Gaea Norvegica 

2023, KRAFT, Bergen

In Gaea Norvegica, Marte Johnslien explores the history and potential of titanium dioxide with materials she collected on her travels, in connection with the research project TiO2: The Materiality of White. The title of the exhibition is a nod to the scientist Keilhaus’s book, known as the first geological survey of Norway. The materials all originate from Norwegian soil in different ways: cleaned, studied, and combined with each other. Johnslien allows the aesthetic potential of the material, donated from the titanium dioxide industry, to meet with the shapes and glazes of clay taken from the soil on which the industry is founded on. The story of Norwegian soil is the story of mysterious minerals, seductive rock walls, and the rise of a nation. But it is also the story of reshaping a nation in order to profit from extraction; and of the invention of a small pigment that changes the colour of an entire world. Rather than contribute to established hierarchies, Johnslien aims to enter into the origin of the matter and encounter the core itself – the brown soil, mother of the colour white. In her work, material crystallises, melts, and crawls out and over itself; becomes familiar with itself in new forms; meets itself in its own possibilities. Digging, hammering, and searching, Johnslien challenges established ideas of a material’s potential and forms new connections between a young nation’s industrial adventure, mythology, chemistry, and power.

Photo: Thor Brødreskift. All text and image © Marte Johnslien