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. 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.”

Member of NNBK and NBK

Venice 2024 - Wash my hands I

VENICE, APRIL 17-19, 2024

Wash my hands , a series of performances in Venice during the opening of the Biennale Arte 2024 as part of the VIVAAR experiment Vivaar.org to explore the latest hologram technology as a gateway to the future.
Durational performances (60 - 90 minutes) were I wash my hands in blood.

Venice 2024 - Wash my hands II

Venice, April 17-19, 2024

Wash my hands , a series of performances in Venice during the opening of the Biennale Arte 2024 as part of the VIVAAR experiment Vivaar.org to explore the latest hologram technology as a gateway to the future.
Durational performances (60 - 90 minutes) were I wash my hands in blood.

Mother Nature on the run

Galleri Nord Norge, Norway, April 13 - June 2 - 2024

(After the gold rush, Neil Young)
I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships lying
In the yellow haze of the sun
There were children crying and colors flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home
Look at Mother Nature on the run / in the 21st century
Look at Mother Nature on the run / in the 21st century

Stein Henningsens påminnelser

Miljøkrisen vi befinner oss i kan lett føre til handlingslammelse, siden vi tenker
at én persons handlinger og holdninger ikke vil ha noe å si for det store bildet.
Vi kunne kalle denne holdningen vår for opplyst, kynisk fornuft, for å bruke et
uttrykk fra den tyske filosofen Peter Sloterdijk. Misforholdet mellom
erkjennelse og handling er påtagelig, mener han, for selv om vi godt vet hvordan
vi må forandre våre liv for å gjøre noe med den akutte situasjonen foretar de
fleste av oss lite annet enn å kildesortere. Som Sloterdijk påpeker baserte det
gamle opplysningsidealet seg på at tenkning og korrekt informasjon ville føre til
handling, men dette er en saga blott. Samme hvor mye vi vet om urettferdighet
eller ødeleggelsen av grunnlaget for vår eksistens munner ikke dette ut i et ønske
om forandring eller solidaritet, men ofte likegyldighet, hevder han.
Situasjonen har ikke forbedret seg siden Sloterdijk formulerte sine teser i
Kritikk av den kyniske fornuft på åttitallet – tvertimot har sannhet, innsikt og
vilje til rettferdighet for natur og mennesker fått seg en ytterligere knekk på
2000-tallet, hvor alternative fakta, post-sannhet og konspirasjonsteorier florerer.
Det er nærliggende å tenke at denne situasjonen har gjort enkle og klare
sannheter som at vi destruerer kloden vi bor på diffuse og mindre tilgjengelige.

Hva løsningen på en slik skjebne skal være er ikke lett å si, men en mulighet er å
vekke oss fra slummeren igjen gjennom bilder og fortellinger som avdekker
konflikten mellom ideal og virkelighet.
Stein Henningsens kunstnerskap byr på en lang rekke slike
oppvekkelsesforsøk, hvor nettopp brytningen mellom innsikt og apati
reformuleres på uventede måter. I 2009 rullet han inn en isblokk i gallerirommet

på i New York, men blokken var fullstendig dekket med dollarsedler. Slik viste
han på uvant vis hvordan vi vanligvis ikke bare setter pengeverdier foran
naturen, men hvordan vi, med denne optikken, ikke er i stand til å oppdage
naturen i det hele tatt. Senere, i oppfølgende performancer, lenker han seg fast til
isen, som for å fortelle at vår alle ve og vel uvegerlig er betinget av naturens
helse. I andre sammenhenger tvinger Henningsens performance oss til å vie
naturen oppmerksomhet, som i Meltdown (2009) ved Kunstbanken i Hamar,
hvor han fyrte opp noen vedkubber under nok en isblokk og ventet til det hele
var blitt til vann.

Modernitetens herskerforhold til natur som ressurser eller gjenstand for noe
vakkert eller helsebringende utenfor oss, har lenge vært den dominerende
synsvinkelen, men Henningsen senker seg ned i elementene, underkaster seg
naturen. Han er ikke adskilt fra dens voldsomme krefter, som Caspar David
Fredrichs Munken ved havet (1808-1810), hvor en ensom tenker står foran det
sublime havet, men beskyttet fra de opprørte bølgene i sin kontemplative positur
på landjorden. Henningsen skiller seg også fra andre i performance-tradisjonen,
som John Long, som i sine performancer legger bak seg store avstander i sin
ferd gjennom naturen og viser frem sine bevegelser som en liten fortelling eller
et dikt.
Henningsen forsøker å gjenetablere en direkte forbindelse til naturen og
dens prosesser, han fremstår gjennom kampen mot elementene, som i MAN
STANDING, SVALBARD (2013), hvor han står i en snøstorm til han ikke
orker mer, eller i HABITAT (2021), hvor han vandrer naken ut i snøen foran en
isbre. Han artikulerer det faktum at det brenner i forhold til naturen, bokstavelig
talt, i verk som THE BOAT (2021), hvor han ror ut i den arktiske sjøen i en båt
med et levende bål i baugen. Eller som i TIMELINE II (2021), hvor han holder
en planke hvor ilden spiser seg gjennom en timeline fra den ene enden av

