It's insane to plan an international sound art biennal during COVID, but we believe in it!

Seen through the eyes of curator Charlotte Bagger Brandt this serial will focus on the creation of the sound art biennal Struer Tracks #3

The challenges are lined up for Charlotte Bagger Brandt who runs the company Råderum. An office that works with art in the public space, civic engagement and architecture. She is currently the curator of the sound art biennial Struer Tracks, which opens in August this year. And this is where we get to the challenges. For how do you plan an art exhibition in Denmark with site-specific works, performed by international artists at a time when travelling is limited? 

Sound art is more intrusive than for example a sculpture that you can just walk past or turn your back on. Sound art enters people, whether they want it or not. For some it brings an experience, and for others it will surely seem disruptive.

Charlotte Bagger Brandt

It will still be more than half a year until the 3rd edition of Struer Tracks kicks off. But curator Charlotte Bagger Brandt has been planning since the spring of 2020, as it was around this time, she was asked by Biennale Director, Jacob Kreutzfeldt to curate this years biennal in Struer City of Sound. An invitation she couldn't refuse:

It's like an adventure to me to explore a new city

ST# 3: What was it that ran through your head when you first heard about Struer Tracks and got the opportunity to curate the exhibition?

Charlotte: Well, first of all, my curiosity was peaked because I did not know anything about Struer. I am interested in meeting new people and getting to know new places, and Struer was like undiscovered land to me. It's almost a bit adventurous to get to work with a new city that you have not experienced before, and that appeals to me.

Secondly, it triggered me wildly that the biennial is about sound art. I have previously worked with elements of sound art, but never sound art as a focal point. 

It has always been as an element as part of something else and in combination with other art forms. So on both fronts, this was an opportunity to dive into something new and hopefully get wiser, which is always inspirational.

View of Struer from the silo at the harbor. The silo exhibited one of the sound art works during Struer Tracks in 2019: The receiver

Sound art in public space enters people

ST #3: Unlike many other art exhibitions, Struer Tracks is required to take place in the public space. Why is that?

Charlotte: Something exciting happens when you place art in public space, where people move around. With sound art, there is another dimension, namely that sound hits our ears without us being able to prevent it.  

You could say that sound art is more intrusive than for example a sculpture that you can just walk past or turn your back on. Sound art enters people, whether they want it or not. For some it brings an experience, and for others it will surely seem disruptive

The extra dimension makes sound art difficult to ignore. In a way, people have to relate to what is happening in the urban space that also creates a possible conflict, which I find interesting

We could have chosen artworks, which were delivered in some boxes and set up. But it becomes much more interesting when artists get the opportunity to dive into Struer as a place and then use it as a starting point for their artistic work. In the meeting between the artists' aesthetic grip and the locals' knowledge and experiences, something very special emerges.

Charlotte Bagger Brandt

Artworks that cannot be packed in boxes

ST#3: You have chosen the harbor of Struer to form the framework for this summer's exhibition. Why is that?

Charlotte: Part of the framework for Struer Tracks is that the artworks must be site-specific. I've wanted to find some interesting and ambitious Danish and international artists and I have asked them to come and do something in relation to a specific place: Struer.

It also means that these artworks can only be experienced here. They cannot be shipped in a box and be exhibited in London or Copenhagen.

That the specific place in point is in the harbor of Struer is quite obvious to me.

When you ask local people what Struer really is, everyone mention the Limfjord. And although the old industrial harbor is often a bit deserted, it is still the place that connects the city with the Fjord. To me, it is also about exploring some corners of the city where people may not move around on a daily basis and highlight the "forgotten" qualities of that place.

You could say that Struer Tracks stages the harbor and the artists create new layers of stories through their works.

Amplified Views is one of the permanent sound art installations from Struer Tracks 2019 located at Struer Harbor. The artist is Ursula Nistrup in a collaboration with Bang & Olufsen.

This summer we are going to listen to mussels chew

ST #3: What are your personal ambitions for the exhibition? And what does it take for you to think it has been a success?

Charlotte: It's a success if we can get local ownership. That is, if you can touch something and turn the heads of those who live and work in the city. I have a small dream that we can create something that for the locals, also offers a new experience of the place they know so well.

Recently I spoke to a man at the harbor and told him that this summer would be able to experience or listen to mussels chew. Then he looked completely stunned. But if you say the same thing at Blå Biomasse (Blue bioeconomy) at DTU,they know that mussels chewing makes sound. Hopefully everyone in Struer will also know this after Struer Tracks this summer.

In general I put a lot of energy into local collaborations about the artworks.  

We could have chosen artworks, which were delivered in some boxes and set up. But it becomes much more interesting when artists get the opportunity to dive into Struer as a place and then use it as a starting point for their artistic work. In the meeting between the artists' aesthetic grip and the locals' knowledge and experiences, something very special emerges.

In this way, I also believe that we attract many art enthusiasts to Struer because we create something that is completely unique in this area and which can only be experienced in Struer.

Art also provides the opportunity to cheat a little

ST# 3: What does it mean to be at the forefront of planning an exhibition with international participation in the middle of Covid-19?

Charlotte: The quick answer is that it is completely insane - almost stupid. It presents a lot of challenges and sometimes also frustration. But I believe we can succeed, even if we constantly have to do things differently than we thought.

The other day I was in a virtual meeting with the art duo Vinyl Terror & Horror from Berlin, the artist Tarek Atoui in Paris and Kresten Krab-Bjerre from Bang & Olufsenwho are all part of a creative collaboration. It is a huge challenge that they can not be here physically, but somehow, with Kresten's help, they still manage to convey the soul of the place through pictures and storytelling.

Fortunately, creating art involves a great deal of freedom. You can cheat a little and skip some of the obstacles that arise in the creation process. We try to take advantage of that. But it clearly presents some challenges and restlessness at times. However, I believe that we can overcome this and create an exciting exhibition.

We have to believe.

Meet Tarek Atoui - One of the artists in Struer Tracks #3. The video shows “Waters’ Witness ” from 2020, which was Tarek's first solo exhibition.

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