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OCA for the rest of us

2006-08-11

The curator Veronica Diesen has initiated a discussion on how The Office for Contemporary Art Norway is functioning.

(The discussion in Norwegian is taking place at Underskog.no and unfortunatley you have to be a member to access it. If you are not a member but would like to get access please contact me off-list. I have 3 invitations I could share.)

Acoording to their own web site The Office for Contemporary Art Norway is a private foundation and was founded by The Ministry of Culture and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in fall 2001.000 The main aim of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway is to develop collaborations in contemporary art between Norway and the international art scene. They list their primary activities to be an international studio programme an international support programme
an archive with portfolios of work by selected Norwegian artists and discursive activities.

I did a quick survey of geographic distribution of artists in their archive based on information from their own web pages today. This is were the selected artists live and work:

Oslo (80) Berlin (13) New York (4) Bergen (4) Paris (2) Malmö(2) Aker/Lier (1) Bærum (1) Lofoten (1) London (1) San Fransisco (1) Sande (1) Stavanger (1) Ullensaker (1) Vang (1) Akershus (0.5) Bogota (0.5) Glasgow (0.5) Helsinki (0.5) Holmestrand (0.5) København (0.5) Lyla Sverige (0.5) Stockholm (0.5) Trondheim (0.5).

I only counted once I didn’t do any control counting so there might be some minor errors in the numbers above. Artists living and working two places provided 0.500 “vote” to each of those locations. Artist groups were counted on equal weight as single artists (one vote). Artists living and working at more than two locations were discarded from the overview as were artist for whom no information where provided on where they live and work.

The statistics indicate a strong geographic problem. Approximately two thirds of the artists live and work in Oslo. I want to be cautious about strong opinions on why this is the case. It might be that funding for OCA is insufficient for them to be able to do a proper job on a national level. It might also be that the statistics more than anything is an indication of a more general problem: That it might be extremely difficult to survive as a professional artist if you are situated outside the Oslo region. Bergens Tidende was writing about this last autumn.

But the overview of exhibitions in Norway in the fall of 2006 seems to indicate that it is also a lack of a national perspective in the OCA organization. Only exhibitions in the Oslo and Bergen regions are listed. Stavanger will be Eurpoean Cultural City in 2008.000 This will be a major opportunity for gaining international attention and interest to the Norwegian art scene. I would have expected that OCA already was deeply involoved in making the most of this potential by contributing to a strong emphasis on what’s happening in the Rogaland region.

Personally my only experience with the OCA organization was in fall 2003.000 I was coordinating a workshop in collaboration between NoTAM BEK PNEK and Ultima to be held at NoTAM in Oslo. Tim Place was one of the invited guests. After the seminar he was to get to Bergen to hold additional workshops. For his stay in Oslo OCA provided a residency. Once outside Oslo OCA was unable of providing any additional support.

While I off course was happy about OCA supporting the stay in Oslo I also was left with an impression that the organization was set up in such a way that their ability to cotnribute to international exchanges outside of Oslo would be very limited. OCA has five residencies all on their premises in Oslo. I would have prefered if the residency program had been set up according to a more distributed and networked model either with some of the recidencies permanently located in other parts of the country or even better with one or more free-floating residencies: No permanent space but contributions towards covering expenses for stay for artists coming to other parts of Norway. I imagine that this would have been much more flexible though it would also probably be more expensive.

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