“It is a book / a zine / an exhibition / a magazine / a thought experiment / an interface. About Bergen.”
The term “vectorized” relates to vector graphics, where sizes can be altered without any information being lost. This analogy is not too far off when you’re dealing with an artist journal that looks equally good in print and online – Vector Artist Journal is available as a free PDF you can download and print to your heart’s content.
The journal was initiated in 2007 by artist Peter Gregorio. Since partnering up with Javier Barrios, they have launched the journal in – and about – several cities all over the world: Each issue relates to the place where it is launched by presenting artists from that specific area. Next in line is Bergen, and this Saturday Vector #7 will be launched at the artist-run gallery Entrée. The issue has been curated by Entrée’s manager and curator, Randi Grov Berger.
The journal’s stated intent is “to spread the ideas and work of visual artists around the world”. Gregorio and Barrios elaborate:
“Artists tend to be educated and motivated people. They are global, innovative, and totally out-of-the-box-thinkers, yet most of the world rarely has access to the art scene and the work by artists in general. By “the artist’s vision” we mean the stuff that artists put out in the world through their work. Whether it is through a painting, a performance, graffiti, video or film, we are talking about people devoted to creative forms of communication in whatever form, beyond building a career, a brand, or generating wealth. The artist makes a lifestyle choice, which we think, metaphorically, has a similar function to a cosmologist’s relation to physics: Artists push the boundaries of knowledge and redefine how we perceive phenomena.”
The journal is available for free, both as a printed edition and a PDF for download. According to the artists behind it, it is a hybrid of sorts:
“It is a book / a zine / an exhibition / a magazine / a thought experiment / an interface.”
At the core of it all is the essay. Sort of. Gregorio and Barrios explain:
“We want to push the artists to think of their contribution as an essay. Our favourite contributions are the ones where the artist goes in a different direction than his or her normal studio practice. One of the greatest moments we’ve experienced, was when one of the artists, who had never contributed to a journal before, changed the work he was making for an exhibition because of ideas he developed for his Vector essay. Through the journal’s platform, he discovered a new direction in his work. That was awesome!”
As a deliberate assembly of artists in a certain context, each issue of Vector is a kind of exhibition in print. Yet, there is no arguing that a journal is something else.
“This is something completely different than working close with an artist on an exhibition in a gallery. My role as ‘curator’ in this project is reduced to suggesting a list of artists, followed by promoting and presenting the result through Entrée,” says Berger.
The artists were invited because of their relation to the art scene in Bergen, and Berger also made sure to include artists whose work and expression might be challenged when faced with a rather limited context: a black-and-white publication in A4.
“I wanted to invite artists I was curious about, in terms of what their responses and contributions would be within a rigid format such as this. These are visual artists, and Vector’s framework invites visual essays – not only text as such. Consequently, I figured that most of them would work in a more visual way, and not necessarily with text.”
The artists had the opportunity to do whatever they liked, and in some respects the outputs differ from their usual practice – adjusted to function within the confines of a journal. Each artist is given 10 pages, and the editors don’t dictate or edit the contributions. As a consequence, unexpected things may unfold, which is what Gregorio and Barrios hope for.
“What we love about this project, is that by giving artists a platform to express themselves with no theme or editing, they come up with such innovative ideas. It is amazing to see the different approaches they take. Some artists will write an academic essay or a poem, others will create a visual essay. One artist took bits of text from another essay, and overlapped the pieces on top of themselves so that it became unreadable. The text took on the function of a visual work. Another artist sat in the gallery during the day before the launch in Berlin and ripped a page from each of the 500 journals – this was how he defined the essay; as a physical intervention.”
In Vector #7, one will encounter poems, text collages, paintings, transcriptions of conversations, notations from performances, digital animations, photography, different types of text and image archives – among other things. Shaped by the Vector formula, the contributions reveal, to some extent, new or unseen aspects of the artists’ practices. Yet, in Berger’s opinion, they are all still quite recognisable.
“It turns out that when the framework is identical for every contributing artist, individualities surface. The way I see it, they’ve all contributed identifiable works, which makes the journal a kind of portfolio. And in many ways this is exactly what it is: A peek into their different universes.”
