Everything Is Alive

Johan Christian Dahl, Shipwreck on the Norwegian Coast, 1830 



The project is a performative investigation into how the audience can become more active and imaginative in their appreciation of art. The research focuses on works by 19th century painters and sculptors in different museum collections around the world. Each investigation will lead to a performative lecture that will be staged in front of the work in the museum. In the performances the artist(s) will use texts, sound, theatre lights and objects to highlight different qualities in the painting. The goal is to reflect on our current social and political situation in the world is connected to history locally and globally. What can we learn from history and what ideas, ideals and processes have we inherited from romanticism?

An important aspect of the project lies in actively engaging the audience to place their thoughts, questions and problems in the artwork and see what happens to the work as well as their own reflections. In this process we use sound and draw from research by German therapist Stefan Hammel. For instance, we can ask the audience to place a problem that they wish could go away (e.g. the habit of smoking) in a sinking ship in a painting while they listen to immersive music with their eyes closed.

The project takes its starting point in romanticism because modern man seem to have been born around that time. When we meet romantic artists they have one side that seems very contemporary and another that belongs to a world long gone. There is also an interesting aspect in the work that deals with crushed ideals. Many artists had high hopes that the French Revolution would make the world a better place forever. Instead it lead to the Terror and the Napoleonic Wars had which wreaked havoc and created senseless carnage among military and civilians alike. Disappointed, artists turned their gaze towards nature and their inner lives. The project allows us to investigate the historical roots of the work that we do and to get a better understanding of how today’s society has evolved from the ideas of the enlightenment and romanticism.

The project aims to create a better understanding about how 19th century ideals have shaped contemporary western understanding of the world and how it can be rethought by introducing ideas from non-western cultures. There is in other words a profound will to embrace the local cultures’ understanding of the world and how these can be used to challenge western thinking. On this journey we are inspired by Eduardo Viveiro de Castro’s multi-perspectivism; Benjamin Lee Whorf’s linguistic perspectivism and Polly O. Walker’s work on performance and conflict.

The project was born in early 2019 in Mexico City during collective workshops at the choreography school CICO. Together Vision Forum’s workshop leaders and students undertook investigations based on romantic paintings. The workshops were much loved and it was clear that the format has much more to give. Therefore, in 2019-20 Vision Forum will visit major museums in Sweden, Finland, Norway, France and Brazil with the project. Looking at different painter’s and sculptor’s work in different museums around the world as well as developing a performances based on their work constitutes a way to stimulate cross-cultural interest in history and to promote the importance of historicising art, politics and social movements in a time coloured by populist politics. Public presentations are planned in Norway, Brazil, Sweden and France. A preview performance


Everything is Alive is supported by Nordic Culture Point and The Swedish Arts Council. Public presentations have been held at Bergen Assembly and CICO in Mexico City.