BERLIN 2022 /

Viktor Pedersen with Ingrid K. Bjørnaali


To See Without Man (2022)


Single-channel video, sound ● Duration: 23’22’’ ● Commissioned by Screen City Biennial ● Location: Archenhold Observatory, Solar Physical Cabinet ● Image credits: Viktor Pedersen with Ingrid K. Bjørnaali, To See Without Man (2022). Production still. Courtesy the artists.

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In this animated video, a digitally processed landscape merges plants and humans, leaves and skin, roots and mouths. Chewing and swallowing sounds anticipate a narrating voice that reflects on the inherently cruel metabolic condition of all animal life. Our skin, unable to perform photosynthesis, cannot craft the nutrients we need departing from the matter of starlight and the chemical components present in our surroundings—like plants are able to do. Therefore, we are essentially doomed to exploit the biochemical work of other living beings in order to survive. As argued by the narrating voice, the fact that we must take a life (or at the very least exploit a plant’s work) to stay alive is an inescapable biological feature of the animal body and a result of evolution. However, a general carelessness grounded in human exceptionalism and in the Western logic of extraction is preventing us from acknowledging this exchange with a sense of gratitude for the life we take or use.

To See Without Man is a poetic attempt to make contact with the vegetal mind, in an effort to understand the plants’ modes of sensing their surroundings. Can mind-expanding symbiosis with plants lead us to a broader understanding of their ways of seeing, communicating, and remembering? Can the leaf as an energy-processing surface provide a practical tool to rethink extractive practices, those that are leading to an anthropogenic depletion of resources? Can photosynthesis provide a speculative framework to imagine a future in which the human body has learned to process starlight and has partly become vegetal?

For this work, Ingrid K. Bjørnaali has worked with 3D scans of plants from the Nightshade family (Belladonna, Mugwort, and Tobacco) which are used for medicinal and ritual purposes, and are grown by Viktor Pedersen at home. The spatial sound design has been conducted in collaboration with Notam (Norwegian Center for Technology, Art, and Music) in Oslo.

Viktor Pedersen

Viktor Pedersen (b.1988) works interdisciplinary with video, performance, sound, and text. In his artistic practice, he approaches non-human intelligence to look at how we interact with other organisms in conscious and unconscious ways. Often employing storytelling, Pedersen takes on different roles as hybrid beings—an alien from another dimension, a mushroom that uses his body as a medium, or the bacteria in his body. Through these perspectives, he wishes to challenge and play with the idea of human exceptionalism.

Pedersen received his MFA from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2020, and his BFA from the Academy of Contemporary Art and Creative Writing in Tromsø in 2016. Recent solo exhibitions include Dancing With Dionysos, Galleri Memphis, Oslo (2022) and The Skin, A Border, Studio17, Stavanger (2021). Selected group shows include The Arctic Arts Festival, Harstad (2021), and Høstutstillingen, Oslo (2020). He is the founder and organizer of the platform Wild Seeds. Pedersen lives and works in Oslo.

Ingrid K. Bjørnaali

Ingrid K. Bjørnaali (b.1991) captures specific biotopes with digital camera technologies and works with these bits and pieces of nature based on their virtual outcome. Bjørnaali is interested in various processes of learning from- and interpreting our surroundings and the species we coexist with. Her work dives into different scientific and technological approaches to image-making, among which is photogrammetry, inquiring into the way they alter our scopic regimes. Her works explore the omnipresence of the digital in our experience of the world as well as the inability of technology to adequately articulate matter’s complexity.

Bjørnaali obtained an MFA at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2021, partly pursuing her studies at the Taideyliopiston Kuvataideakatemia’s Time and Space Arts in Helsinki. Her work has been exhibited in Norway, Finland, Croatia, Malta, as well as in international online biennials, and she has taken part in artist residencies in Finland, Spain, and online. She lives and works in Oslo. 

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