Vibeke Jensen (NO)
Blue Wall of Silence

The installation tackles questions of control, surveillance, transparency, permanence and the role of the public. A high wall in the shape of a pentagon is erected on Vaterlandtorget square. It 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 passer-bys transform it over time. Writing on and penetration of the wall is encouraged.

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People’s interactions with the pentagon trigger sensor driven sounds and blinking emergency lights from a box situated in its center. The shouts and whispers originate from people’s entries on the Blue Wall of Silence website. The box and the inner workings of the pentagon are secured behind a chain link fence. As the wall crumbles, the barrier becomes an open framework that can be used for public expression. Blue wall of silence is both an aesthetic object and art as energy/expression/action.

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

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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. A 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. Public secrets and authoritarian commands can be heard from the sound-beam when someone touches or passes it.

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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. Israeli 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. Vibeke Jensen explores the ways in which we resist the attempts to regulate individuals and confronts the methodology of controlling the populace through suspicion and fear. She wants to engage the public in thinking about how to turn the current climate of fear and suspicion into an active and discursive public space.

Blue Wall of Silence website
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Vibeke Jensen
Vibeke Jensen is a Norwegian artist based in New York. She uses a mixture of analogue 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 surveillance and control. She poses questions of who is looking at whom, and invites the audience to actively observe themselves and others.

Blue Wall of silence expands her problematic of surveillance of public space formerly explored in the installations Blind_Spot in Stavanger Kulturhus (2004) and Night_Watch under Manhattan Bridge (NY 2006).

Jensen recently won the international competition for electronic light art for the new Information Technology building at the University of Oslo, Norway and is currently involved in creating a mobile solar powered video installation in Spitsbergen. Her work is shown in museums and galleries nationally and internationally: last year in the Bronx Museum, DUMBO Arts Center and Smack Mellon in New York, Event Gallery in London, Rogaland Art Museum, Sogn and Fjordane Art Museum and Galleri F 15 in Norway. She has had solo exhibitions in New York, Beijing, Bogota, Trieste and Norway, and received the OCA Beijing residency in 2005, and a residency at Nordic Artists’ Center in Dale in 2007. Jensen’s work is represented in the collections of Trondheim Art Museum, Sogn og Fjordane Art Museum and Helsebygg Midt-Norge.

Vibeke Jensen’s website