“THE EMPTY HAND OF INNOCENCE TRANSFUSING STREET OF THE SORROWS AND CHILDREN OF THE WOOD HOUNDED, SHREDDING ALL VEILS AND WINDING ALL SHEETS OF THE DEAD WORLD DRONING OVERTURNING TABLES LADEN WITH SILVER SACRIFICIAL BIRDS BEATING GOAT-SKIN DRUMS ADVANCING WITH HANDS OUT-STRETCHED AND WE KEEP FILLING THEM WITH MERCURY NITRATE, ASBESTOS BABY BOMBS BLASTING BLUE SCAVENGERS PICKING THROUGH THE ASHES CHILDREN OF THE MILLS! CHILDREN OF THE JUNKYARDS! SLEEPY, ILLITERATE, FUZZY LITTLE RATS HAUNTED, PAINT-SNIFFIN’, STONED OUT OF THEIR SHAVED HEADS FORGOTTEN, FORAGING, MYSTICAL CHILDREN FOUL-MOUTHED, GLASSY EYED, HALLUCINATING.”
These roaring sounds of rock queen Patti Smith’s voice in my red ears, song she played already before Kim Gordon and Carrie Brownstein: the Nirvana’s famous “Smells Like Teen Spirit” what had triggered a landslide of irrational reactions to many heads around the globe. Patti is spitting out her heartfelt lumps of prickly opinions with crashing squeals- a hazardous beautiful lady with dangerously attractive texts!
Where do we search for that kind of young spirit today?
Flashing and steady fading from the usually darkened building located in the shadow of City Hall, the dim light is steering us to meet some of the city’s dynamic woman with name Helene Gulaker Hansen; the city’s own contemporary conductor and current fine art inaugurator
Helene Gulaker Hansen is curating the conceptual exhibition of a photographer – Jo Bentdal and his Common Sensibility.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Joa, you have a remarkable interest in philosophy, you are actually an educated physicist, right? Last time we met you at the Apotheke cafe, it was a guilty pleasure, thank you! We had a lengthy discussion about quantum physics and other meta-themes, we were sharing the conversation about superhumans, the progress, the future, etc … We were not collecting or playing intellectual notes’ ball to each other, it was an enjoying and easy going dialogue with a wide area of thoughts. I remember we were pleasantly provoked by your naturalistic thoughts about the future and the city development … By currently shaking reality from all the sides, pre-apocalyptic conditions in many corners of the world, extreme economic turbulence, political schizophrenia, religion, aversion, etc… I am glad to ask you again: what’s happening? Are we facing a significant change? Are we done with the old world? Are we searching for a new? A new form? New idea? New human ideals?
JO BENTDAL: – Human beings are becoming more and more dominant on the planet, and what we describe as progress is mostly about improving the conditions for humanity itself, which now may turn out to be a short-term plan. If the target is a short-term improvement of living conditions for the majority of people, it is alleged that we succeed. With a smaller proportion living in extreme poverty, less war and violence (in fact – although the media more than suggests otherwise), longer average life expectancy, etc. It is, however, plenty of indications that we need to widen our scope of thought to prevent the bottom from falling out of this development.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – What shall we realize today?
JO BENTDAL: – We must realize that everything is interconnected and that our own ability to innovate and form our personal development is peanuts compared to the impact and results created by the laws of nature and evolution for (at least) 13.8 billion year. I am still hot the opinion that human development is moving forward, despite frequent and severe cases of hubris and at species-chauvinism. Everyone is born with an IQ higher than 0, and as a collective body representing the humanity of minds, which provides the foundation for experiential learning, both in the areas we make mistakes and where something works. If measures leverage this collective intelligence to be adapted optimally, it will probably be okay, but yes – in a way, it assumes a new paradigm. It requires that we allow information, insights, and knowledge flow to all. It assumes we turn the trend we are now seeing that more and more power is accumulated by fewer people – a few heads with the limited collective knowledge and limited overall IQ. It presupposes that people will think for themselves, that they make conscious choices and that we avoid having everyone thinking and acting in a uniform direction (any direction – we must have a balance). And as I said:
“It presupposes that we see the whole picture and stop believing that man is infinitely more important here on the planet than anything else that we actually rely on to survive. And not least, we realize that we have created as a species so far probably cannot match to value what we have destroyed.”
“I think it has always existed individuals who have “seen the light” – the new paradigm might be that everyone does it? Enter the next level! “
ARTHUR SOPIN: – You are very convenient to link thoughts to your viewer on to more profound existence, whether it’s people or other motives, through your photos, we are sucked into a guessing process, and we are tricked to analyze anthropology of your heroes. What is so exciting about the observation?
