Artists are not like fairies floating around surviving on red wine and coke, we are workers.

Fra Hanan Benammars store utstilling på Bomuldsfabriken  i Arendal i februar

Fra Hanan Benammars store utstilling på Bomuldsfabriken i Arendal i februar

På et møte i regi av Bylab Oslo i mars 2024 kom kunstneren Hanan Benammar med følgende innspill, som tåler å spres vidt og bredt:

My name is Hanan Benammar, I am a professional artist based in Oslo since 2011. I know I am not here to talk about myself, but since I am here I should just explain what a contemporary artist does today. For my sake, I can say that I work with a variety of mediums, including sound, video, music, print making field recordings, performance, installation, sculptures and interventions in public space which involve a lot of people. I have had several commissions and my work is part of several private collections. I have received quite a lot of praise for my work, and I am glad for that, but the struggle for a place to work remains. 

Many artists have several roles to play, and I am no exception. In addition to my art practice, I have been running my own art space. I have also been organising the Winter Solstice for 12 years, a nomadic experimental arts festival moving to a new location in Oslo every year since 2012. The Winter Solstice festival has been thought exactly as a way to understand the social and political development of urban planning and is a thermometer of the rapid gentrification of Oslo. I have also been part of several boards, juries and diverse initiatives, all of them concerned by the artists’ working conditions, political pressures on art and artists, and basically how long can we last.  

And in between all of that, a good chunk of my time has been spent in continuously fighting for having a space to work. Meetings among artists, meetings with politicians in power, meetings with politicians in the opposition, meetings with unions, phone calls, emails, project proposals, site visits, budgets, floor plans, reports, protests, articles, interviews, innspillsmøter, moving in, moving out.  

If you think this is the first time I have been standing here in an innspillsmøte to explain why and how artists should have a place to work, you are sadly mistaken.  

It doesn’t really seem to matter what the outcome of these meetings is or what the outcome of this very meeting will be, we consistently end in the same situation: professional artists are undesirable. Oslo wants the art, not the artists. The city wants the big institutions, not the artists. The big institutions want the luxury, the bling, the view on the fjord for their offices, not the artists. Real estate agents want development, not the artists. Kulturetaten wants the attention economy, not the artists. The artists, as a small eclectic group of individuals, being outnumbered by a myriad of people with full time jobs that have creative activities on the side and can afford the high price, they just want an affordable place to work.  

A place with okay air, okay light, okay accessibility. A place where they can grow roots without fearing being kicked out in a few months. A place where they can finally dare to really unload all the card board boxes. A place where they can socialise with other art professionals and unfold the big and small steps of their practice. A place where they feel respected. 

I am currently having a studio at Myntgata 2 together with 50 artists, and we have to move out within 3 weeks. We have worked tirelessly to get an extension, we get 3 months at a time. About 100 artists have already lost their studios at Ila Pensjonat. We were told last year that there will be replacement for the missing studios. We were told now in February there might be an extension until summer. We were told there would be an open call in the spring, now it’s in the autumn. We are tired.  

Disclaimer: Artists are not like fairies floating around surviving on red wine and coke, we are workers. We work tirelessly every day, most of us without a stipend like I do, we are part of the working force, we are workers both in the studios and in society. If 150 workers in a factory would lose their workplace, it would be national news. 

This is how the myth of the poor artist making good art out of suffering keeps on living, but this is just a myth. Artists need to stop wasting their energy on where to make their art and instead invest it in the art practice itself. We need continuity, permanent and affordable spaces. And this where your bydel can truly make a difference in Oslo.  

In order to succeed, you need to continuously involve art professionals to create something that will function in the long run, stop the privatisation of the public, and renovate spaces. We should all realise that art is not fast food. Build a vision, invest in the future. 

Takk for meg.

Using Format