Over the past two years colleagues from The Faculty of Fine Arts, The Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences and The Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of Agder have been in a slow conversation about the question what it means to be human today and what this has to do with the particular fields of practice we work in. Through regular colloquia we have involved colleagues and students from across the university into this conversation. In addition, we have had a number of public sessions at the Kristiansand Kunsthall where we have met with artists around our main question.
Rather than writing another academic book or organising another interdisciplinary conference and thus staying within the traditional ‘frame’ of the university, we felt from early on that it would be more meaningful to let our conversations culminate in an exhibition where we put our ongoing conversation ‘on display,’ so to speak, and invite others to join in with their own expertise and experience. This exhibition was going to take place as a three-day event from 9 February 2021 at 12:00 (noon) until 11 February 2021 at 16:00 at the Kristiansand Kunsthall.
Our ambition was to bring together about 80 people from the fields of art, education and mental health – academics, practitioners, (doctoral) students, and others with an interest in the topic – for lectures, performances, conversations, presentations and other activities in order to collectively engage with the question what it means to be human today. A more detailed rationale for the event can be downloaded here.
We were anticipating that by February 2021 the situation with the Covid-19 virus had improved so much that this event could be held and participants from Norway and further away were able to travel to Kristiansand. We said we would keep an eye on how the situation developed and that we would make a decision about the event no later than 1st December 2020.
As we all know the situation did not improve. The event could not be realized as planned. We still want to exhibit what was planned. We are sure something new will emerge from this.
THE PLANNED PROGRAM
On day 1 we wanted to focus on the ‘trouble’ of being human today through presentations from Gert Biesta (University of Agder, Maynooth University Ireland and University of Edinburgh), Tore Dag Bøe (University of Agder), Bård Bertelsen (University of Agder) and Lisbet Skregelid (University of Agder) and group activities.
Day 2 was to organised around a range of explorations around the idea of the ‘arrival of the I,’ which has to do with the broad and open question how our ‘I’ can or cannot ‘arrive’ in the world today. We invited contributions from four artists: Jan Martin Smordal , Kurt Johanessen , Jo Abusland and Ane Hjort Guttu .
In addition, we had about 20 slots of 45 minutes available for contributions from anyone interested in the topic of the exhibition. These contributions were to be scheduled as parallel sessions.
On day 3 we were going to focus on the joy of being human today through lectures from Dag Øystein Nome (University of Agder), Aslaug Kristiansen (University of Agder), Sigurd Tenningen (University of Agder) and Rolf Sundet (University of South Eastern Norway), and group activities, including a weaving session led by Monica Klungland (University of Agder).
Download the full program HERE.
Abstracts for contributions by curatorial team and presenters available HERE.
We invited proposals for a contribution on day 2 around the broad theme of ‘the arrival of the I’ in relation to art, education and/or mental health. Contributions could take any form – such as paper presentations, artistic performances, conversations, workshops, knitting, music making, and anything else that meaningfully related to the overall theme of the exhibition and the three fields of practice we were seeking to bring into conversation.
We had received 26 exciting contibutions from the three fields and 56 participants had registered by the deadline, in addition to the artists and ourselves. We were so excited about our event. But the situation of Covid – 19 led to change of plans. This is the letter we sent to inform about our decision about cancelling:
We were all very much looking forward to the exhibition BEING HUMAN TODAY in Kristiansand Kunsthall from 9 to 11 February next year. From the submissions and proposals we received and the great interest in the event, we have the strong impression that all of you were looking forward to it as well. These are times, however, in which our relationship with the future and, even more so, our relationship with future possibilities has significantly changed. Many things we took for granted in the past, such as planning an event, planning a journey, travelling, and meeting people, are no longer so simple and certain. This is, in a sense, what it means to be human today. It is partly trouble, but in the trouble we can also find new joy. The theme of our event thus appears to be even more relevant than what we could imagined when we started planning it.
Today, however, we have come to the conclusion that our event is not going to happen. Rather than postponing everything and hoping for better times, we considered that a cancellation is the more ‘grown-up’ response to the reality we find ourselves in. Moreover, by cancelling rather than postponing our event, we also feel that we all gain a degree of freedom within which new things can emerge. What may emerge, of course, is the possibility of another event in the future, similar but not identical to what we envisaged to do in February. We will definitely contact all of you if we start making plans for such an event. For now we just hope that you will have happy memories of looking forward to the conversation between art, education and mental health that was going to happen.
If you have any follow up questions, please feel free to get in touch. Otherwise, we very much hope that we will meet at some point in the future to ponder once more what it might mean to be human today.
With kind regards from the curators
Gert Biesta, Tore Dag Bøe, Bård Berthelsen, Aslaug Kristiansen, Dag Nome, Monica Klungland, Sigurd Tenningen and Lisbet Skregelid»
P.S. Please note that the PhD course Being Human Today that was going to be connected to the event will also not take place at the dates in February. We are still exploring other possibilities for when to realize the PhD course and will be in touch with all of you who signed up for the event as PhD candidates.