JO BENTDAL: – Everything we are is a result of something that comes from outside. Whether through evolution and genes or through experiences gathered and consequences of our interaction with the environment. Observing the world can provide a ground for understanding the conditions for one’s own role in different contexts. Seeing ourselves about our surroundings is essential as a basis for our actions.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Joa, you have more details about that, have not you? Our ears are wide open!
JO BENTDAL: – When we are confronted with an image with suitable content, we get the opportunity to stop by a discrete set of impressions and remain there as long as we want. This is the chance to pursue our own associations to an end, to know our personal emotional response, and feel free to analyze the experience of encounter with the work.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – How does it appear in your artistry?
JO BENTDAL: – When I do what I do, it is not to force a message onto the viewer, but rather the aim is to initiate a subjective reflection. I believe this is the only path to knowledge-based development. Observation and visual communication, including the visual arts, provide tools to expand the language and communicate outside the framework of logical reasoning. In a culture that after the Enlightenment has become more and more mechanistic, it is perhaps just a treatment of the phenomena that do not «add up» or that can not be solved within a given set of analytical models (which will always have limited validity and relevance) – which is art’s purpose. It’s refractive surfaces between different dogmas, analytical mental models, and worldviews that give dissonance – the pieces of the overall picture that does not fit together.
ARTHUR: – What is the trick?
JO BENTDAL: – Here the trick is possibly an entrance to an intuitive/analytic/spiritual synthesis that can provide the necessary holistic perspective to restore a functioning worldview – or at least a working experience of the world and ourselves.
ARTUR SOPIN: – It is shimmering a universe behind your eyes, I would like to find out more about your background. What was influencing you most when you were a kid?
JO BENTDAL: – Well…. I had good friends and the opportunity to express myself, but what affected me the most? Do not really know, I probably felt pretty early that I even had a specific control over the development of my own identity. The answer must surely be that it was the sum of everything I went through and how I chose to relate to it, that made me who I am. But I got positive confirmation from family and friends when there was some reason for it – and that probably was a great help in this process.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – In today’s life, most of us swear to the Routine bible. Machinery is quite standard these days in all the aspects… Your conceptual images point out, tidy and diplomatically, the identity of an invention, as a curiosity or as a treasure that everyone should search for, some are doing it for a whole long life. This search is hurtfully placed by your terms in your mastery. Well, you’ve got certainly some epic narratives, please, can you open to us some phrases that define your ID?
JO BENTDAL: – A characteristic of myself, I would instead not venture into, but some keywords related to myself you can get: I guess I’m kinda analytical but strive to be undogmatic. Integrity is essential to me, and so I’m probably quite brave, in a careful manner.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – It seems that you are fascinated by youth, what inspires you in its condition?
JO BENTDAL: – The obvious: a potential. People who are not corrupt (yet) – people who are not eaten up by the machine (all together).
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Your work “Common Sensibility” is quite a hidden and terrifying artistry! When the eyes are meeting your girls, there is a connection to come, it grabs instantaneously to the ears and other senses, I can actually almost hear motions and sounds behind the prints, anybody? You do it quite politely, as in magic tricks … I begin to wonder if it will slip a dove out of the picture or will it be the flame this time. You are a gifted magician Joa! Why do we love to play?
JO BENTDAL: – I think the game has a lot of the same as what I have previously described as arts potential. In the play, the boundaries are set to give form, substance, and meaning – not to restrict.
“In the game, one can withdraw from a certain framework at any given time -and choose another game. Life, in general, should be more like playing.”
ARTHUR SOPIN: – In “Common Sensibility,” you are blurring across war and peace, youth and old, traditional and rebellious as a radical agenda. It’s suffocating applicable, especially today, and we enjoy those moments with you! But still, what is your opinion about humanity’s aspiration to the ideal man, a superhero, Superman? Can we do it? Do we need it? Do we have any satisfactory examples so far? And is there something we’re missing? Is something forgotten?
JO BENTDAL: – A culture has virtually unlimited potential – a potential to destroy everything, and at the same time, a possibility for continuous positive development. The tools we make and the discoveries we make could be used positively or negatively. But the transhumanist the idea that the man will take over for evolution and “improve” nature which has created him, it is, in my opinion, blatant idiocy. We might apply ourselves better to the fruits of innovation, but we cannot beat nature when it comes to developing living entities. It’s like learning a father to create children. This subject interests me, and I’m working on to create a series that treat this, but here and now, I think this will be everything I choose to say about the matter.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Can you explain the word “common” and “sensibility” outside the name “Common Sensibility” ‘s borders. And what is fascinating about each of those words?
