FIRE NATION (2021)
Single channel video, three channel audio installation.
Fire Nation takes the paradoxical condition of Norway's self-image—which projects ideals of fairness and environmental stewardship in the Amazon and elsewhere, while simultaneously operating as one of the highest volume energy miners in Brazil—as an example to examine climate optics, power and powerlessness, and the relationship of politics and capital.
Fire Nation was produced for the group exhibition ‘The Ocean’ at Bergen Kunsthall (28.08—31.10.2021) and supported by the Norwegian Culture Fund.
In Fire Nation, we follow the story of Emma, a young student and climate activist, as she reflects on her entanglement in an extensive rebranding campaign carried out by the Norwegian state-owned energy company Statoil (now Equinor) in 2018, alongside its shift to so-called "broad energy" with a future-oriented, socially and ecologically conscious image. The work unfolds through audio interviews accompanied by a visual deconstruction of the Equinor produced video ‘Takk Statoil! Det Har Vært En Glede’ (Thank you, Statoil! It’s Been a Pleasure) dubbed in Portuguese for the Brazilian market. Fire Nation zooms in on, slows down, and systematically investigates these commercially produced images in a hypnotic visual poem that prompts questions about their latent political power. Together with the audio interviews, the soundtrack contains a field recording from Praça Mauá, in Rio de Janeiro. This the port area which was the largest gateway to the Americas for enslaved people from Angola, East, and Central West Africa during the imperialist era, when Norway became the third largest shipping nation in the world as a global carrier of natural resources. Today it is the location of among others Museu de Arte do Rio, of which Equinor is a sponsor. While the Norwegian State projects ideals of fairness and environmental stewardship in the Amazon and elsewhere, it is simultaneously operating as one of the highest volume energy miners in Brazil. Equinor is among the world's largest net sellers of crude oil operating today as well as being Norway’s largest company, involved in partnerships with among others Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil. By oil extraction volume, Equinor is currently the largest multinational at work in Brazil, which is projected to be one of the five largest oil producing areas in the world by 2030. Fire Nation takes this paradoxical condition of Norway's self-image as an example to examine climate optics, power and powerlessness, and the relationship of politics and capital. Through intimate yet confrontational conversations, the work instigates dialogue about the effects of corporate image-making on state politics as well as the lives of individuals.
With: Emma Eide Rydingen Ståle Knudsen Espen Wæhle Ragnhild Freng Dahle Petro Stempniewski Research assistance: Caroline Stampone Editing: Ina Hagen / Matúš Pisarčík Field recording: Irla Franco Transcriptions: Joakim Eide, Miriam Hansen, Caroline Stampone Translations: Hannah Mjølsnes, Caroline Stampone, Ina Hagen Thanks to: Sol Archer, Jürgen Bock, Bruna Castro, Nayara Leite, Andreza, Angélic, Benedito, Camena, Camilla, Clarissa, Dalita, Érica, Evelyn, Flávia, Ilda, Jaqueline, Jeanette, José, Juliano, Júlio, Laila, Luís Augusto, Marelli, Marília, Michele, Pedrina, Rebeca, Rhayanne, and Rodrigo. Of specific inspiration to this work is the research project ‘ENERGETHICS - Norwegian energy companies abroad. Expanding the anthropo- logical understanding of corporate social responsibility’ (2015 - 2019) from the Department of Social Anthropology at University of Bergen, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), and School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. Thanks to project leader Ståle Knudsen, Head of department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, and affiliated researcher Siri Lange, Professor at the Department of Health Promotion and Development at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, for their support. Thanks to social anthropologist and senior researcher at the Western Norway Research Institute, Ragnhild Freng Dahle, and to Espen Wæhle, curator of ‘Kongospor’ (2007), which was a collaboration between Etnografiska Museet, Stockholm/Statens museer för Världskultur, Nationalmuseets Etnografiske Samling, Copenhagen; Riksutställningar, Stockholm; Kulturernas Museum, Helsinki; and Kul- turhistorisk Museum, the University of Oslo. ‘Fire Nation’ was developed for ‘The Ocean’ at Bergen Kunsthall. A very special thanks to Axel Wieder and the team at Bergen Kunsthall, for their continued trust and support. For 'The Ocean', the work included a collective listening to the sonic environments of central Bergen Harbor and Praça Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and included a conversation between artist Ina Hagen; Writer and research assistant on ‘Fire Nation’ Caroline Stampone; Senior researcher at West- ern Norway Research Institute, Ragnhild Freng Dale (who also appears in ‘Fire Nation’), and sound artist Emile Wright, with space for questions, reflections and contributions of other kinds.