklands, Beirut, Iran-Iraq, Chernobyl). The aim, however, was architectural ‒ in the broad Albertian sense of assuring defense, urban space, clean air and living waters. Fend has published widely in the scientific and military-news press, with two press conferences at the UN. He showed at Documenta IX and last month had work on view at four NYC venues: Anna Kustera Galllery, White Columns, Proteus Gowanus, and Peanut Underground ‒ each a response to a different world crisis.
Morten Traavik (1971) is a Norwegian director and artist based in Oslo and Stockholm. He works across a wide spectrum of artistic genres and international borders. Trained as theater director in Russia and Sweden, the notion of the world as a stage and identity as role play is never far away in his works. In 2010, he was the first (and so far the only) artist-in-residence with the Norwegian Armed Forces. For POWER GAMES, Traavik will arrive almost straight from North Korea, where he organized the First Norwegian Festival in the country’s capital Pyongyang on May 17, Norway’s National Day. This makes him the world’s first artist to exhibit simultaneously in North Korea and the US, two countries technically still at war. He himself prefers the label “diagnostician” rather than “artist”. (www.traavik.info)
*While our point of departure, .NO as in Norway, remains the main focus, our sphere of activity is evolving. According to V. Vernadsky and T. de Chardin, the noosphere denotes the “sphere of human thought”: it is a stage of evolutionary development dominated by conscious-ness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships. Constituted by the interaction of human minds, the noosphere is an organized web of thought surrounding the Earth’s biosphere; a sphere of mind encircling the planet; the collective consciousness of the human species.