planken til den andre, mens han holder den, plassert ute på et høyt fjell i
villmarken på Svalbard.

Det er noe sjarmerende og utilslørt i Henningsens omgang med is, ild og andre
naturelementer, for han forsøker ikke å opphøye seg selv eller skape vakre
tablåer av sine performancer, men gjenetablere situasjon hvor vi kan koble oss
på miljøet vi alle er så avhengig av direkte. I stedet for å formidle sublime
erfaringer vi kan betrakte på avstand, immune fra naturen som portretteres, er vi
her vitne til individets eksponering for og interaksjon med vær, vind, is og ild.
Som i David Fredrichs malerier blir han riktignok en stedfortreder for oss, men
til forskjell fra den tyske romantikeren er Henningsens verker medier for enkle
og viktige sannheter, ikke intellektualiserte betraktninger hvor vi fjerne oss fra
grunnleggende innsikter i hva det vil si å være menneske.
Det er likevel ikke mennesket som sådan som er det essensielle i disse
verkene, men prosessene Henningsen integreres i: isen som smelter, ilden som
brenner, vinden som blåser, snøen som vandres gjennom. Det er dette han ber
oss vise oppmerksomhet og erfare gjennom sin kunst, og det er gjennom disse
tidsløpene vi kanskje kan få tilgang til en erfaring som ikke lenger er kynisk og
likegyldig, men i tråd med helheten vi alle uvegerlig er en del av. Det er disse
prosessene, disse elementære bestanddelene av det som finnes, og som er mye
større og eldre enn oss, Henningsen viser frem og måler ut med sin egen kropp
som målestokk.
På denne måten forankrer han oss, eller kanskje vi kunne si minner oss
på, vår plass i naturen – og at vår måte å leve på er helt ute av takt med
virkelighetens rytmer. Vi er en liten prikk i naturhistoriens enorme
utviklingslinjer, som må erkjenne vår plass i den store helheten for å kunne leve
videre med både snø, is, ild, vann og alle de andre livsformene som lever med
oss på denne planeten.

– Kjetil Røed

The Boat in Metode (2024), vol. 2

Thoughts about 'The Boat' by Lutz Koepnick in his article 'On Water’s Edge'
Published in: Metode (2024), vol. 2 Being, Bathing and Beyond

There is not enough water in the world

KUNSTBANKEN, Hamar, Norway, October 14. 2023

There is not enough water in the world is my first of seven new performances for Hamar Performance Festival 2023. I was one of two artists invited to do performance in the public space of Hamar thee week before the festival started. I made fore performances during the week and three during the festival itself.
This performance took place the week Israel cut off the water to Gaza.
Durational performance: 1 hour
Photos: Ina Otzko

Circle of Life

Kunstbanken, Hamar, October 17, 2023

Circle of Life is my second new performance of seven made for Hamar Performance Festival 2023 hosted by Kunstbanken.
Duration: 20 minutes
Photo: Ina Otzko

Burnt land

**Burnt land**is my fourth new performance of seven made for Hamar Performance Festival 2023 hosted by Kunstbanken
Working with gunpowder, fire, soil and white cardboard sheets.
Duration: 20 minutes

The Truth

My seventh and last performance at Hamar Performance Festival hosted by Kunstbanken October 2023.
Duration:45 minutes
Working with soil and a piece of coal

PRECARIOUS MOUNTAINS

Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Feb 11 - April 14 - 2023

KUNSTHALLE RECKLINGHAUSEN, Precarious Mountains
Exhibiting four videos: The Boat, Red Drum, No Footprints and Trapped.The videos were installed in a 300m2 space with the wooden boat as an installation.

