Roskilde Festival Arts

Q&A with head curator Mette Woller

Roskilde Festival is not just 180 music acts from 32 countries on nine stages for eight days. The festival also puts current cultural themes up for debate across music, innovation, sustainability, and last but not least, art. In all its shapes and expressions, art has always been a part of Roskilde Festival since its beginning, and this year is no exception. With more than 90 diverse artists, authors, biologist, theorists, and musicians both established and aspiring, this year’s art programme is an explosion of expressions that invites the audience to let themselves be overwhelmed and participate in a dialogue with the art – and with each other. Here, head curator Mette Woller presents this year’s art programme and the transformation from a flat field to an exhibition-space for 130.000 participants, who for a while make up a creative and spiritual community.

Roskilde Festival 2017. Photo: SH Luftfoto

This year’s Art Program revolves around the theme ‘Human/Non-human’. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
This year’s art programme makes up a part of Roskilde Festival’s main focus, which in 2017 is centered around the theme of ’Equality’. This is integrated into all parts of the festival programme. We observe how cultural equality is perceived and challenged – both internationally and nationally – and we observe how cultural equality correlates with the possibilities we have for expression and getting together in communities. Following the theme of equality, we explore the topics of ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in an examination of our cultural heritage and the influence it has on our opportunities and circumstances in life. The art programme itself debates not only equality between people, but also equality between all of Earth’s species: animals, plants, and people – through the theme Human/Non-human. With our curatorial overview, we wish to examine and challenge the categories in society that constantly affects us. We believe that everyone is born equal, but do we truly have the opportunity to be who we want to be? The art projects are developed to examine the relationship between art, the festival space as part of nature, and the people it interacts with. We have constructed an exhibition design from organic material, which is constantly in dialogue with the works and with the audience. Meanwhile, the art programme invites the audience to reflect on questions regarding the consequences of climate change and technology.


Soil test by Regitze Engelborg Karlsen.

Can you give some examples of how the theme reflects in the artworks represented?
More than 90 diverse artists, authors, biologists, theorists, and musicians both established and aspiring, present their artistic contributions and interpretations of this year’s thematic focalization, so the main theme is presented broadly across different media such as performance, painting, sound-art, talks, and graffiti. For example, Regitze Engelborg Karlsen takes her point of departure in the festival area’s transformation from nature to culture, when she examines with 15 sculptures how we as festival-guests become a part of the ecosystem of the festival with everything we bring and leave. Every sculpture is covered in earth and trash from the camping and festival-areas, including debris from earlier festivals. Maja Malou Lyse explores the potential of social media and their ways of pushing the boundaries of our ideas of masculinity and femininity. It takes place in a series of performances at KlubRÅ, which is a brand new format that combines music and art in ways never seen before on any festival.


Regitze Engelborg Karlsen
Maja Malou Lyse

How did you choose the artists who are to participate in this year’s program?
As head curator, I am responsible for a curatorial team, where we collectively research artists and projects related to the theme of the year. This year, we focus on artist within the thematic framework of ‘Equality’ and ‘Human/Non-human’. These are some existential and current themes, but they are also quite broad, so I make sure that there is a red thread while still mainting a great diversity that shows art’s vast span. Generally speaking, on the curator team we look for contributions, which can highlight questions regarding ‘Equality’ in a way that creates dialogue and is interactive, humorous, and moving.

One of your main objectives with the art program is to engage the audience and create dialogue. How does this year’s art program address the audience?
In Art Zone, which is the epicentre for art of Roskilde Festival, the festival-guests can actively seek installations, performances, readings etc., and interact with art in different ways. Again, this year, Art Zone has its own stage, which is integrated in the exhibition-design and the total-installation, the Oasis (Oasen), that engraves the entire area. With a desire to create a democratic space, the stage is at level with the audience, so everyone can become a part of the dialogue on equal terms. There is not just one audience and one intermediator; here everyone may receive a voice and participate in a dialogue about works, equality, and social justice between people and all species. This year, we have particular considered the question; how do we create a space that people want to take part in? Furthermore, art-intermediators from SMK and language-course administrators that are in the process of learning Danish, will be at Art Zone and convey knowledge regarding the works and artists to the festival-guests. They begin a dialogue about art with people who have a different background than the traditional art-intermediator at a museum; a different education (or none), a different vernacular, another story. Then the works on their own reach out to the audience and invite actively to participate, as Lisbeth Bank’s entrance to Art Zone. Form-wise, the work mimes the anatomy of the earth-worm, and which throughout the festival will decompose the organic trash of the festival-guests, with which one is invited to feed the sculpture. The rainbow-worm highlight animals’ overlooked skill to transform debris to life, and show us the idea that what lacks meaning for humans may contain meaning for others, and that we participate in a relationship of dependency with each other.


Lisbeth Bank

How do you experience the process of curating an art program within the framework of a music festival? Does the art program relate to the music program?
To me, this is a dream job, because I am a part of transforming a flat field to an exhibition-space for 130.000 people, who, for a while, make up the fourth largest city in Denmark. In all of my earlier projects, I have worked with the concept of ‘temporality’ and a different exhibition space to the traditional ‘white cube’. The special thing about Roskilde Festival is that you construct the exhibition space from scratch. In addition, it is exciting to work with the interdisciplinary fields, where both music, art, and the social engaged focus all come together, and where you have the opportunity to explore the categories, as when a coffee shop is an artwork in itself. The experience of art does not stay in one place, but reach out beyond the exhibition-space and into the other spaces of society, and thereby we have the opportunity to address important topics in the public discourse and push the perceptions of what art is, and what it can do.


Bush Tea. Photo: Rashad Martinez.

Rune Bosse & Thinking Hand

How has Roskilde Festival Arts evolved during the years?
In all its shapes and expressions, art has been a part of Roskilde festival since its beginning. It is one of the leading elements in Roskilde Festival’s programme content and has functioned as a surprising, intervening, and entertaining part of the festival. During the last years, we have established ourselves as an international art programme, while we also keep and develop our interdisciplinary profile – I do not think that there is another festival in the world, where music and art are integrated in the same way as Roskilde Festival.

What would you like the audience to take away from the Roskilde Festival Arts?
I hope that the art-programme this year challenges the way in which the audience understands art, and that it contributes in highlighting that art is much more than a painting on a wall. We want to show the potential of art by creating a sphere of reflection where the audience get motivated to participate and involve themselves in a dialogue. The art must be the catalyst for the community: no matter who you are, and how you perceive the concept of art, we want to include, surprise, and influence the festival guests to take a stand – both at the festival and in society at large.


Young Boy Dancing Group at The Curves in the World. Photo: David Stjernholm.

Tue Greenfort

About Roskilde Festival
Roskilde Festival is the largest North European culture and music festival and has existed since 1971.

Roskilde Festival 2017 takes place from 24 June until 1 July.

Read more here: Roskilde Festival