The Nordic Pavilion in La Biennale di Venezia 2015
Presented by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), ‘Rapture’ is Norway’s contribution to the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. In 2015 Norway is solely responsible for the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale for the first time in its history. For this unprecedented occasion, OCA commissioned artist Camille Norment (b. 1970) to develop the project.
Norment’s ‘Rapture’ is a site-specific, sculptural and sonic installation in the Nordic Pavilion, for which the American-born, Oslo-based artist composed new music on the glass armonica – a legendary 18th-century instrument that creates ethereal music from glass and water. Invented by Benjamin Franklin and once played by Mozart and Marie Antoinette, the glass armonica was at first celebrated for curing people with its entrancing music, but later it was banned because it was thought to induce states of ecstasy and arouse sexual excitement in women. If it had the power to cure, so the logic went, this bewitching instrument might also have the power to kill through over-exciting its listeners.
In a contemporary context, Norment explores the tensions this music raises today by creating a multi-sensory space, which reflects upon the history of sound, contemporary concepts of consonance and dissonance, and the water, glass and light of Venice. The artist composes a chorus of voices that correspond to the unresolved notes of the much censored “devils’s” tritone and of the glass armonica, and this chorus immerses visitors to ‘Rapture’.
‘Rapture’ explores the relationship between the human body and sound, through visual, sonic, sculptural and architectural stimuli. Today the sonic realm can be both a space of misuse, as we have seen in the militaristic use of sound to abuse the body, and of affirmation, as in the performative utterance of free speech to affirm the right of the body’s very existence. The body can be stimulated and moved by sound, and in Norment’s work, the Nordic Pavilion itself becomes a body in rapture and rupture, consonance and dissonance.
Camille Norment comments: ‘Sound, by its nature, permeates borders – even invisible ones. Throughout history, fear has been associated with the paradoxical effects music has on the body and mind, and its power as a reward-giving de-centraliser of control. Recognised as capable of inducing states akin to sex and drugs, music is still seen by many in the world as an experience that should be controlled – especially in relation to the female body – and yet it is also increasingly used as a tool for control, especially under the justifications of war.’
Katya Garcia-Anton, Director of OCA, Norway and Curator of the Nordic Pavilion comments: ‘We have commissioned Camille Norment to represent Norway at the Nordic Pavilion of the Venice Biennale 2015 because she is one of the most innovative, cross-disciplinary artists working in Norway today. Her work is both poetic and physical, and considers sound as an evocative artistic medium. Norment is an American-born artist, who has chosen for over a decade to live and work in Oslo, which reflects the stimulating environment for experimental contemporary art and culture in the Norwegian capital and around the country. We wish to celebrate this on the occasion of Norway's first ever Nordic Pavilion.’