Stein Henningsen

is a performance artist living on the arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Since 2005, he has presented his work at many biennials, festivals, and events in Scandinavia, Europe, North America, and Asia. Henningsen is influenced by photography, thinking of his performances as vivid images or visual poetry. His work addresses political, social, financial, and climate issues in a contemporary context.

His first major work was produced in 2005, when Henningsen toured Europe with “Crosses of Liberty” (installation and performance), which was a small military cemetery of life-size reproductions of the American cemeteries in Normandy (www.crosessofliberty.com).

Henningsen´s goal is to create provocative images that resonate with his audiences, causing them to reflect on their complicity with regard to global issues. He is currently working on several new major projects that continue to focus on the current state of our planet, specifically on climate change and the challenges we face. As Henningsen lives in the Arctic where climate change occurs at an accelerated rate, he is acutely aware of the reality of those challenges.
“Today we are living with the result of choices made by our ancestors. As we lay the foundation for our children and future generations, it is critically important that we now make wise decisions about how we live and how we govern ourselves.”...

The Boat, Svalbard

Svalbard, winter/spring 2019

This winter/spring I started working on an art project I want to end late summer. I am working with a 19 feet wooden boat which has been laying on land for more then 50 years, not being used. So I fixed it up last year and this year I will work with it in the nature. I am actually also planning to put up an exhibition in 2020. I will give you some samples of my work along the process...

Ulster Museum, Belfast

Belfast, Nothern Ireland, February 2019

Working with seven red roses and a block of ice 30cm x 50cm x 100cm weighing 150 kg.
The block of ice is placed outside at the entrance of Ulster Museum an hour prior to the performance. It attracts the attention of many children who interact with it as they pass by.
The performance starts with laying seven red roses on the ground in seven different locations in front of the ice.
When I return to the block of ice I clean it with my hands before laying on my stomach, trying to push the block with my head. The ice does not move. The rest of the performance is the struggle to move the block of ice across the stairs in front of the museum while crushing the roses with the ice. I end the performance at the end of the stairs by pushing the block of ice down the stairs. The ice breaks into several pieces.
Photos: Jordan Hutchings. ...

Perf #1 NIAN Gothenburg

Gothenburg, October 2018

This performance occurred during the Gothenburg Culture Night outside the Gothenburg Museum of Art. I performed with 50 meters of building plastics in two sections as an experiment to see how the material could be used. I took advantage of the entire space, ending the performance by leaving a blue glacier in a tree where it appeared to be floating in the dark.

Performance for three hours with eight additional artists.
Duration: 3 hours.
Photos: Peter Rosvik. ...

Perf #2 NIAN Gothenburg

Gothenborg, October 2018

A performance with 25 meter long building plastics on a small island outside of Gothenburg. I worked with the islands natural elements: earth, wind, and water.
Duration 20 minutes.
Photos: Peter Rosvik. ...

Perf #3 NIAN Gothenburg

Gothenborg, October 2018

I took part in a three hour durational performance with eight other performance artists, all working in the same Gothenburg park.
I performed with 50 meters of building plastics in two parts as a second experiment with this unusual material.

Duration: 3 hours.
Photos: Peter Rosvik. ...

Bodylandscapes

Copenhagen, October 2018

I created three performances at Bodylandscapes.
One: I hammered iron nails into a wood board to make a bed of nails. When I flip the board, it is seen the nails are too short to penetrate. I lay down as if the bed of nails is real and remain on the board more then 10 minutes before ending the performance.
Two: I repeats the same pattern as in the first performance. I flip the plate. This time, the nails are long enough and penetrate the board. I lay on the bed of nails for 10 minutes, then is assisted up by the audience to end the performance. The photos presented are from the second performance.
Three: A food performance.
Duration: 1) 40 minutes, 2) 3 hours, 3) 20 minutes
All photos by Sunniva Gudmundsdottir Mortensen. ...

Perf #1 NIAN Åland Islands

Åland, August 2018

I invite the performance artist David Sebastian Lopez Restrepo to work together with me on this piece.
We undressed, then put on orange life jackets. We entered the water without attracting attention, swimming to a red buoy where we attached ourselves. We remained in the bay for 75 minutes, for the final 15 minutes we blew the life jackets’ whistles, which annoyed and disturbed the people nearby enjoying a peaceful day.
Duration: 90 minutes.
Photos: Ursula Sepponen

Perf #2 NIAN Åland Islands

Åland, August 2018

This performance was located on an island with an old light house. I worked with a wheelbarrow and red sacks containing sawdust. Using the wheelbarrow, I transported the sacks to the south of the island where I stood looking at the horizon. Then I moved the sacks from the wheelbarrow to my shoulder. I carried the sacks to the island’s northern point where he emptied the sawdust into the sea. I ended the performance by entering the sea and floating away with the sawdust.

