Vanna Bowles


MARITA ISOBEL SOLBERG is a musician and visual artist. Focusing on music/sound, performance art and installation. A multifaced artist that experiments and engages many different media in her work such as sound/music, photography, drawing, collage, poetry, video and clay/ceramics. Interweaving elements from Sámi and Northern culture and subcultures, and from relations to people and places, she embodies personas or charachters of varied but particular properties; The seer, the witch, the sage or the jester. Equally understated and burlesque, minimal and expressive, sarcastic and blissfull, blunt and evasive, the works explore a world of challenge, strangeness, violence,  melancholy, loneliness and desire whith narrative passages or content. At times autobiographical, strongly connected to the surroundings, she mixes with more symbolic and ritual elements.

Hello Marita and welcome to NotRandomArt. The current issue is revolving around the problem of identity. Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

Thank you NotRandomArt!

My identity as an artist is taking shape- in many ways. That means people outside my nearest circles really start to know who I am and what I am able to. Still I believe I am often a wild card, and that I usually surprise my audience.

I am in the area where art and life meet, and being honest with myself, my expressions and emotions in the meeting with people is important. I explore relations, different kinds of relations. All is about relations, relations to people, body, places, things, nature and so on. I am also working on being more aware, more present and not least to listen. I really like to be as open as I can, I push myself too, and I like to try out different forms for communication, try to communicate. I want to create wonder.

I am from Manndalen, a small village in the north of Norway, my background is coastal, sámi and north norwegian, though I say as Charlie Chaplin: “ I consider myself as a citizen of the world”. I try not to let my background and cultural history shape my work, instead I make a new space or new worlds where I let myself be free to express. My background lies more as shapes and colours that can occur in my work. Everything comes down to what I would like to express. I do not like closed boxes, to be put inside a place and locked inside.
My background and history is for sure with me at all times anyway. I am confident being who I am. A Norwegian Coastal Sámi from Manndalen.
These days I am traveling between Manndalen, Tromsø and New York.

It is a lot of talk around what kind of art is important nowadays. It has been a trend the later years to talk about art and politics together. That good art is political art. I think every person has their own ideas and thoughts. I do not wanna use the word political about my art -because that puts me in a box and mixes me with politics connected to taking sides. Everybody is an individ with meanings. I feel it is kind of weird to mix art as many like to do, and say that their work is political. To have a political agenda.
I am an artist that really believes that art should be a free space in all matters.
A place you can do things which should not be not controlled by politics or political ideas. A place where ALL things can be questioned, also politics-still the art should not have to be called political. I think it should be a place where all different perspectives, ideas and greater thoughts can roam. Something that can get you to open up, to think, to  develop your thinking, your inner world and your understanding etc.. I am very sceptic to art that are telling “the truth”. I am more fond of the art that questions and make rooms for reflection, art that challenge us…and give place for own thinking..

I am not after being politically correct.

I think art consists of different voices that makes an experimental, wonderful choir in the world, vibrations all people should get the chance to listen  and feel..

In my art I use to say; I make questions, I tell stories, I challenge, I transform, I Inspire, I play…. Hopefully sometimes I give away new shapes, new tools and colours away. I get a lot of energy back witch I transform to new things.

What happens in the world affects me*.

The most important thing is to be open, to give yourself time to meet people-both known and unknown, to exchange thoughts, energies and spaces, to have conversations that discuss different parts of our lives and the world we live in, but also open up for our fantasy, our dreams and other things we need to do. To get to know who we are. The most interesting things can happen when we dare to learn new things, when we dare to meet ourself and be honest, to be who we are in all, and when we dare to “jump off a cliff”.

In times like this, many people get more and more afraid of the unknown; like other cultures, religions and races, it is so important to keep our minds clear and open, because being afraid and to be “inhospitable” will make the world very very shitty. I think this situation is very sad- I would expect people to be more open these days, but the opposite happened. It is like the black death.. Nobody saw that coming. It came.

