Almost a decade ago, Dania Burger’s conceptually-based artistic practice started expanding to include relational and performative works. In 2010, she instigated Given-as-gift, asking friends and colleagues to give her gifts in the form of textiles that could function as catalysts for interaction and dialogue. The gifts were also the starting point for parts of the performance and exhibition project I like Norway and Norway likes me (2012), at RAM Gallery in Oslo. The gallery was transformed into a spartan flat where it was possible to reflect on how we interact with the things in our consumer society that are constantly being replaced and robbed of relational and personal dimensions. During Documenta 14 (2017), Burger collaborated with the artist Mattin to create the performance Social Dissonance. She intervened in the half-circular venue by hanging up 15 large pieces of felt that gradually altered the room’s accoustics. The audial change and the felt’s protective connotations and sound-softening qualities affected the actors’ communication and the public’s participation.
In creating The Vigorous (2017), Burger reflected on just how many of her friends and colleagues do not identify with the traditional two-gender mode of being. This involved making a ‘hen garment’ (a bit like a boxing robe) out of textiles given to her by colleagues and friends who work with art, fashion and design. The Vigorous is about the inner fortitude that gender-transcending practices require from an individual, since the practices sometimes trigger a social and cultural breach with family and friends. The title refers to the nickname of a boxer but also to the struggle to be free to shape one’s own identity. The clothing becomes an expression for an individual’s psychological gender-battle, which can be as strenuous as a boxing match. The ‘hen cloak’ can be worn by the public, not as a cloak of invisibility, but as a gesture of solidarity. The garment’s ceremonial quality is intended to expand awareness and tolerance in our encounter with people who have a gender identity other than cis-man or cis-woman. In this way, the artist also draws a humorous connection between transcendental, shamanistic and gender-transgressing aspects. The Vigorous pays homage to people who must fight for their very existence, and who also, as statistics sadly show, suffer discrimination and hate. In this context, the garment can be interpreted as a symbol of protection, openness, tolerance and solidarity.
Tone Lyngstad Nyaas, Translation from Norwegian to English: Arlyne Moi