After a fellowship at Fotogalleriet in Norway, Dahir Hussein was inspired to curate a group show on identity and indoctrination.
Contemporary And: As a culmination of your one-year fellowship with Fotogalleriet you curated Indoctrination: Multivalent Gestures. Can you elaborate on how your time spent in the institution impacted the curatorial process and concept?
Dahir Hussein: During my fellowship I was able to delve deeper into my interest in exploring themes related to my transnational background using multidisciplinary and cross-cultural methodologies, which allowed me to elevate my curatorial practice. As a result, I began engaging with the artistic practices of emerging artists from the Diaspora. I reshaped my curatorial focus and steered it toward creating an exhibition that would provide viewers a glimpse into these artists’ worlds. The concept for the show reflected my interest in identity-related topics, in how identities are formed and presented. It explores art’s capacities to poetically serve the politics of liberation. The works included in the exhibition are concerned with minority cultural experiences but also address universal themes. We strived to create an environment that fosters collaboration, discussion, knowledge sharing, and exchange, a space where people from different backgrounds can share their experiences with each other.
C&: How does the show approach the topic of indoctrination – and speak to our current zeitgeist?
DH: Indoctrination is often associated with the radicalization of belief systems, politics, or educational frameworks. This exhibition tries to go beyond those polarizing topics. I wanted to point out that indoctrination has a plurivalent meaning in terms of the unconscious possibility of structuring discourse. Through the works in the exhibition, we aim to delve deeper into the complex, multifaceted concept of indoctrination as experienced by the artists presented. Their practices deal with the establishment and enforcement of traditions, as well as the avoidance of certain taboos. The objective of indoctrination is to create intellectual boundaries that restrict the scope of acceptable thoughts and ideas. These boundaries are often rigidly enforced and remain concealed in order to be effective and unquestioned.
C&: You tackle the theme via multiple fields, including queer botany, spiritual belief, and diasporic connectivities.
DH: The diverse approaches serve to resist the homogenization of meaning that often accompanies indoctrination. They offer alternative perspectives on the world, allowing us to embrace the complexity and diversity of our shared human experience. The aim of the show is to re-evaluate our understanding of indoctrination in contemporary society. The current moment of worldwide change can be scary, as we confront potential risks associated with previously comforting aspects of life such as safety, stability, and assumed peace. However, this moment also presents an opportunity for transformation and growth. By using their voices and expressing themselves through art, the artists in this show are enacting and supporting the freedom and power that lies within each of us. This is why art is often seen as a threat to systems of power – as it reminds us of and connects us to our own power, outside of the constraints that seek to control us.
C&: You invited five artists who work in various media. What parameters defined your curatorial choices?
DH: Lengua, Jinbin Chen, Dev Dhunsi, Ilavenil Jayapalan, and Margaret Abeshu were carefully invited based on their engagement with the concept of identity and how it is formed and presented in today’s world. Their works offer creative and engaging ways to bring a variety of cultures and perspectives to life. These artists have been invaluable collaborators, and we have previously developed site-specific community-driven exhibitions, events, and publications together. We hope to offer a joint reflection on the effects of past, present, and future.
C&: While the show surpasses limited beliefs around nationality, citizenship, and monoculture, is it also speaking to a specific Norwegian sentiment?
DH: Despite Norway’s century-long history of contemporary art, the domination of capital affects our visual, ethical, and ontological perspectives. Long-standing struggles, protests, and critiques seem to be relegated to the status of nostalgic curiosities, lacking the urgency necessary for meaningful change. Even more concerning is the fact that many of our contemporaries remain inward-looking and surprisingly conservative, failing to engage with even mildly controversial topics. It’s crucial to acknowledge the limitations of contemporary art and the ways in which it has been co-opted by dominant systems of power. Instead of passively consuming art, we must actively engage with it and use it as a tool for challenging and transforming the world around us. Only then can we begin to break free from the confines of hegemonic ideologies and embrace the complexity and diversity of our shared human experience.
Indoctrination: Multivalent Gestures was on view at Fotogalleriet, Oslo from —
Magnus Elias Rosengarten is a writer and artist who currently lives in Berlin.