2 Min Lesezeit
“Tactile Afferents”, 2023, courtesy of Fondazione In Between Art Film and Nasjonalmuseet © Joanna Piotrowska and Formafantasma
© Gregorio Gonella

Sheep are not just animals; they are also wool producers. When a runaway merino sheep was found with 35 kilograms of wool on its back in the outskirts of Victoria, Australia, in February 2021, its rescue attracted worldwide attention. The sheep’s condition was the result of a lack of contact: if merinos are not sheared by humans, their fleece continues to grow indefinitely. Thus, the Australian sheep became a vivid example of the paradigm of modern bioprospecting (the exploitation of a country’s genetic resources for economic or other purposes), as it was obviously more like a wool-producing machine with hooves, nose and ears carefully designed for optimisation and economic gain than an animal.

“About 11,000 years ago,” says the announcement for the exhibition “Oltre Terra”, “hunter-gatherers began to track and select flocks of sheep instead of simply killing the animals”. Thus, over time, a new relationship between humans and animals emerged, and over the centuries, the domestic sheep as we know it today evolved, with a “complex co-evolution and co-creation” taking place. In “Oltre Terra. Why Wool Matters”, the design studio Formafantasma at the National Museum Oslo is exploring the history, ecology and global dynamics of wool extraction and production until 1 October. “Oltre Terra” is the Italian term for transhumance, the movement of livestock from one pasture to another depending on the season and the availability of fodder. Such “transhuman practices” require constant reflection on the factors related to the environment and the people and animals living in it.

The show brings together various objects related to sheep farming and the wool industry: Paintings, textiles, photos and videos, including a 1,700-year-old tunic, goat masks and a commissioned video by artist Joanna Piotrowska. Research material is available to explore the subject matter in greater depth. In the middle of the exhibition, visitors can also relax on a large carpet made of wool that is normally disposed of by the wool industry.

Italian design studio Formafantasma (founded in 2009) has promoted the need for a new direction and vision for the field of design in general through numerous exhibitions, research projects and teaching activities, with the overall aim of promoting a deeper understanding of our natural and built environment. Her work usually consists of “transformative interventions” that utilise the very act of design in all its material, technical and social aspects.

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