I feel this ongoing work of being open and hospitable, working with artistic expressions and meeting people are extremely important.

*We all have our history and everything we experience will have an effect on us -in many ways. Even we grow up at the same place we will experience things differently. All experiences are part in shaping us as different human beings with our different thoughts.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influenced the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

I grew up in a small valley up in the North. I am from a big family with mother having 12 sisters and brothers and my father 8. I started with music, art and sports very early. My father used to play guitar with me. I was singing with him from I was 2-3 years old, and I started early to perform in front of an audience. My mother is really an artistic soul and she have given me many tools to be interested in art. All of these experiences from my early years have coloured me very much. I was told from I was young that I have a special voice and a strong personality.

When I grew older I continued to study music and art, becoming a supervisor and teacher in music and after also in visual arts. During the years I have developed and challenged my performing skills and my voice. I feel I am at this point where I have developed a totally own expression.

For a long time I was in a very bad relationship. I learned a lot in it and from it. I have been working with and studying many things; like different religious ways, body and brain, about how things are put together and connected, social structures and relations.
I love reading.

In my very early 20ies-I got MCTD, inflammation in my connective tissue, the things that keeps our body together. I was in a bad shape for years. Then after 5-6 years I stopped taking medicine and suddenly felt fine. After that I really started thinking that my mind and the way we think is very important. I hope I got rid of it -I am not sure though.

Traveling a lot I had many experiences, I met many different kinds of people, I consider also myself as a very good reader of people. Normally with a good intuition. But I try not prejudge and I always believe the good until the opposite is proven. During the years I struggled a bit with my body, loving it but also being insecure of it. But luckily that has never been my focus. Today I feel I am loving myself and I dare much more. I am glad I dare more. I always been independent and also done things my way. Still I love to collaborate.
I am in a search for people and places to get to know and to learn from. Also give back to. An adventurer and explorer I will say.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

I had many during the years, but last year I saw this installation at The Globe Gallery in Newcastle. A work that really made an impression is “Everything Was Beautiful and nothing Hurt” by Gareth Hudson and Toby Thirling. It got me thinking about many things. I felt very inspired.

After meeting both Robert Wilson and Marina Abramovic in 2008 something changed. It is not a particular work, more the way of thinking and doing things. They got me thinking in new directions.

There was also an exhibition at Barbican some years ago which really made a big impact on me, it was called “Dancing around the bride”, John Cage was in this together with his long time friends Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Johns and Cunningham. It is wonderful to have the possibility to look back on their work. You know those moments when you know something just fell into place, an understanding. It is the connection between works, between people, between things, the sounds, everything. This installation of works made me very emotional, I felt a strong connection with them and their works. A combination of emotional and intellectual. I like that!

I really think John Cage has done a special impact on me with performances like 4,33 and Water Walk.  Listening to him talking is a really good thing.
It is about the line between music and performance art, about being aware, about listening and having humor in your work..

About race and ethnic identity; I have always been very open.
And from I was 13 years old the whole world (many different people) came to our hometown, to Manndalen. Due to a festival called Riddu Riddu. I kind of grew up with this festival and with a big variation of people. I will say that it did important things for me as a young girl.

I think works that affects me deep are works that handle issues of bigger thoughts. Connective things. Works that looks on life in ways that are not only beautiful.

Many of your works carry an autobiographical message. Since you transform your experiences into your artwork, we are curious, what is the role of memory in your artistic productions? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.

I use memory in many ways. Often when I start to remember something, I remember more and more.
I try to use my experiences and the transform them into emotional expressions. My experiences are a thing to discuss. Many times I remember things that others don´t. So sometimes it might be just part of a what really happened. Our mind are interesting for sure. And it is interesting how we remember and how we use our brains. I use my stories to create. I use my dreams, daydreams and ideas. I use relation. I use my experiences to tell new stories and question things I feel are important.

Want to get involved in our project as an artist? Nothing simpler!