Vibeke Jensen’s Blue Wall of Silence
31.03.2007 by Urban Interface Oslo

The Blue Wall of Silence is an installation by the Norwegian artist Vibeke Jensen and will be premiered at urban interface olso in September.

Description

The installation takes place in a public space in Oslo. A wall is constructed and installed on a square. The wall has the shape of a 3 meter tall pentagon, each side is 3×3 meters. The wall consists of a wooden frame with the sides covered in a material that will disintegrate during the course of the exhibition. Initially the wall is smooth, while the weather and the interactions of birds and passersby transform it over time. Writing on and penetration of the wall is encouraged. As the wall crumbles, the barrier becomes an open framework that can be used for expression, play, view, tagging and public notice. Blue wall of silence is both an aesthetic object and art as energy/expression/action.

The global character of this thematic (boarder crossing, control, censorship) is emphasized by an interactive database on the Blue wall of Silence website. People can enter private stories and quotations related to walls and barriers and the act of crossing them. The quotations are transformed into shouts and whispers that are heard over the speakers inside the wall of the installation. The public can contribute to the discourse both locally and globally, and interact physically and electronically. The website url is written on the front of the barrier. The Blue Wall of Silence website also documents the progress of the project.

Essential to Blue wall of Silence is the combined use of physical space and the data sphere, and people’s ability to influence both. New technology is utilized in the form of web-based interaction, speech technology and sensor driven sound responses. One hyper-directional speaker is installed close to the wall. The speaker is projecting sounds that are swiping along the wall in a very “thin” beam guided by a motor. The sounds are generated from people’s contributions to the project website. A number of small speakers with sensors are installed inside the wall and “talk” to the passersby. Public secrets and commands can be heard from the physical barrier when someone touches or passes it. The sounds are interactive and play when triggered. They vary from seductive whispers to authoritarian demands.

Perspective

The background for the project is how the current increase in population and information flows is matched by confinements, prohibitions, surveillance and loss of civil liberties. We witness a proliferation of walls, borders and fences. Israel and the US have revived the ancient practice of making physical borders, while the European Union (and soon Norway as well) participate in new surveillance programs tracking our every movement and communication. Surveillance equipment becomes smaller, faster and more precise – digital, invisible and immaterial while conservative power systems show a love for visible, monumental and impenetrable manifestations like the Israel security wall. There are various forms of psychological warfare going on in public space: security systems and checkpoints, virtual frontiers and specialized zones are introduced. Simultaneously there is a steady expansion of the use of borders on all levels and a corresponding expansion of the definition of individual transgression. I explore and confront the ways in which we resist the attempts to regulate individuals and confront the methodology of controlling the populace through suspicion and fear. I want to engage the public in thinking about how to turn the current climate of fear and suspicion into an active and discursive public space.

Biography

Vibeke Jensen is a Norwegian visual artist. She uses video, close-up photography and digital media to deal with subjects such as the pleasures and fears of watching and being watched. In her installations she transforms the exhibition space and constructs situations that challenge viewers to explore different positions of peeping, voyeurism and surveillance. She poses questions of who is looking at whom, and invites the audience to actively observe themselves and others.

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