Hope Springs Eternal
- Place Nordnorsk kunstnersenter, Svolvær
Artist Espen Tversland invites the audience to reflect on how human actions affect nature in the exhibition Hope Springs Eternal.
In 2017, Espen Tversland participated in AiR Barents – an artist residency programme on Svalbard. One day, as he gazed out over the landscape, the idea for the exhibition project Hope Springs Eternal began to take shape. On a snow-covered plateau, he witnessed how about 50 snow scooters formed a long ‘snake’ that almost barbarously cut a road through the landscape. It was this contradictory scene – of people who, in their attempt to experience the tranquillity of unspoilt nature, simultaneously destructively intruded upon it – that intrigued Tversland. In the autumn of 2019, he developed the project further as part of the expedition ‘The Arctic Circle’, with both artists and scientists aboard a sailing ship in the waters around Svalbard.
You are hereby invited to enter Espen Tversland’s multi-channel video installation Hope Springs Eternal, the title of which is borrowed from Alexander Pope’s poem ‘An Essay on Man’. Projected onto screens of white silk, we see a 34-min. abstract video work that runs in a loop. What is actually unfolding on the screens is difficult to describe in words. It can seem spiritual, mechanical and organic all at the same time. Meanwhile, the work also gives the sense of something continuous, ever moving, always changing. It is a world with many layers, where something is built up simultaneously as something breaks down. Where the one encounters the other, and the two are transformed into new shapes and connections. It is an irregular and non-linear evolution. New and complicated relationships constantly emerge. All the while, our experience is affected by the unstable silk’s flapping that is caused by the unpredictable movements of ourselves and others in the room.
In this encounter between the human, the digital and the tactile, we become part of a situation in which all our actions affect our surroundings on one or another level. This can be seen as a visual metaphor for how we affect our environment every day of our life. Or, as Tversland himself says: ‘If you buy a melon today, you participate in destroying the world’. And here, in the destruction, lies the core of the exhibition’s theme. For Tversland, it is about acknowledging the paradox that at the same time as we want the best for ourselves, our children and our ‘tribe’, it is we ourselves who – through the culture we have built around our way of life – cause the violence that results in the ecological crisis. The exhibition title, Hope Springs Eternal, points to how it is part of human nature to remain hopeful until the end is near. Tversland has been concerned with how the hope that technology will save us – so that we can continue living as normal – can in fact hinder necessary change. Hope itself can be destructive and part of the violence against nature.
This violence that Tversland sees us continuously perpetrating against the foundation of our own existence, yet which is rooted in our nature, also comes to expression in an at-times bodily-inspired soundscape which the artist has commissioned from Andreas Nelson and Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad. When they began collaborating, Tversland sent them Erland Kiøsterud’s book Stillhetens økologi (2019 – ‘The Ecology of Tranquillity’) as inspiration. Like Tversland, Kjøsterud is interested in the relationship between humans and nature, in the ecological crisis, and in understanding nature as neither fair, logical nor reasonable.
With an abstract aesthetic, Espen Tversland explores the relationship between ourselves and nature. The installation can be understood as an attempt to formulate something quite intangible. When entering into Tversland’s work, we have the opportunity to have the strange feeling of standing in the middle of something we at the same time are trying to observe from the outside. It is the feeling of being part of an unpredictable loop, something constantly moving and beyond our control, which is neither fair nor logical or reasonable.
To have this experience may seem like a destructive way to face the situation in which we currently find ourselves. But to be reconciled to this strange feeling can also open up a space in which to ask crucial questions: How can we actually see something from the inside and the outside at the same time? Is it possible to have a view over a landscape we stand inside? How can we influence the pattern of movements in an unpredictable world? Is it at all meaningful to set goals? How should we approach the future? How can we hinder a crisis from happening at the same time as we create the crisis? What is necessary in order for us to try to understand ourselves and our position in the world in a new way? Maybe it is an impossible task. It would, in any case, require a change of perspective. And Hope Springs Eternal, in a sense, is an exercise in changing our perspective – from the anthropocentric to the eco-centric.
Espen Tversland (b. 1970) lives and works in Brønnøysund. He attended the Academy of Fine Art, Oslo (1998–2002), studying 3D animation and video art with Kjell Bjørgeengen and Dagmar Demming. Tversland has participated in several regional exhibitions and won juried prizes at three of them. He made his debut at Norway’s annual Autumn Exhibition in 2003, and is one of the artists chosen to participate in this year’s 75th edition of the North Norwegian Art Exhibition. In recent years, his video works have been shown at international festivals for film, art, and technology, among others, in Punto y Raya’s world tour (2018) and in Besides the Screens in Brazil (2019). In 2021 Tversland will participate in the NOoSPHERE Arts Rooftop series We Are Nature in New York.
Tversland is motivated by science, spiritual experiences, feelings, phenomena and materials which he collects and processes. He asks large and small questions about human intervention into nature. His artistic practice is process-driven, and the works often take the form of photos and videos.
Text: Hilde Sørstrøm