Listing all 25 contributors would take up too much space, but a few examples may prove a point. For instance, Cato Løland has made collages of bits and pieces of what appears to be different types of materials. Although printed in greyscale, his Vector contribution share a visual affinity with his other works, such as large textile installations, but also in the way they seem to imitate a tactile surface.
Known for her colourful installations, photographs and performances in furry animal costumes, Anja Carr’s textual contribution appears to be something completely opposite. At the same time, as a transcription of a conversation between Carr and a fellow “furry” [furry fandom: a subculture interested in and dressing up as fictional anthropomorphic animal characters], her project comes off as a recognisable aspect of her body of work.
Relating to the editors’ wish for the artists to challenge the notion of the essay, Bjørn-Henrik Lybeck’s contribution is also interesting. His photographic essay Hoods. Nice and Easy! consists of close-ups of car hoods. The photographs are borderline abstract, yet hints of possible narratives lurk under the surface.
And speaking of narrative, Tonje Bøe Birkeland presents the viewer with a rather intriguing story about the character Anna Aurora Astrup, an adventurous woman whose explorations are told mainly through text. The textual approach differs from the usual photographs and films Birkeland often works with, yet there are undeniable similarities in terms of subject matter.
Until now, New York, Oslo, Berlin and Toronto have been featured in Vector. Bergen is the fifth city being covered. Turning back to Norway was only natural, Barrios explains.
“After doing the Oslo edition in 2014, we did not feel quite done with Norway, and Bergen felt like a natural successor. During the years, we have noticed that many interesting things are happening in Bergen. This sparked our curiosity.”
Bergen has long been a city with a vibrant art and culture scene. A few years back, some might even argue that Bergen was more vibrant than its big brother, Oslo. Good things did – and still do – take place, as Berger explains.
“In 2009 the conference ‘To Biennial or not Biennial’ took place, and Entrée was established. During the next couple of years, several artist-run spaces popped up, such as Tag Team, Knipsu, Premiss, Tollbodallmenningen 39 and the Museum of Longing and Failure. Volt has done several projects in temporary spaces since 2008. Some of these initiatives have shut down, but new ones are popping up, among others the artist-run galleries FELT, Kunstgarasjen and Gallery Christinegaard. With our own triennial, Bergen Assembly, running projects through all of 2016, several festivals and the recently established Literature House, in addition to the impulses from new directors in all the major art institutions, things are constantly happening on the art scene.”
As we speak, the journal is about to be launched, and Berger can reveal that it mostly turned out as anticipated.
“It did turn out quite as I imagined, but there are also a few surprises, like Ilija Wyller’s short prose with descriptions of water, Pedro Gómez-Egaña’s slowly progressing love story, Bjørn-Henrik Lybeck’s photographic study of car hoods, or Benedicte Clementsen who is introducing two 3D characters that she has purchased online. Mathijs van Geest’s contribution is a small assemblage around the notion of changing one’s mind, thinking to change one’s mind, and witnessing someone changing their mind. There are so many great things going on inside the covers of this issue.”
With 25 artists connected to Bergen, it is tempting to perceive the journal as representative of the city’s art scene. But judging from the variety in the examples mentioned above and according to Berger, that is not the case.
“These are 25 quite young artists I’ve encountered through the past few years. In retrospect I think that we could have involved a few more artists. There are quite a few artists I would have loved to see participate! But then again – it is a journal, and not an encyclopaedia of Bergen artists…”
Gregorio and Barrios are also not too sure about perceiving the journal as a mapping of the art scenes of different cities. Not yet, anyway.
“When you put the six journals we’ve published thus far next to each other, there are subtle differences, and patterns emerge. One of the reasons why we don’t have a theme for the issues is that we hope that they will reveal something about the underlying algorithm of the art-scene in a particular place, during a certain moment in time. After we have launched a Vector in, say, more than 20 places around the world, this may become more obvious.”
Artists in Vector #7 Bergen:
Tonje Bøe Birkeland
Tora Endestad Bjørkheim & Johnny Herbert
Chloe Lewis & Andrew Taggart
Julie Lillelien Porter
Silje Linge Haaland
Sveinung Rudjord Unneland & Sturla Heggdalsvik
Andrea Spreafico & Caroline Eckly
Mathijs van Geest