I have never expected to be any good at anything relating to drawing or painting. I enjoyed it as a kid but never had any formal training, and once I grew up enough that drawing and painting was “childish”, I never really missed it or went back to it, perhaps except for frequent droodling in my notebooks as a student and academic. I guess that is why I have enjoyed getting my old watercolours out for Creative Boot Camp. Since no one, myself included, expects me to be good at it, I don’t have that nasty mental voice telling me that what I do isn’t good enough.
When asked to jump right in and get some art on the page, in order to keep away that other mental voice that says you can’t do this, it is no coincidence that the first thing that occured to me to paint was letters. I have always been a verbal person more than anything. Much more so than a visual person. My parents tell stories of how I was far more interested in the letters than the pictures in my books as soon as I became aware of the letters themselves and their connection with what my parents were reading to me. Learning to read and write, I was fascinated by the shapes of letters and the relationship between them – the similarities between the sounds and shapes of p and b for instance, and the fact that all the letters combine on the page to make up an infinte amount of different utterances. –This focus on forms and shapes – including the circle – is something I want to develop more in my photography in general.
When I began to focus seriously on photography, my interest in letters planted an urge to translate language into something visually interesting to look at. Language itself is in essence an intagible entity; only by using letters to abstract it onto the page are we able to “see” it. My project Shooting Language is where I stumble along the path of discovering what language looks like.
There is a political side to this idea of shooting language, quite apart from the my artistic fascination with letters. Like many smaller countries in the world, Norway cannot do without English any longer. This fact is displayed not only in the fact that quite a few Norwegians achieve fluency in English and use it frequently in their work, but in the linguistic landscapes of the country. There is advertising in English, English film titles displayed on cinema facades, English books on the bookstore shelves, and so on and so forth. Norwegian is not, at this point, at risk of being replaced by English. That being said, it will serve us well if we are aware of it when English starts to become more dominant in certain aspects of Norwegian life. I certainly agree that happiness is a way of life, but I would by far prefer to live a happy life in Norway in Norwegian.