CrossSections in Stockholm
by Björn Norberg

CrossSections in Stockholm
by Björn Norberg

First Impression

The Stockholm Core meeting took place at Malongen and lasted two days and was followed by a public meeting at IASPIS. The first impression is that Crossections is a very unusual project. Basak Senova describes her intention: 

”The project challenges the exhibition focus of the art world. All structures are built around fast productions, installation, opening, review, go home, start next thing. This project gives the possibility to digest and discuss on a long term.”

This is of course a something that many curators and institutions have stated before Crossections. The difference with Crossections is that Senova actually means what she states and she has also created a structure that will give tools to create a project where the focus really is on the process and on learning, testing and rethinking. The outcome, the end result, will however be what you expect from an art project: seminars, books and exhibitions. The difference here is the methodology of curation and productions and an aim to show the full process of a complex art project in full transparency. Below I will try to explain how this is done and why this project is different to others with similar aim.

The aim and the scale of the project is also something that surprises. It involves 19 artists, numerous institutions, a geographic area that includes a large part of Europe and it aims to take practice and theory to new levels.

The whole structure of the project is coloured by transparency. The artists share their ideas, thoughts and process with the curator and the other participants. The curator shares her ideas, methodology and progress with the artists and the whole project is shared with the public in form of meetings and with partner institutions. This will be furthered discussed below, under ”Curatorial methodology”.

In all, Crossections is a project with almost an aim of an institution, but one that lacks a home and venue.  The cross-section point is the website and I understand it as a classic home page, i.e. it’s something beyond the common contemporary website – it’s the home of the project. It assembles activities, people and functions as a home. It’s the archive, the office and the reception desk to a nomadic institution. The project mirrors the times of migration and the actual situation for some of the participants in the project. It’s confusing times where home, origin, history and story become relative notions. One of the participants labelled themselves, the free-lancing artists and curators, “jet set labours”, who are forced to fly from country to country, stay in residencies, ask institutions for support, they stay at hotels, go to opening parties, exhibit at fine institutions, but they are without any chance to create a stabilized situation for themselves and their families.

The curatorial process and the artists methodology

The Core meeting in Stockholm started with Basak Senova saying:

Where are we now? What are we going to do?

These two questions illustrate the openess and the collective idea of Crossections. It is an ever developing expanding/shrinking, cross-disciplinary, inward/outward process. Still, with this elasticity, there seem to be characteristics of Senova’s curatorial methodology:

The Group Metodology

In many ways the project collects the fragments of the of the post-war modern project and the post-wall decades: peace, understanding, stability and comfort, as well as cold war tactics, and puts these fragments together as an attempt to create a platform where different stories, different origins and different languages can meet and form a comment on contemporary times.

Many of the participants work under very difficult conditions but an outspoken policy seems to be that there is no room for complaints. Instead the project should be an opportunity to deal with the situation in a creative way. The conditions build a strong and tight group, with strong connections between the artists and the curator and a devotion to the common activities and goals. All participants are in it together and support each other.

It is important for the process that the participants meet even if the meetings are time and resource consuming. In many other projects I have studied or been a part of, even less complicated, the teams have replaced the meeting with different tools, such as Google docs. I believe we all have experienced these attempts and how little the tools help to communicate common processes and how hard it is to get everyone to use it and get involved in it, and how little these tools will help in establishing true and deeper exchange of ideas.

The Importance of Social Activities

Close connected to the group methodology is the importance of social activities. Common meals, cooking together, going to openings, discussing other projects, family business etc. glues the group together and helps focusing on the common process and to support each other.

Critique and Transparency

The curatorial process is very open and transparent but still focused on exhibition, art production and knowledge production. The diverse types of meetings create both a way to communicate with the audience during the production process but also mean a chance of giving and receiving critique. This also include the chance of the artists to give the curator critique. The project also includes several exhibitions and the artists can exhibit, discuss their work with the other participants, the curator and the audience, improve, find new directions and re-exhibit. The exhibitions are in different formats, from a shopping window in Vienna, to a full-size exhibition, where the smaller scale can function as a test-bed for sketches or prototypes.

Basak Senova has with the project created a researched based curatorial model that involves both theory and practice and it goes from idea to prototype to evaluation to full scale – and this without losing the public access and without leaving a scientific mode. The model turns the process inwards to the group, to the individual work and creativity as well as outwards to professionals and audiences outside the project group.

