Kunsthall Trondheim
Past exhibition

A Body of Memory (from neurons to the sea)

Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi: INTO THE VIOLET BELLY (2022), video still. Color, sound, 19′28′′. Courtesy the artist

This thematic group exhibition explores the role that memory plays in the construction of a person’s sense of self, and how identity, like remembrance, is something that is shaped by experience, history, knowledge of our bodies, and other factors and contingencies. Eschewing supernatural notions of a fixed and eternal soul, A Body of Memory (from neurons to the sea) takes inspiration from a psychological “turn” away from metaphysics and religion, and towards the idea that recalling who we were helps to shape and inform who we are, and what we shall become. Through the work of nine international artists, A Body of Memory (from neurons to the sea) traces the various ways and means through which recollection is not only tied to cognition, but how the plastic, malleable, and mutable nature of memory affects our ties to ourselves and other individuals, both human and non-human.

This change in the perception of the self – from something cosmic, intangible, and set, to something more social, embodied, and fluid – opens unique ways of thinking about our shared existence in specific, and memory formation in general. For example, how do the inherited stories and life experiences of our forefathers, foremothers, and other forebears inform not only how we think about ourselves, but how we feel as well? Furthermore, how do our learned senses – of taste, and touch, but also of pain and thirst, for example – read the world, and how do these processes and organs construct people’s worldviews and specific emotions at the same time?

Like a light shined through a prism, the exhibition at Kunsthall Trondheim casts various impressions on how life can be awakened from resting archives and other evidentiary means. For example, in Libita Sibungu’s project Quantum Ghost (2019–2023), the artist uses sound and language to create an aural experience that explores processes of constructing and deconstructing experience as a way to channel the often-incomprehensible nature of holding or thinking about a memory. How stories change through different tellings and their transmission between different generations, and how each of those generations carries and holds these reports, can likewise be illustrated through Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi’s film work INTO THE VIOLET BELLY (2022), an intimate collaboration between the artist and her mother – who fled Vietnam after the end of the American War via a near-calamitous sea journey – which blends family lore, mythology, science fiction, and digital abstraction, and for which the artist has made a new presentation, In it snakes entwine while the stars tremble (2023), specifically for the exhibition together with the architect George Vlasis Pakalidis; or seen through the artificial intelligence and spiritual medium called Piña, in the VR installation Piña, Why is the Sky Blue? (2022) by Stephanie Comilang & Simon Speiser, which safekeeps and broadcasts a chronicle of inherited knowledge, memories, and dreams for the future. Similarly, Tai Shani’s open-source program Mnemesoid, an almost infinite database of experiences – named after the Greek goddess of memory Mnemosyne – is fictively presented at “the end of all time”, where the program replays moments on the limit of experience that have defied its capacity to produce a satisfactory sensory dimension; moments of intense touch, love – erotic and spiritual – and self-consciousness.

A Body of Memory (from neurons to the sea) also hosts a seductive encounter with the sea slug Aplysia californica – which has been utilized as a test subject in neurological studies regarding human beings’ memory formation – through Helene Nymann’s installation and interpretive film that can be seen as a celebration of this little creature: Selva of Selves (S.O.S) (2020). How hair can record and account for knowledge and experience in African traditions is presented in Binta Diaw’s installation Uati’s Wisdom (2023), which refers to both the West African deity and water goddess Mami Wata, and the ancient Egyptian word for ocean water, “Uati”. The search for lost ancestral history animates a post-apocalyptic future in which everyone has disappeared, and oral transmission is deemed (almost) impossible in Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s film The Boat People (2020), while a near-death experience is the central subject of a new commission by Yngvild Sæter, which delves into traumatic memories, and how they can be reactivated as both something strengthening and healing.

Delving into the associations between memory and identity in relation to technology, diasporic legacies, and neuroplasticity, the exhibition A Body of Memory (from neurons to the sea) urges the audience to reflect upon the question of who or what speaks with, and through you, when you communicate in shared gestures.


Thanks to Adam Kleinman; Stefanie Hessler; Islamiya Evans, Natalie Wong (ChertLüdde, Berlin); Sarah Stengel, Nghĩa Lê (James Cohan, New York); Thy Nguyễn; Josh Woolford, Mika Lapid (Tai Shani Studio); Marianne Zamecznik, Per Christian Jørstad (Trondheim Art Museum); HAVET; Wilhelm Jaresand; Mark Walker; George Pakalidis; Ulf Erling (Ula Jern); Trøndelag Centre for Contemporary Art; Solveig Lønmo (Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimusuem); Xenia Benivolski; Eleni Zachariou (Gasworks); Sabel Gavaldon; Martin Kulhawczuk (Trondheim Science Center).

The exhibition is supported by Arts and Culture Norway, Italian Culture Institute/Istituto Italiano di Cultura and Berliner Festspiele.

Install team: Harald Bredholt, Stefan Dimitrij Henriksen Fische, Andreas Fortes, Gustav Gunvaldsen, Joel Hynsjö, Dag Olav Kolltveit and Børge Lundsaunet.

Kunsthall Trondheim re-purposes wood and other materials in all of our exhibitions.