Videoclips og video: Ursula Sepponen
Duration: 3 hours

Perf #3 NIAN Åland Islands

Åland, August 2018

In Mariehamn’s city center I took the previously used red sacks to a fountain where I filled them with water. Then I carried them to the bus shelter on the other side of the road to the fountain. At the shelter, I put the sacks on the bench as I waited for the bus. 15 minutes later I took the sacks out of the bus shelter and laid them onto the grass. I tied the red sacks together with a heavy duty rope, then worked to pull them across the grass. The sacks are very heavy and it is difficult to move them. I struggle for 30 minutes before falling over totally exhausted. When I am recovered, I walk away from the materials. The performance ends.
Duration: 2,5 hours

Perf #1 NIAN Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands, July 2018

This performance took place at Nólsøy just outside of Tórshavn in the small harbor. I used found materials, an anchor and a rope. I dragged the anchor back and fourth over the quay making noise and creating a white pattern in the concrete. I repeated this movement for an hour before stopping at the end of the quay, standing looking ahead. The anchor lies by my feet and I am holding the rope. After 15 minutes I fall into the water, staying moored to the quay by the anchor. I remained in the water for another 15 minutes before ending the performance.
Duration: 90 minutes
Photos: Sunniva G Mortensen and David Sebastian L. Restrepo

Perf #2 NIAN Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands, July 2018

This performance takes place in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. I worked with two large buckets, a plastic football, blue food coloring, an electric drill, 2 1kg bags of flour, a cardboard box filled with newspaper, a stone in the end of a string, and a lighter.
The performance begins with me setting fire to the cardboard box, watching it burn while using the rock and string as a metronome. Then, before filling the first bucket with water, I put the football in it. After it’s finished, I color the water blue, then I fill the other.
Taking the drill, I make four tiny holes every 90 degrees in the first bucket. I lift the bucket on top of my head. Water pours out of it. When it is almost empty, I drop it to the ground. Then I take the two bags of flour and smashes them above my head. I finish the performance by pouring the second bucket of water over myself.
Duration: 25 minutes
Photos: Sunniva G Mortensen

Perf #3 NIAN Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands, July 2018

This performance took place at the G festival. I worked with a male lamb, walking it, feeding it, carrying it, and caring for it.
Duration: 90 minutes.
Photos: Sunniva G Mortensen

Perf #1 Live Action, Gothenburg

Gothenborg, November 2017

On a Friday in December, outside a local library, I lay in a bathtub filled with soil while Christmas shopping took place around me.
The temperature is +4C.
I remain in the tub for two hours and need help to get out due to the cold.
Duration: 2 hours.

Perf #2 Live Action, Gothenburg

Gothenburg, November 2017

On a Saturday in December I lay in a bathtub filled with large, homemade ice-cubes. This took place with Christmas shoppers around me.
The temperature is +4C with a light drizzle in the air. I experience two waves of severe shivering. At the end of the second wave I end the performance.
Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Perf #3 Live Action, Gothenburg

Gothenburg, November 2017

This performance includes a bathtub, some goldfish, a military uniform, a torch, and a tiny bit of cleaned gasoline.
I begin by marching like a soldier. Then I take the goldfishes, one by one out of a transparent plastic bag, and drop them into the water-filled tub. I then step into the tub where I continue marching with the goldfish between my feet. After some time I get out of the tub. The fishes are still swimming in it. I put a small amount of gasoline into the tub, then light the torch, holding the burning torch above the tub in front of my head. After some minutes the fire alarm goes off. I light the gasoline floating ontop of the water in the tub. The surface burns violently for 30 seconds. The fish are still swimming when the fire dies out.
Duration: 30 minutes.
Photos: Christian Berven