The exhibition brings together a group of international artists who deal with the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard in various ways. Their works explore both the radically changing landscape and its imagery, as well as the history of the mining industry. The aesthetics of machines and people shaped by nature and technology, as well as the sociopolitical realities of the concept of the 'North,' are topics discussed in this exhibition. Bituminous coal is among many remarkable connections between the two places, a Kunsthalle in the Ruhr area and the Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole.

With generous support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Photo documentation: Caroline Schlüter

MALACATE AiR

Mina de S. Domingos, Portugal, January 2023

January 2023 Sarah Gerats and I were chosen to take part in the MALACATE AiR through an open call. Our stay in Mina de São Domingos concluded with a final presentation 'Happy Days' on January 27th. Photos from my four solo performances and the final presentation below...

From the MALACATE webpage (https://www.malacate.pt) we can read the following:

Despite the freezing cold that night, the local community and our guests from Mértola and surroundings were with us and didn't budge until the end of the 'Happy Days' performance.

The giants Stein and Sarah surprised us once again with their creativity, sensitivity and resistance far beyond what is common to 'mortals'.

In all, 6 performances were held in various locations at Mina de São Domingos, which involved the community in active and disturbing participation, generating critical thinking and reflection on determination, intention and the ability to resist and act on the territory.
Transform and realize all 'impossibilities'.

Thus, Open Call, Wide Space happened:

01/17 - Performance 'Rocks'
01/19 - Performance 'More Rocks'
01/21 - Performance 'Door'
01/23 - Performance '70 kg of sand (75 kg for sure)'
01/24 - Performance 'Bathtub'
01/27 - Final presentation 'Happy Days'

The Malacate project would like to thank the entire community of Mina de São Domingos for their curiosity, sharing, involvement, cooperation and active participation during the artists' residency, without you ...
there would be no sense!

To our partners at Mértola City Council and the illustrious Café Estrela, thank you very much!

NORDNORSKEN 23

Touring North of Norway 2023

Awarded the Art Critics prize for the video work: No Footprints.
Den Nordnorske Kunstutstilling / The North Norwegian Art Exhibition - is a regional exhibition arranged by Bodø Kunstforening, and exhibit artists with connection to the Northern Region (Nordland, Troms and Finnmark).

The artworks are being selected every year through two rounds reviewing by a named jury, and tour around the region through 4-7 galleries every year between January and December.

'Nordnorsken' as it is also called, have been touring in the region since 1948, which makes it the secons oldest of the five regional exhibitions and is one of the oldest exhibitions of its kind. But foremost it has been a meeting place for the artists and the audience in Northern Norway through three generations.

Oslo Negativ

Oslo, Fall 2022

Oslo Negativ and Tenthaus presents works from the collective members and artists participating in the exhibition program 2022. Tenthaus has invited me to screen the video work: No Footprints
The exhibition will be open to the public from 23 September to 16 October.

18th Athens Digital Arts Festival

Athens, May 2022

The piece 'The Boat' has been selected to be presented in the context of our forthcoming edition '18th ADAF: FutuRetro', in the video art category.
ADAF is scheduled to take place on May 25th-29th in Athens. The artwork will be included in the physical version of the festival.

NORDIC BRIDGES 2022

TORONTO, CANADA, MAY 19

Art Spin invited me to Toronto to do a performance May 19 2022 for the official opening of the Nordic Bridges Contemporary Art and Culture project. Nordic Briges is led by Toronto´s Harbourfront Centre fostering cultural exchange between the Nordic region and Canada.
Nordic Bridges will serve to connect the Nordic Region – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland – and Canada through collaborations between artists, innovators and thinkers.
This exciting initiative is seeded by a grant from the Nordic Council of Ministers, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to Nordic collaboration.
I work with water, fire, ice and an aluminum container. Duration of performance: 30 minutes

Red Drum

Svalbard, May 2022

I painted a huge cable drum signal red and indicated with a white arrow on both sides in which direction to roll it.
The drum was moved into the Arctic wilderness.
I rolled the drum through the white landscape in the opposite direction as indicated by the white arrows.

Frozen Horizon

Oslo, Spring 2022

Frozen Horizon. Group exhibition with Ulla Schildt and Elly Stormer Vadseth at Tenthaus, Oslo from 7/4 to 5/5 2022.
Exhibiting my video work: The Boat

Performance Works

Longyearbyen, March 2022

Solo exhibition with Live Performance, installation, photos and selected screened performance work from 2005 until today. Works exhibited: Crosses of Liberty (2005), Guilt (2007), No Footprints (2021), The Boat (2021), and Timeline II (2021).