JO BENTDAL: – This is extensive – I think I just recommend to taste the word, and possibly a peek at what Wikipedia, Immanuel Kant, and Hannah Arendt have to say about the Sensus Communis. Another one, a bit random but funny connotation, is Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” – When I replace “sense” with “sensibility” as a proposal for a “next level” version of the term “common sense.” A version that is more in keeping with the intuitive/analytic/spiritual synthesis I’ve poked earlier in the interview…
“Maybe that for some can also act as an appeal for independence from an unnamed empire (not the British this time).”
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Let’s talk about motivation, what motivates you? What mechanisms are moving you to self-fulfillment?
JO BENTDAL: – My goal is to have a good time – and fun – it presupposes that I can do what I believe is right. It presumes that I do not bluff myself, and it assumes that I operate in a context that works and gives me the necessary confirmation that I’m not just doing it for myself.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – If I would say, that you are designing a new Norwegian identity… Are you trying to create a modern movement?
JO BENTDAL: – Hmmm … NO! – I’d like to help put people in motion, but not all in one direction. Instead of a continuous movement towards the core of which is them, at a given time – in a given context.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Individual vs. collective?
JO BENTDAL: – Yes, please- both!
ARTHUR SOPIN: – You’re reviewing your heroines with: “everything we next deliver shall They acquire. With a new mindset?”… we are smiling widely here in DT 500 MAG’s crew, Joa, you should do stand-up, didn’t you ever think about it? This assertion is a pretty hard-core denied dilemma in today’s society… tragically among the brainwashed youth too…What would you choose Joa – a healthy sense or demanding challenge?
JO BENTDAL: – Demanding challenge! It’s much more fun (and safer).
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Do you think we need the system in the future? Or should it flourish well-behaved anarchy?
JO BENTDAL: – At McDonald’s, they have strictly defined work routines that ensure a predictable (and a little sad) result in spite of less qualified employees. In a jazz trio is more freely forward – but you know exactly what you are doing (have high qualifications), understand and respect the context, you can adapt and can effectively communicate with the other members.
“I would rather live in a “jazz trio society” than a “McDonalds world .”
ARTHUR SOPIN: – It is a claim: “We only live once, “Do we really? Or someone desperately wants to trick us? What do you personally think about that?
JO BENTDAL: – We do, and so it should be – unless we go into the subjects of parallel realities and such, but the other truths are nevertheless 100% out of reach, and only relevant for understanding how our existence may have come to be. So for all practical purposes, and outside afterparty mode: “it all adds up to normality” -Leonard Susskind.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – Can you describe the qualities of courage? And what is your opinion about changing traditions?
JO BENTDAL: – I think insight gives courage and prevents foolhardiness. Justified challenges to conventions are significant. It is also good to understand and respect qualities that have made something a tradition. But in my worldview, nothing is sacred other than integrity (and it’s also entirely futile to challenge the laws of nature, but that principle manages itself and needs no symbolic definition as holy).
ARTHUR SOPIN:- Do we need a new national Idea, especially in Norway? Would you try to define it?
JO BENTDAL: – A new national idea: Yes, more and many! I would define it: No – I believe in subjectivity in identity questions. My idéplattform is mine, and should never be national! I hope other Norwegians have their own ideas and I hope they are not buying everything in one place when they’re building it out. I’m not a fan of uniformity – it is suboptimal and stupid.
ARTHUR SOPIN: – What is the most inspiring to you that has happened in Oslo / Norway so far?
JO BENTDAL: – My “night of the expanding man” was at that time 5 years ago when I chose to focus on my own photo projects full time. On the macro level, I struggle a bit to think of any baffling event.
ARTHUR: – What is your most appropriate current quote?
JO BENTDAL: – Right now – here I am writing:
“I do it for my health, nobody feels me quite as much as I feel myself …..”, from Watkin Tudor Jones Jr’s “Love is”
ARTHUR: – What is your next project?
JO BENTDAL: – The working title is “The Law of the Instrument” aka. “Maslow’s Hammer.” It’s about excessive technology-optimism and analytical hubris, and about the superman, I was asked about earlier in the interview.
ARTHUR: – Se you around mate! #Rapture! #dt50015minoffame
Interview by Arthur Sopin Photography by Jo Bentdal