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Sirens

four chapters

Oslo 2016-2022:

Over the course of the past years, what you might assume to be a woman has been visiting the floating saunas down by the Oslo fjord. They wear a red bathing suit with an open back and sometimes, they bring a scarlet suitcase. When the suitcase is opened, you never know exactly what will be unleashed into the world. You will just have to wait and see (or hear) it for yourself.

Chapter one: The Audio Piece

From a speaker inside a suitcase inside a sauna, an audio piece of 50 minutes featuring the voice of a siren, silence and sounds from a sound recorder inside a floating suitcase was played out loud. During the exhibition period, sounds of steam from the sauna oven punctuated the audio track. The unpredictability of when water was pored on the oven became cues for muting the audio. The audio was remixed from day-to-day according to when the sounds of steem intervened, resulting in fragmentation and occational silence.

Chapter two: The Booklet

The booklet served as a manuscript for the audio piece, which in turn served as cues for the day to day performances in and outside the sauna. The headliners of the chapters were Sirens from Greek mythology, the lifeboats on Titanic, AI and Leadership theory, the global politics of governing Antarctica and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention. The narration went as a way to play around with assumptions on the different characters involved in the project: the siren, a woman, and Benedict Beldam as their literary ‘I’ while they were carrying the name ‘Benedicte’.

The booklet was handed out inside the sauna during happenings, and mailed as love letters to the ones who could not attend the sauna. Every letter contained the following instruction: 

If you would like to be a siren, then make this booklet soaking wet. 

Excerpt from chapter 'AI and Leadership'


In this instance, I think her mind – because yes: sirens do have minds – would drift back north to a fjord. The Oslo fjord. To some saunas down by the Opera House, where she once upon a time back in December 2021 heard a little something whilst above the surface. The voice of a human. A woman she would assume, carrying the name of Benedicte Beldam. Benedicte was saying something about someone named David De Cremer.

Apparently, De Cremer is an important character in relation to leadership and artificial intelligence. The title of the following article is quite on point – “With AI entering organizations, responsible leadership may slip!” – in which one can read:

(…) it seems clear that the tendency is that leadership does not seem to feel responsible to think more deeply about how to create more humane work circumstances; rather they prefer looking at workers as data who are treated mathematically instead of with empathy (…)

And then, ohh, the siren would use her phone because yes – sirens do have phones – to google De Cremer. She would see his picture. She would chuckle. She would find his looks to be really funny. With his tight shiny suit and tie. Staring so confidently into the camera. Slick.

The siren would then reenter the surface, finding herself in Antarctica. Look, there she is. Climbing onto a melting iceberg. A bit clumsy. Resting for a little bit. Singing. Scouting for some ships. Keeping her phone on silent mode. Disgusted by the potential interruptions. Still being generally thankful for Google Maps. Concluding after this underwater voyage that she finds authorities repulsive. That her contempt for such is great. Despite this, it seems as though she still deems leaders in the era of AI as important to some extent. Sometimes. Given the context. 

Dear listener, I don’t know about you, but I consider this character of the siren as a leader in the age of AI to be a strange one indeed. She does not really seem to be bothered by the expectations of how she is to behave as a leader at all. Or how she is to behave in the era she is existing in. 

This would be a perfect moment for me to head for a swim. Though it feels as though I just came up from the water. I think I will sit tight in the sauna for now.

(sounds of a recorder inside a floating suitcase)

Chapter three: The happenings and performances

Day-to-day performances inside and outside the sauna featuring water acrobatics and food reached 200 visitors in total over the course of two weeks. Some of the visitors came upon personal invitation, others were random encounters on sauna drop-in session. 

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Chapter four: The installation

The installation gathers the remains of the previous chapters, encompassing documentation of the performances, happenings, an audio piece and the booklet soaked in saltwater. Two slideshows and suitcase with memories of seaweed, oyster shells, the bathing suit of the artist is presented on a sauna inspired platform with a sauna inspired bench. The space becomes a karaoke stage by night.