Sanna Helena Berger

This is my old bio. It was written in 2017. I wanted an astute and concise bio, oozing of a kind of learned steadiness and sobriety acculturated by fine arts academia. I of course understand the sad and memetic humour in working against the institution whilst permeating a thick air of miasmic compliance. Having a quote from anyone working at any place with the idiom 'kunst' in its title seemed apt.

Sanna Helena Berger work on the periphery of definable formats such as installation, performance and sculpture. Keeping on the axis of these mediums and away from possible commodification, her work exists in a state of openness towards self-curatorial outcomes. Her work is almost exclusively situation-specific which creates an inter-site where not only the environment lay the foundation of the work but the surrounding situation in which the work is created and exists is emphasised. Previous installations range from large scale interior environments creating a milieu which shifts attention to the viewers own mode of reflection, re-arrangements of existing space as comment, monologues and texts that accentuates the situation one is already standing in and gestures that acts as catalysts for alternative modes of exhibiting.Berger structures minimal performances where the added performer as presence strengthens the commentary and gesture itself, less as theatre and more as a highlight of authority.These acts are not always immediately clear as an addition as they aim to imitate already existing roles as an observed reflection. Berger also works with the body as form and gestural structures which she equates to sculpture or adds as a support structure to already existing monumental forms. The refusal to strictly outline her practice is part of her praxis which aims to not fall into a structure of normative aims and standards for contemporary cultural behaviour.

‘Sanna Helena Berger creates situations that provoke and intensifies the alternation between scrutinising and coming under scrutiny that signifies our interaction with art. Berger effectively destabilises flows of real social interaction in a series of explorations into how behaviour is conditioned by our surroundings, and how in turn these mechanisms can be deployed for artistic purposes. Berger’s interventions enlarge and skew the familiar into subtly caricatured forms, inviting detachment. Yet, despite their stagedness, these performances and arrangements also bleed out into the space they occupy together with their audience, making participation compulsory.’
- Stian Gabrielsen, Editor, Kunstkritikk

But I have decided that having this bio without the above prelude or epilogue which follows would mean that I not only wade knee deep in the faux framework of offering up critique of audible volume but also makes this mute comment of aversion to standards shout in its emperors new clothes.

I spent a long time trying to figure out what my topics were.
What I do.

I will no longer write in the third person persona. As Berger or the artist. There is no ‘the artist’. The artist persona is a defunct and archaic crumbling monument which has been upheld by a patriarchal, academic and institutional standard. I fill none of these criteria. I am a body entirely lacking fine-arts academic merit which uphold a normative standard set for me by a scene to which I will never belong. So the need for me to have a bio which aligns to these plinths on which presumed par excellences stand is bar none.

I am exhausted by the need for the artist persona, by this trope and by the system that upholds and cements its idolisation and performativity. I have never been to art school. I dropped out of school at 15 so i never attended this class. I could refer to myself as an auto-didact but this is just another allure of academic theorising. A formalisation of what it is to learn and do without its support. I used to feel anxious about making work which was not clearly aligned to the concept, but manifested in a myriad of ways, in a myriad of gestures. This seemed a bit crafty. Abhorred thought!

My work is already exhausting enough. With its never ending depth of field and thought. Which once performed and produced (with an unwillingness to apply a finish) is too dense to translate into a tete-a-tete hobnob encounter, an amuse bouche on a mis-en-place of promotional quick to reach material. I love to talk about what I do, with you, one on one. I am not presuming it to be too complex for anyone willing to have a conversation. An actual conversation. In this allegory understanding my work is not some kind of ding ding ding after a comically oversized hammer comes down on a strongman game in a pantomime show of strength. (Can you tell my fear of being misunderstood as self-important?

It is a showing of self and circumstance.

But I have recently stopped thinking of how to sum up my parts.
I will never be an artist who reproduces a clear and present insignia, I'll be home working on getting my website finished (since 2016 with zero usability).

But I know what my topics are. I want to show the process which usually remains unseen, revised and curated away. Make work which exist in the borderland of process and result. I work with performance, sound, text and sculpture, installation but most of all - situations. I want to work against the trope of artist as idol, upheld and expected to perform and produce a persona on par with the work itself. My live performances will keep incorporating monologues which accompany movement and sound as a narration and commentary. This is a dense and highly articulate vernacular of complex situation specific syntax. I am not afraid to misspell things. I have done so already. 'Priviledged' in front of 150 or so people. And whatever I do, it is set against my own lack of academic art merits after leaving school at 15. And I'll allow for the paradoxical feelings of wanting to stand outside whilst wanting to be invited into, be present. The work and process carry equal weight.Resisting the need to apply a finish which hides the labour, the personal condition and surrounding situation. This dense matter materialises as non-commercial art. (it used to say work because art - how gauche!)

Berger’s work is an aesthetic and intellectual structure driven by auto-didacticism and material pragmatism. Often beginning as a text, her performances variate quotidian experience reformulating power relationships and ideas of value through bodies and objects. While Sanna may not refer to herself as a director, I find it helpful to think about the diversity of her practice as a directorial strategy, particularly in her management and orchestration of collaboration.
Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, independent curator / writer

Berger’s practice is highly considered and urgent – presenting meaningful ways for audiences to engage with challenging social and personal conditions. Her practice pushes disciplinary boundaries bringing together performance, sound, text and installation. There is a necessity for her practice and artistic voice.
Rachael Davies, curator, Cell Project Space

Sanna Helena Berger

(Selected Projects)


2021, Obsessive Collectors