The Norwegian Artist Who Is Famous for her Use of Scientific Methods in Art

The Norwegian Artist Who Is Famous for her Use of Scientific Methods in Art

The Norwegian artist Toril Johannessen (b. 1978) entered the Bergen Academy of Fine Arts (KHIB) and found her way towards science through her graduation project “In Search of Iceland Spar”, a meticulous search for the mineral calcite, from the Helgustadir mine in Iceland. It was the beginning of her mixing science with art. Learn more about the Norwegian artist who is famous for her use of scientific methods in art.

On her website she says that she works methodically and research-based across media, such as prints and information graphics, textiles, copy and installation.

Johannessen has hunted for plankton in the Arctic and explored concepts such as time and space with sculptural concepts. She writes, photographs, draws diagrams and searches for connections between words such as “crisis and miracles”, “hope and reality” and “the art of
research”, creating interest in her art all over the world.

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Where is the High North?

Last year she shared her insight into the process of two public art projects she worked on in Northern Norway, dealing with memory policy and border areas with Russia. Johannessen discussed examples of how the invasion of Ukraine has changed the situational understanding, the writing of history and the prerequisites for art moving through the terrain of the “High North”.

The “High North” is not a place with a clear geographical border, but rather a fluid concept whose meaning has changed over the past decades. By drawing maps showing linguistic phenomena in this approximate area, Toril Johannessen traces fragments of military presence and geopolitical affairs in the everyday language and in the landscape.

“Personally, the project is an investigation of the region I come from, as I grew up in Harstad in Northern Norway, and is a reflection on how «politics of the High North» in a broad sense is written into consciousness both as real experiences and interpretations,” she says.

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The Norwegian Artist Who Is Famous for her Use of Scientific Methods in Art
Representation is a collection of portraits from residents in Bergen.

Representation (for people and those who represent them)

Commissioned by the City of Bergen, Representation (for people and those who represent them) is a work consisting of woven textiles with a design including computer generated portraits.

The work is permanently installed in two locations in the town hall: One part is a draped carpet installed in a glass vitrine by the main entrance of the building. The vitrine is integrated in the facade and is publicly available at all times.

The other part is installed in two meeting rooms on the top floor where the work can be seen by employees, politicians, bureaucrats and others who visit this part of the building. Here, the work has a function as curtains. When the curtains are closed, the design is displayed in its entirety.

The data generated portraits in the design are made by machine learning technology and a specific collection of photographs as source: “Through the image collection campaign titled Gruppebilde Bergen I collected portraits from residents in Bergen. The campaign took place in the Fall and Winter of 2020/2021 and was an open call to the people in Bergen to submit a portrait of themselves,” she says.

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The Norwegian Artist Who Is Famous for her Use of Scientific Methods in Art
Johannessen pondered for a long time what time really was

Does time really exist?

“Combining historical data with my own investigations, and with an attention to how Western scientific methodologies coexists with other frameworks for knowledge, the impact of historical conditions and technological developments on modes of perception is a recurring theme in my practice,” says Johannessen.

Not everyone can digest Niels Bohr’s atomic theory or the genesis of quantum physics, but Johannessen impresses with her approach. She pondered for a long time what time really was, and since Nils Bohr, who died in 1962, explored the relationship between energy and time – the two physical forces in Einstein’s theory of relativity, she had to get in touch with him. The result of conversations through a spiritist medium and “conversations” with Niels Bohr, resulted in the diagrams “The Energy Circle” and “A Message from the Spirits”.

The Norwegian Artist Who is Famous for her Use of Scientific Methods in Art, written by Tor Kjolberg.

All images © Toril Johannessen. Feature image (on top): “Representation” in Bergen Town Hall, photographed by Bent René Synnevåg.

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.


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