Not a Single Story
Not a Single Story is Nirox Sculpture Park’s Winter Sculpture Exhibition for 2018. Hosted from 12 May to 29 July 2018, the exhibition is a collaboration between the Nirox Foundation, South Africa, and its Swedish counterpart, Wanås Konst, the Wanås Foundation.
The exhibition is the result of a longstanding partnership between the two sculpture parks, and looks at individual artistic practices as overlapping dialogues and it brings forward contemporary concerns and working methods related to sculpture.
The relationship between the Nirox Foundation and Wanås Konst originated five years ago, when Wanås Konst asked Nirox to provide a platform for researching the South African arts scene. The purpose was to exchange knowledge, and to do more than scratch the surface of what was going on, as part of Wanås Konst’s commitment to working with artists from around the world. One outcome was the exhibition Barriers in Sweden in 2015, which featured six South African-based artists.
Not a Single Story continues this dialogue between the two countries, and is about giving space for multiple perspectives. ‘Being two venues, we also wanted the project to grow out of collaborative efforts; between us, the curatorial team that was put together on site, and the artists engaged,’ says Elisabeth Millqvist. ‘Making new works with artists in the outdoors, whether in the beechwood forest in Sweden or in the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Nirox is located, the surroundings will inevitably be an important influence and itself a framework for the exhibition. We decided to let the works by 25 artists, which showcase contemporary issues and practices related to sculpture, be linked by the site and a conceptual concern – that of the story. The story lends itself to a metaphor and carries endless possibilities.’
Millqvist refers to writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s well-known TED Talk as the exhibition’s starting point and inspiration for the title, Not a Single Story. Adichie starts her talk with these words: ‘I’m a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “the danger of the single story”.’ She adds, ‘Stories matter. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.’
Says Millqvist, ‘Referring to a venue as a sculpture park, and working mainly in the outdoors, addresses an entire art historical canon on sculpture in general and land art in particular, with earth, rocks, and sand as media and subject matter. This history is a male history. As a response to a very singular art history, the majority of the artists in the exhibition are women, representing a rich diversity of perspectives. As a nod to the art experience you get at Wanås, Yoko Ono was invited to make “Wish Trees” at Nirox, and the branches of the African olive will now carry written down wishes in her Wish Trees for Hope, while Marianne Lindberg De Geer’s sound archive of voices calling “Mamma” will intrigue and excite; both works are highly associated with Wanås. We also wanted to include works by forerunners alongside less established artists.
‘Other central elements of this project, linked to the exhibition, are workshops, talks and a comprehensive educational programming aimed at children and youth to expand understanding of life and art. This follows a long tradition at Wanås where exploring artists’ methods has been the foundation of the extensive art education programme for 20 years. At Nirox, pedagogical ideas are paralleled and exchanged. Discussing, debating, dreaming and performing together, more than 500 participants will contribute to the stories told and questions raised in different activities,’ she says.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie concludes in her talk: ‘When we reject the single story, when we realise that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.’
The Ambassador of Sweden Ms Cecilia Julin