"Welcome to one of Norwayʼs crème de la crème elite schools". That is how the new text piece met the fresh students on the stairs of KHiO on their very first day at the school.
The "stair art" presents a sharp #metoo-esque criticism to the art school. The school received several allegations of sexual harassment last year. As a result, two employers left the school during the spring: one was fired and one resigned.
Read the whole text in the bottom of this article.
The text also claims that the admission procedure is racist, and that the school lacks "anti-racist and post-colonial perspectives." In addition, KHiO is criticized for not recognizing power structures, and is said to be a place where people cannot express criticism without facing negative consequences. They reference employers who are said to use the "n-word" on a frequent basis and claiming that «feminism is dead.»
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The text makes sense
Universitas have been in contact with several KHiO-students. Many of them agree with the unknown stairs artist. But several of the students are questioning whether it really is impossible for non-Scandinavian people to be admitted to the school. One of them is Emmy Christiensen (30). She is a third-year student in the art and handicrafts program.
"I was a bit uncertain about that issue. We do have many international students, not even counting the several exchange students," she says.
Christiansen says that the artist does make several good points, and her impression is that neither students nor employers dare to speak up about their opinions.
"But I can’t speak for all the other departments, since it probably varies."
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The master student Ilavenil Jayapalan (27) says that the piece is both important and strategic. She lauds the secret artist:
It is also a criticism about the students themselves and their level of engagement – they have to make an actual effort if change is ever going to happenIlavenil Jayapalan, student
"The text is not exclusively about the institution and #metoo. It is also about how we generally tend to be too nice to each other and avoid confrontation. It is also a criticism about the students themselves and their level of engagement. They are the ones who actually have to make an effort if change is ever going to happen."
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"I think it´s beyond amazing. Very brave and a 'pin point to the bone'-kind of art," says Iselin Shumba, actress and previous KHiO-student. She and 590 other women in the theater and art-industry in Norway spoke up about the environment in the entertainment industry with the hashtag #stilleforopptak last winter during the #metoo campaign.
"It is a public piece of art about #metoo which is brave enough to take a stand against a complicated educational institution, which has strong power structures which are ruled by fear," Iselin says.
It is a clear message to the new studentsIselin Shumba, previous KHiO-student
She says she recognizes the description of the school.
"It is a clear message to the new students. We often tend to be so grateful to have gotten a seat at the table, that we don’t prioritize changing the system, and become a cog in the machine instead. The new students will get these facts hammered home on their very first day. This is it, says Shumba, referring to the iconic neon lettering on the roof of KHiO."
It is not only the students who support the piece. Universitas have spoken to several employers. They are thrilled about it, and choose to remain anonymous.
"I don’t think people dare to speak their minds about the school. We need openness for the institution to work. With that said, we are going through a cleanup process," says one of the anonymous employers.
Some do not agree
The headmaster, on the other hand, says that he does not agree with the description of the school.
"But I´m familiar with some of the issues: the groups are too homogenous for example. But the claim that it’s not possible for non-Scandinavians to enroll is not correct. In this fall alone, 50 students from outside of Scandinavia have joined," he says.
He doesn’t want to comment on the earlier allegations about sexual harassment, referring instead to the conclusions from last summer, before #metoo.
I don’t think people dare to speak their minds about the problems ar the schoolAnonymous, employed at KHiO
The artist says that KHiO is a place where people cannot criticize each other. Is that true?
"I don’t know whether to answer yes or no to this question. I think the point is not to be able to criticize one another, but rather to productively disagree."
The anonymous artist also accuses KHiO of being too white, and lacking both post-colonial and anti-racist perspectives. What’s your thought about that issue?
"We can talk about the art education in Norway in general, and probably KHiO in particular, whether it’s heterogenic enough. Likewise, the post-colonial perspective needs to be visible both in the education and the literature whenever it’s relevant."
The last pieces have been removed
The last parts of the stair art were removed on Tuesday afternoon last week. "Welcome to love and fuck with KHiO / happy to have you", was one of many quotes. It is uncertain who removed the art. The artist’s identity is not official, but principal Mortensen confirms that the person will not face consequences if it is a current students art work. The school does not plan to remove the text, even though it will eventually be removed, according to Mortensen.
"But its widely documented, so it will probably never be completely erased," he added.