"Between the Sticky and Sublime"

Black hair, Hairstyle, Shoulder, Neck, Comfort, Sleeve, Eyewear, Artist, Cool, Thigh

Artist in her studio. Foto: Ljerka Kukurin

Essay by Erik Sæter Jørgensen

Siri Borge is a native of Western Norway and grew up in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. The Norwegian oil capital of Stavanger was historically a working-class town on the edge of the North Sea, built on industry and a protestant work ethic, telling its story against a rain-soaked backdrop of opulence. When Norway discovered oil at the end of the '60s, the City of Stavanger undertook a journey from global irrelevance to the upper-middle-class extravaganza. It's this unique environment that has shaped Borge's socially engaged practice. Growing up somewhere small enough to force interaction between every social class and subculture, whether you want to or not, quickly imprints the unwritten rules of social dynamics. Borge's reward was an insider's knowledge of fundamental human concepts like gender and class while simultaneously acquiring an outsider's detachment, providing a clear view of both the overt and covert structures governing life in Norway.

The artist consistently chooses the underdog's side, working in various mediums including performance, sculpture, and video — or as a curator in Norway and abroad. Borge isn't concerned with doing things the right way but takes a direct approach to her art-making, discovering her unique take on interacting with the material along the way. This material honesty links her practice to punk and no wave ideas.

The American art critic Dave Hickey spoke of the divide between the spectators, those who show up but contribute nothing, and the participants who don't need luring but appear and, by doing so, increase the value of what they love. In terms of an artist's practice, this is how you separate those who play the art game - sometimes well - and offer performative contributions void conviction from those who seek the unexplored, always hunting for what shines brighter. The participant's path is arduous, as authority regularly block your way like a drunk in a bathroom queue. Still, disregarding these everyday obstacles, Borge hard-headedly keeps moving forward, always forward.

The underlying chasm of privilege between the haves and the have-nots regularly fuels for the artist's further explorations. While the unrestrained spending of the wealthy is harder to spot among reserved Scandinavians, the class divide is as rigid as anywhere.

No longer content with creating works merely commenting on society, Borge recently became an active member of a Norwegian political party dedicated to fighting inequality. This expansion of her practice grew from a dedication to research. Initially seen as an act of infiltration in the search for a deeper understanding, it gradually developed into an emphatic commitment to affecting change through policymaking.

Participant, not spectator.

In her new performance entitled "A Requiem for a Reindeer", the artist uses a theremin, an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical touch, and a loop pedal to create soundscapes that gradually build and end abruptly — all while wearing a reindeer mask. This interplay between human society and nature lies at the core of the work, blending the seductive and off-putting, mirroring the impact of human development on the natural world with its unintended and frequently disastrous consequences.

This duality of the enticing and repellent is key to engaging with Borge's works — from contrasting the splendour of Norwegian national romanticism and the nouveau riche to the schizophrenic overlap between traditional sardine canneries and ubiquitous Teslas. Her sculptures using industrial epoxy nod to art history and objects like the still-life or fountain. But in Borge's work, the fountain gleefully spitting water contains a long-spoiled fish head forever trapped in see-through epoxy. Her "Resting Cod Face" glassworks make use of traditional techniques commonly associated with decorative windows, widely known for their commercial or religious applications, and presents the audience with a representation of a cod's head, spiky teeth included.

Borge is an enthusiast of human duplexity, all wonder, and grace in one moment, then limp and gooey the next. The aesthetic appeal of the work draws you in, but like encountering a vibrant jellyfish on a tropical beach, there is danger just beneath the surface, making it all the more alluring.