Factory Light Festival

Asker, Norway, 17-18 Sept. 2021

Factory Light Festival Asker Norway September 17-18.

1500 Kg of ice delivered. Ice was taken from a frozen lake winter 2021.
I worked with the ice over two days doing two performances, both lasting 3 hours.
I also used water, a light bulbe connected to electricity and a sledgehammer.
The performance ended after me laying under the ice for 30 minutes before the audience helped me out.

Festival Perform

Bordeaux, France, August 2021

Festival Perform 20 - 21 of August 2021 .

Organized by Sarah Troche and Winter Story In The Wild Jungle.
The performance is untitled. Duration 40 minutes.
I worked with ice and fire

Here I show you the first performance. The second performance where I did a completely different performance was not documented. In the second performance I worked with a wheelbarrow, bags of soil, a spade and a green bambus plant.

Then the 'The Vanlife Project' took place from 23 to 29 august. Living and traveling in a van doing performance art in public spaces of Gironde departement for a week.

No Footprints

Svalbard, May 2021

Performance
Svalbard May 2021
Duration: 25 minutes
I am walking through the Arctic landscape with two wooden beams leaving no footprints.
Stills from video by: Tom Warner and Stein Henningsen

Habitat

Svalbard / May 2021

Performance in front of Mittag Leffler glacier, Svabard.
Man walking with no clothes in front of a glacier.
The snow is ankel deep and the wind blowing.
Duration: 3 minutes

Timeline II

Svalbard / April 2021

I am standing in a suit on the highest mountain overlooking the Arctic landscape. Then I make a short timeline on the wooden beam where the fire is moving from the right on the screen to the left. It does not take long and the heat from the fire is almost too much... When the fire goes out I drop the beam to the ground and leave the place.
The small tourch is left burning...

Exhibition THE BOAT

Gallery Svalbard, March - June 2021

Text by Tanya Mars:

Take 1

What we see is an icy landscape. What we hear is the wind, hypnotic and ominous. This pristine image is broken when the tip of a large wooden boat enters the frame from the left, slowly very slowly . . . breaking through the snow.

We hear labored human breath as the boat inches forward: there is no wake, no water. The boat is grounded, it has no purpose.

A man appears. He is pushing the boat.

What is he doing out there?
Alone.
In the cold.
No hat.
No witness
His journey across the frame is endless.
And then he is gone.

Take 2

There is open water in front of a massive glacier. A large wooden boat breaks into the frame.
We hear the sound of the oars breaking the surface of the water.

We see the man in the suit rowing, rhythmically, effortlessly.

There are flames engulfing the stern of the boat, they crackle.

The man rows, unalarmed.

The flames of the boat appear to tickle the edges of the glacier as the boat exits the frame; the only remaining evidence of the boat’s existence is the wake it leaves behind.

In this series of poetic images, Stein Henningsen once again captures the mystery of the Arctic. At first glance the images simply reflect the natural beauty of the North, but the way Henningsen inserts his body into the landscape disrupts the serenity of the scene. The artist asks us to bear witness to his Herculean efforts and to ask ourselves what are the consequences of such interventions? The work is not so much about man versus nature but the inextricable connection between man and nature.

What Henningsen does so brilliantly here is juxtapose the big and the small, the vast and the intimate. The powerful, majestic Arctic landscape dominates the image and yet there is man, undaunted, persistent, unwilling to be overwhelmed by it. He must make his mark.
At what cost?


  • Photos of exhibition: Lena v Goedeke

-
Assistent for the project: Sarah Gerats
Photos: Sarah Gerats and Peter Rosvik

THE BOAT

Svalbard, March 2021

The boat, eight photos, one graphic print and one video exhibited at the Exhibition.
Here are the photos...

I worked on this project for two years after finding the perfect boat, an old traditional wooden boat from the north of Norway. I pushed the boat on land throught the winter landscape. I rowed it at sea, in open water and in drift ice. The project ended by putting fire to the boat and rowing it in front of a glacier with only an assistent on land operating the cameras.
Photos by Sarah Gerats (2,3,4,6,7,8) and Peter Rosvik (1 & 5)

Belfast Int. Festival of Perf. Art

Belfast, March 2021

Videowork of my performance where I push a traditional wooden boat through an Arctic winter landscape was selected for B.I.F.P.A.´s 2021 edition. This performance and video is part of my project The Boat starting back in 2018.

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). Today I work with performance, video, photography and installation.

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.
Member od NBK, NNBK and BONO

Contact

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

steinhenningsen@gmail.com