Senova stresses during the core meeting the importance of the knowledge production and the focus on the process rather than the end product – be it a publication, be it a larger exhibition. Also she stresses the importance of saving and documenting the knowledge. She doesn’t devaluate the final result as an important goal or manifestation but questions how much of the process you will find in a finalized result. How can the process be manifested in a publication? Should all participants write to include all aspects? Can all participants write? How can the group activities and the social events in Crossections be manifested?

Basak Senova explains her aim: ” I am interested in the process, how is art produced. I want to show the process in the final exhibition. Storyboards, mail conversations, sketches...  How can the fantastic things that occur in the process end up in the final work? There is often something lacking in the final shape.” I interpret her intentions here as very pragmatic – the process should be clearly articulated and mediated.

Diversity and Focus points

The artists all have very different backgrounds, they all have different working methodology and they work with different media and topics. Also, the main aim and the title of the projects are descriptive – Senova aims to let all these different backgrounds and ideas cross each other at one point. This holds the project together. What also holds the project together is how the individuals through a long and common process are glued to each other, how they support, encourage each other.

The expansive process

Basak Senovas work is expansive and including. She has a clear focus, but she is constantly adding on to the project any time there is an option. In some ways she is forced to. As a Turkish curator living in Vienna on temporary premises and with activities in Austria, Sweden and Finland she is forced to find new ways, seek new possibilities and opportunities and expand in the possible and suggested directions, without losing the quality or the focus of the project.

The artisic process and the artists metodology

In the Stockholm meetings the following artists participated:

Benji Boyadgian, Tamsin Snow, Egle Oddo, Ramesch Daha, Barbara Holub, Yane Calovski, Ricarda Denzer, Nisrine Boukhari and Timo Tuhkanen. Basak and I, Björn Norberg, particpated as well. Connected to the project, but not present in Stockholm, are also artists Lina Selander, Behzad Khosravi Noori, Gözde Ilkin, Heba Y Amin, Nilolaus Gansterer, Inma Herrera, Isa Rosenberge, Otto Karvonen, Bronwyn Lace and Marcus Neustetter.

The artist and participators all have different backgrounds and they work with in different ways and media. Still they all take part and discusses each other’s work.  Basak has chosen artists for the project that she has already worked with or artists whom she has followed and would like to work with. This also mean that all artists have different methodologies. This becomes apparent when all artists present where in the process they are, at the time for the Stockholm meeting. Below I will try to describe some characteristics on how they approach the project and where in the process they are and what they are currently work with:

Egle Oddo is studying the role of the artist and the artist as a facilitator and medium. She has an idea about a piece where she will set a number of scientists in a staged situation and observe and document their behaviour and how they handle it. She is then a facilitator, the scientist and the observer. The scientists themselves are the objects.

Barbara Holub is also, in some way, working as a facilitator. Her project The Blue Frog Society functions a messenger of a future society by creating ground for the unplanned and unthinkable, emphasizing civic engagement and the need for new social values, new commons and forms of living together beyond cultural, social or geographical borders.

Timo Tuhkanen work in a different way where the concept for the art piece is second. He starts with the topic – succession by political and ecological means. Then he starts a ground research on the subject and creates a structure of knowledge, or as he states: ”the metaphysics” around it. How is a state formed? How is it developed, what phases is it going through? How are societies formed? In parallel to the research he is planning to build an instrument in an 80-year long process. He wants to plant a tree that can be used to build a future music instrument. Or maybe it is already an instrument with an own language? The research and the creation of the instrument are linked together in an organically growing long-term process. The project has epic dimensions and Tuhkanen distances himself from the modern society and the current development. In the research he needs to take a distant view and the instrument making is a slow process that goes in an opposite and alternative direction compared to the structures of the contemporary societies. Finally, Tukhanen has to face the question, is the music instrument, the object, the piece or is the process behind it a part of it? And if, how is that process mediated?

Ricarda Denzer is still investigating what she will make within the project.
She is working with transformation and translation between text, objects, spoken word, and visual art in different processes to get deeper into a topic, idea, phenomena or context. The transformation is a method to deconstruct and to understand the connection, relation and discrepancy between documentary and storytelling. She also works with prints, drawings etc while listening to text recordings and develops images and texts using automatic processes in a performative way.

