Morten Traavik is a Norwegian director and artist working across a wide spectrum of artistic genres and international borders. Trained as theater director in Russia and Sweden, the notion of the world as a stage and identity as role play is never far away in his works, as well as a characteristically blurred distinction between art, activism and social issues.
His latest production, The Wastefullness Commission (Sløserikommisjonen, 2021), has caused intense controversies within the art field itself.
For the Arts in Action: Urgencies in Art and Art Education Symposium Morten Traavik has prepared the contribution:
IS CONFRONTATION THE NEW DIALOGUE? “One of the main uses of creative arts is the observing, interpreting and re-imagining of the human condition and its innumerable imperfections, inconsistencies, self-contradictions, (always failed) utopias, double standards, and paradoxes. We live in a hyperconnected age where "public discourse" now means practically any statement or utterance anytime, anywhere. Among its effects in the public domain of the perceived cultural entity known as the West are some fundamental and obvious -and therefore interesting- contradictions. On one hand, the near-monolithic allegiance from both grassroots and state power to abstract concepts like "dialogue", "inclusivity" and "diversity. On the other, a seemingly unprecedented level of polarisation, echo chamber-ification and intolerance towards real or perceived differences of opinion. These developments are as obvious in the humanities as anywhere else - perhaps even more so, for reasons I will attempt to dechiffer. Employing arts and creativity as conveyors of "dialogue" between conflicting sides is no new strategy. However, as a kind of veteran in the field I'd say that the nobler the cause, the harder our look in the mirror should be not to end up creating prescribed, feelgood pseudo-dialogue instead of the real thing, which can be quite confrontational and does not nescessarily lead to "agreement" or "harmony" and perhaps not even "understanding". Drawing on concrete examples from my decades of field research as director and cultural interventionist in, among others, North Korea, Russia and the Norwegian Armed Forces, I will discuss possible, ethical and aesthetic approaches to providing artistic spaces and platforms for differences of opinion. I will also refer to our Norwegian culture discourse and discussions around my ongoing "Wastefulness Commission" project (2020- , part 3 to be staged in Kristiansand winter - 22) as a case study of the issues at hand”.