Alternative modes of education, dealing with strategies of dissemination when it comes to language, knowledge and power, often with an anarchistic tint have become staples of the artistic community since the late ’60s. The Norwegian collective the Parallel Action have offered marathon seminars, stretching over the 37 ½ hours of the weekly workload for a Norwegian worker, and high in the trees in make-shift tree forts. This summer the Parallel Action inhabited Kunsthall Oslo for three weeks with their summer school program, each week represented by a maritime theme. The aggressive shark, the drifting plankton and the far-reaching squid were the three mascots, all representing different tactics and modes of attack.
The most aggressive of the three, the week of the shark, was interrupted by real life on the 22nd July when a terrorist detonated a bomb outside governmental buildings in central Oslo and massacred a political youth camp, killing 77 in total. The fluid structure of the seminars and programming allowed the Parallel Action to cope and also to become a coping mechanism, to function more like the fluctuating plankton than the shark. The school opened its doors to the public at the end of each week and the final presentation consisted of a baptizing ceremony, giving each participant a new name, in accordance with traditions for sailors who pass the equator. The recently baptized crew invited the audience to participate, dance, drink, get covered in glitter, paint, honey and whatever else had been used during the preceding ceremony. The night was hedonistic and therapeutic, letting a small segment of a city in shock to blow off some steam and regain a sense of normalcy, through excess.
Except for the unforeseen intrusion of real life during the shark week, fun might be the operative word here– even though the collective effort maintains the language of serious endeavors and adopts a lot of the structures surrounding the school and education in general. Inside the kunsthall a collection of manifestos, collected by students and teachers alike, were all neatly displayed in a make-shift office where things looked very professional and not at all anarchistic, but rather conservative and stale. Another room was dedicated to Dronebrygg, a DIY brewing company with ties to the Parallel Action, the local Young Artists Association (UKS) and the beer brewing community. Dronebrygg finished 6th, 8th and 12th place when they participated in the annual brewing championships in Norway.
The beer and the DIY aspect underline some of the main themes of the Parallel Action’s work. There’s a certain macho attitude to it all, which might not be a surprise, considering the four instigators are men. They build forts in trees, rafts in the harbor and create challenges that test your stamina. All the while girls flock around akin to groupies or cheerleaders. The total effort is anachronistic, hedonistic and shoots itself in the foot. Which might be the point. The most powerful transgressive force in the art world might be immaturity and meandering deviousness, when everything else is professionalized to the bone. Every project needs to have a degree of seriousness, whether it is a ‘fun’ performance or a delectable painting. The language utilized in art is generally serious, rigorous and potentially disarming, as if to underline and eliminate the possibility that art might be simply enjoyed or stray from a linear understanding of art, its values and histories. That might ultimately be a lack on the side of critics and historians, not having the appropriate tools to consider something that is not avant-garde or not hiding behind layers of references. In his book «Crititque of Cynical Reason» German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk offers a kynic resistance to the cynical power that envelopes some of the education and art that the Parallel Action seems to be provoked by. While Sloterdijk defines cynicism as enlightened false consciousness, the kynic is physical, disruptive and in your face. Arguments are made with the body, by exposing flesh, emitting odors and pleasing oneself, privileging it in offending opposition over the platonic dialogue. Cynicism was also something Anders Krueger, the former director of one the most serious and rigorous art academies in the region, in Malmö, touched upon the seminar held during the final day of the summer school. Krueger expressed a desire to find new ways to communicate, teach and learn. But can the ways of the kynic be taught, or can the kynic even teach? The last day also offered a more hedonistic call to arms, and perhaps a fitting solution, by artist Amilcar Packer and curator Daniela Castro, that echoed through the final dinner: love, love, love.