Hanan Benammar "Art Should be Free"
Hanan Benammar lives and works between Norway, France and the Netherlands. She studied at the Art Academy of Oslo and the Dutch Art Institute (NL). She is the leader of an experimental artists run space Vandaler Forening and organizer of the Winter Solstice Night Exhibition. She is involved in several art events and institutions, while working on her individual art works, focusing on music, sound field recordings, text and archiving.
The following is a transcript from the conversation between Hanan Benammar and Zane Cerpina on March 23rd 2017, Oslo.
Zane Cerpina (EE): What is Vandaler Forening’s artistic focus?
Hanan Benammar (HB): The idea of Vandaler is not about vandalism as in burning churches, but using art as a tool to create the change we want to see in our own environment. It is an art organization collectively generated and aiming to organize and document experimental art practices, with a focus on interdisciplinary art, political issues, electronic and time-based works. People can send an email and apply to do anything they want. We are also one of the core-members of the Flatbread Society based in Oslo (Losæter). This year we are organizing the Human Scarecrows performance program for the second time. We will eliminate the human audience and perform for birds instead to distract them from eating the crops.
EE: In 2016 the 5th edition of Winter Solstice Night Exhibition took place in Oslo. How has the event changed in these five years, both in terms of audience and the way you organize it?
HB: It depends on the space. The first year it was at Olaf Ryes Plass 2 where we used all four floors including Atelier Nord’s Gallery space ANX. We had 150 people participating. What struck me, there were no accidents. I realized that you can actually trust people. I think the criminalization of how we see the world has become a problem. At Winter Solstice every artist involved is responsible for the evening.
EE: Winter Solstice is a very experimental event. How do you get the audience, and how do you see the public’s general interest in the experimental art scene in Norway?
HB: I don’t expect people to like everything. It is a very honest program. It says it is going to be chaotic, and there is no printed program for the audience to see. I think there are more and more people coming every year. They don’t come specifically for experimental music, they come for the experience of the whole night.
EE: What role does the PNEK Art Prize have in the Winter Solstice Night Exhibition?
HB: The prize is about relations and how different fields collide. How the visual arts, performance practice, electronic arts, dance, and poetry mixes. The prize is here to encourage experimental practices and encourage people to continue working together. The Winter Solstice is non-judgemental. In my opinion, we should generally get rid of the ideas of some art “being the best” and some other not being “good enough”.
EE: Are you offering the Winter Solstice as a platform for people? At the event you can feel this natural organic movement of artists. They arrive maybe in the middle of the night, set up their equipment, and perform. It is a very autonomous event.
HB: Yes, it is a platform. I make sure that things go smooth, give general advice. I think many would assume the more money there is, the better the event would be. Because of our zero budget it is not possible to spend time individually on 70 performers. The only thing is the sound check the day before.
EE: How do you see the Winter Solstice developing in the future?
HB: If I let it develop naturally and let everyone participate, things would naturally grow and expand. But this year I think it was the maximum amount of participants I could handle. I think next year I will try to reduce it and make it harder to find. It will become even more mystical.
EE: Hiding it seems to be opposite to what everyone else is trying to do. How do you find partners and support for the event?
HB: I would like to involve more partners. For the Solstice last year we also had a residency with Notam: Norwegian Center for Technology in Music and the Arts. It was a great collaboration. They are an institution with a structure, the Winter Solstice is not structured, it is based on volunteer work. It is like two worlds colliding. I think big institutions should also be here to provide space for smaller organizations. None of us should only stay in our comfort zones. I think electronic art in Norway is somehow isolated from the rest of the art scene. We have to strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations. Electronic arts shouldn’t be just about the medium, it has to talk about the world. And we have to organize events despite the rules. What are all these rules?
EE: Art should be free?
HB: Art should be free and take over the world. We have to free ourselves from paper work. We have to do things the way we want. There shouldn’t be this need to wait for the next application deadline, and we as institutions should not look at CVs to decide who to include in the program. If we are really honest about art being potentially a political tool for radical emancipation and social change, then we have to get rid of all this and focus on giving people experiences. It is a collective process. That does not mean only working in a group, but having sense of being part of a society, which can be micro or universal. The Solstice and every art event survives as long you don’t depend on money, as long you cannot describe what exactly you’re doing. As long as you find new strategies and regenerate yourself, and explore the field outside your comfort zone. And as long as I am doing this I will make sure there is a place for people to do what they want.