Nisrine Boukhari is a Syrian artist who left for Vienna in 2012. Because of difficulties of finding a stable platform in Vienna she is on temporary basis in Stockholm. The situation she finds herself in creates confusion and affects everything. She has noticed that she has started to perceive cities in a new way. Sounds and smells have become different, the senses and sensations have changed. She has started to draw “breathing maps” where she draws while breathing in some sort of video performances where she also tries to discover the concept of home, and get a deeper understanding of the concept and what it means to different people. The concept seems to be very relative for many people. People live in a constant change and stability is an illusion. She writes a lot - stories, narratives, research notes. The observations are deconstructed to create a piece.

Benji Boyadgian, Jerusalem, follows an artistic process that starts with research, goes over to formulating the concept before creating the art piece. He has been in collaboration with Behzad Khosravi Noori, Teheran, for three years. The main question that they deal with is “Where are you from?”. For political reasons they are not able to visit each other – so they have to meet neutral places. These conditions lead to a project within a special context and process. The end form will be a piece, an object, conceptual and contextually loaded.

In their research they have started to investigate two public clocks, one in Jerusalem and one in Teheran. The clock in Teheran was a gift from Great Britain and in Jerusalem there was a clock that the British troops destroyed. Both functions as symbols for the colonialism in the Middle East. At the moment they are trying to find information on the clocks. Who constructed them and who designed it? They are planning to make their own clock, that
Will become a conceptual piece. The process will be documented by video essays that also will be a part of the project and the result.

Tamsin Snow will continue from a video that she showed in Vienna. She has a clear and developed vision about her storytelling, working method and aesthetics. The new video will discuss the future of death and the radicalisation of death. She’s currently building models and landscapes for the video. It connects to a previous work on multi-faith where she created a ”multi-faith room” with a strong legacy of modernistic architecture, such as Mies van de Rohe, and a pilgrimage chapel.

In the “future of death” video she will create a visualization of an institute for medical autopsy. The architecture will take a lot of references from history and architecture, the TWA Building and sci-fi. It will be exhibited at the Block gallery in London.

The videos will imply and suggest different discussion around the topic but will not openly moderate a discussion nor take a clear stand. But the viewer will definitively be forced to do that themselves. One question will be the question of immortality. It is in many ways a classic film making methodology and a studio work, where the interpretation and the discussion of the viewer is an important outcome.

Yane Calovski: Yane works with the project Undisciplined: A Construction of an Archive 2017 – 2019 were he focuses on the history of Skopje. In 1960’s it was a top modernist creation, an utopia. The UN development committee created a competition for a masterplan. The project is context based and deals with Calovskis own development. It was initiated already when he worked with his project Master Plan around 2008.

Former City, 2018 s the third part of the project.

The final result will be a publication and a nomadic but public accessible archive of the city of Skopje and the legacy of modernity

Ramesch Daha: Ramesch came to Austria from Iran as a child. In Austrian school she learned a lot about the 2nd world war. By time Iran was lost as a familiar place and a as home but she has since always tried to understand the history of Iran. Her Austrian part of the family was Jewish. Her stepfather had collected everything from his father, who was killed in Dachau in 1942. She has started to work with the archive. When finished she will give everything to the museum in Dachau.

Public Meeting at IASPIS

On the third day in Stockholm there was a public meeting at IASPIS. Basak Senova presented the project in front of a good audience, and Calovski and Daha presented their own projects. Moving over from the private context that had been built up in Vienna earlier and at the Core meeting at Malongen to a new, public context, in front of an audience that knew very little about the project and the intentions of it, was of cause not without problems. The enthusiasm of the participants drowned any possible critical analysis from the audience. The mingle afterwards showed to be a better platform for exchange of ideas.


Crossections has formed a group of different individuals, all of them with an own story. The structure with the website, the different exhibitions and the labelled meetings might at first look a bit overwhelming and forced but helps to organize a huge project consisting of many different voices.

The project has an outspoken focus on the process and gives all participants tools and time to reflect over the process. It’s importance that the final show and any publication, really find ways and a language to describe all activities in the meetings. With such documents Crossections will not only be a very important and rare document on curatorial and artistic processes and practice, but also it will also create a multi-facetted image on current aspects of home, territory, history, origin, heritage and even death.