Live Biennale, Vancouver

Vancouver, October 2017

In this performance, I worked with twelve blocks of ice measuring 25cm x 50cm x 100cm and each weighing 125 Kg.
After the van dropped the blocks on the park’s grass, the performance begins. There is a constructed circle of concrete in the park. I carefully cleaned the blocks of ice, then moved them to the concrete circle’s center one by one. I built a bed with the twelve standing blocks of ice. When the bed is ready, I slowly walked the circle’s perimeter, accelerating until I reach my maximum walking speed. I then climbed on top of the ice. As I lay down, cold penetrated my suit. After a while I started shivering. It goes away. The shivering returns, then goes away. I carefully jumped to the ground, uncertain if my legs will hold me. They do. Shivering again, I move the blocks of ice into a line with 60 cm between them. After finishing the line, I push the first block over so it hits the second. The second hits the third, continuing like dominoes until all the blocks fall and breaks. I abandon the broken blocks to end the performance.
Duration: 4 hours
Photos: Rennei Brown & Ash Tanasiychuk

Days of Performance, Lviv

Lviv, Ukraine, September 2017

I worked with a ladder, shovel, turpentine, and a lighter.
I walked the streets of Lviv for five minutes before ending at the planned space. I put the ladder against the wall, then dug two holes in the ground to support the ladder. After placing the ladder in the holes, I smear turpentine over the part closest to the ground. Then I set fire to the ladder before climbing it. When the fire is out, I climb down to end the performance.
Duration: 25 minutes

Venice Live

Venice, May 2017

For this performance, I used ice cubes and a wooden basket with a metal net to sort pebbles from sand.
The performance began with me filling the wooden basket with ice cubes. Then I lay down on the street on my back and held the basket up over my face. The melting ice dripped onto my face. After a while, my arms and shoulders hurt, and I shiver. The shivering created a beautiful sound as the ice cubes jostle together. I continued the performance until I could no longer hold the basket.
Duration: 55 minutes
Videoclip: Siobhan Mullen Wolfe

Standing in the sea, Svalbard

Vestpynten, Svalbard 2017

Standing in the sea until I loose the feeling in my legs and have to get out of the water.

Duration:7 minutes
Video: Stein Henningsen

Perf #1 Beijing Live

Beijing, China, October 2016

I worked with an aquarium, ice cubes, two big metal bowls, a bucket filled with water and ice cubes, a projection of a black and white photograph of an iceberg, sound projection from a dog yard of huskies, a cardboard box full of newspaper, a spray can of brake cleaning fluid, and a lighter.
The performance started by projecting the iceberg on the wall. The sound projection was added. I entered with the aquarium, then put it on display filled with ice and water. I took the bucket of ice and water, then walked to the wall with the projection. I step into the bucket and stand in it for a while. I step out of the bucket, then throw the water and ice onto the wall and the photo.
I lit the gas coming out of the spray can and the flames reached six meters from the can putting fire to the cardboard box burning throughout the performance.
I turned toward the aquarium filled with ice, the gas coming out of the spray can still burning. It cracked; water leaked out.
Going over to the two metal bowls, I filled each of them with ice cubes. I stepped into the bowls, then slides them carefully to the wall where the photo is projected. When I reached the wall, I stood facing the wall before stepping out of the bowls. Then I emptied the bowls over my head, ending the performance.
Duration: 40 minutes

Perf #2 Beijing Live

Beijing, China, October 2016

The task is to do a 30 minutes performance in one space with two other artists. Everyone agrees to do a static standing or sitting performance. I bring one of the big stones outside the space inside. I try balancing on it, but the rock moves. Half the time I fall down. Then I lift the stone, holding it in different positions until the 30 minutes is up. It was hard.
Duration: 30 minutes

About

Work and education
I have an engineering degree in electronics and a masters degree in international sales and marketing. After working for Norwegian companies for ten years, I wanted to change my life. I began working as a photographer in 1997. Four years later I had my first exhibition. Photography soon led me into installations and performance art. My first performance work was with the project “Crosses of Liberty” in 2005 (crossesofliberty.com). I still do photography and video, but my major works are within performance.

Curator and organiser
I have a great desire to share my experiences of Arctic with other artists, and to raise awareness of how rapidly Arctic is changing. One step has been to invite artists to experience the Arctic, to show the world its uniqueness and beauty. To that end, I created the Arctic Action International Performance Festival, founded in 2015 (www.arcticaction.info). I am curating one festival each year, inviting international performance artists to create works inspired by its landscape. I believe it is extremely important at this moment in time to eschew isolationism and develop cultural networks in the current climate of international capitalist hegemony.

Contact

Org. No 914 901 774
Org name:
ARCTIC ACTION ART

Contact address:
c/o Stein Henningsen
P. O. Box 732
9171 LONGYEARBYEN

steinhenningsen@gmail.com