Remembering the significance of art and representation

On the second day of the workshop the participants traveled to the home and workshop of Marit Benthe Norheim.

Starting with the woman shaped camper trailers, Benthe told of using her art as a means for communicating other people’s experiences with hardship. She explained how refugee woman had helped shape the interior of the camper trailers, how they became vehicles for telling otherwise untold fates and lost existences.

Delving deeper into her workshop, she introduced the artists to her sculptures. Everywhere around her expansive barn turned workspace where crying angels and mermaids – in the backend of the room stood four cabinets decorated with pink plastic diamonds. The participants were invited to sit on stools in front of a sculpture of a woman in agony giving birth.

Drawing from every corner of her workshop, guiding the participants focus to her different pieces, she took the participants through stories of personal tragedies, stories of people who have been less than fortunate in their lives either due to unfortunate circumstances or due to issues with their health. Soon the artists were invited to open the cabinets and to discover their contents – shrines made to friends Benthe had lost throughout her life.

All while these stories unfolded a theme kept reemerging: A theme of the power of being the voice for other people’s experiences through art. What became clear was how Benthe had become a mediator through her work – a megaphone for those with no reach to speak of – which refused to hide away issues that seemed otherwise too difficult to handle, too shameful to share, too complex to understand.

Showing us how art creates a space where you once again can become human alongside other humans, and where you get to define how your experience should be portrayed.

Text and pictures by Lasse Fischer