Veslemøy Lilleengen: Grunntanker

5 – 21 February 2021

Urban soil has been used and reused many times and consists of building remains, fire remains, household waste, industrial waste, excavated masses and local natural soil. In this way, each generation has left its chemical traces”

Geological Survey of Norway

We are very happy to invite you all to Veslemøy Lilleengen’s solo exhibition “Grunntanker” (Common ground), following the first edition of Atelier BABEL where the artist used the venue as her studio during December and January.

During this time, Veslemøy investigates both soil and local history in Trondheim through research and conversations with visitors. “I come from a long line of farmers, I know how to stand in a newly plowed field, I have always known where I belong. But in recent years it has happened that I have woken up at night and been afraid that I do not remember how to plow. That after living more than half my life in the city, I have forgotten how it feels to work with soil.” 

Using the Japanese technique Dorodango, Lilleengen forms spheres of earth from different parts of the city. By sifting the soil, processing it with her hands and finally polishing it with a glass, Lilleengen creates shiny spheres of soil in a meditative and time-consuming process. During the studio period at BABEL, she invited audiences from all over the city to bring soil from their own chosen place and carry out the process with her at the exhibition space. 

Despite the current situation, Veslemøy had several fruitful encounters: “long and open conversations about life and all the directions it can take. We have been thinking and philosophized together. Some have made spheres of soil with me, others have talked while I’ve made the spheres. I am touched by the openness and trust I have been met with. The physical results of these meetings are 80 spheres of soil you can hold in your hand, and a variety of maps painted with soil.”

In the end, what Veslemøy Lilleengen presents is a complex and large constellation made from fine particles, thoughts, stories, moments, discoveries, that were fed by many and shaped by one.

05.02 opening  16.00 – 21.00
21.02 artist talk with Marianne Zamecznik at 14.00

City walks (read more):
        13.02 Heimdal – Turid Kvålsvoll at 17.00
        14.02 Lerkendal – Lisa Størseth Pettersen at 18.00
        20.02 Midtbyen – Guri Simone Øveraas at 12.30
        21.02 Østbyen – Trond Wiger at 15.30

Veslemøy Lilleengen (b. 1975) is a graduate of the Art Academy in Trondheim (2018) and is a third generation artist. She uses her own experiences and point of view in an autoethnographic working method, and the art she creates often takes the form of textile works, sculptural installations and performance. Among other things, Lilleengen has shown works at Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, Erkebispegården, Trøndelag Exhibition 2020 and the Annual Exhibition for Norwegian Artisans 2019. At the latter two, she received debut awards for the works ‘Jordtanker’ and ‘Heimstavn’.

Atelier BABEL is a three year project which asks the selected artist to use BABEL as the main studio and work under good working conditions. The project intends to shed light on artists’ production conditions and is supported by the Trondheim municipality’s cultural fund. Each of the three artists receives a fee of NOK 100 000 for the work they put into the project and the dissemination of this. BABEL exhibition space for art is run by the foundation Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder and is located in Mellomveien 4.

The exhibition is supported by Trondheim Kommune and Kulturrådet.


GRUNNTANKER/ about agriculture

text by André Tribbensee

“I am also a farmer”. Veslemøy Lilleengen makes spheres of soil at BABEL visningsrom for kunst, and plays with both words, crafts and an expression of some of the most essential reflections throughout times; our relationship to the soil, our origin, dependence and roots in it. The basic form she works with has a strong tradition with artists in Japan,  but also in for example the ancient Greece, in Plato’s myth with the story about the spherical creatures and the view of the sphere as the perfect form.

Veslemøy talks about the importance of growing up in the countryside in a family characterized by several generations of farming. For her, art does not have to be a refined culture, separated from the rural life, reserved for museums in the cities, or produced only for the contemporary art community, but an expression of life and creativity that is inherent in everyone. This is expressed through the social and ecological dimension that her projects have, and makes this work attractive to the audience. The guests help to create a work of art that not only consists of soil, but also of the activity, the thinking around it and the connection that is created along the way.*

At BABEL, she is both challenging and contributing something long-awaited: participation in art and social gatherings in a time characterized by distance and isolation. Challenging established understandings of beauty is commonly understood as one of the important functions of art. The value of these artworks are often discovered afterwards. Lilleengen is challenging norms by using unusual materials, and by rediscovering values we have forgotten to respect. Veslemøy finds joy in reusing soil and materials that are often considered unclean, rubbish or dirt. It may have been forgotten by many that soil, in which we grow our food, is both full of life, and at the same time a cemetery of organisms that give back to us what they have accumulated in their lifetime. In fact, we would not be able to survive without this system that we are a part of.

Lilleengen invites to ‘Grunntanker’ (Basic Thoughts) in the form of a simple, but sublime, activity, A Japanese practice, which can become a meditative act. The participants bring their own soil which is transformed through careful treatment into a beautiful object, a sphere we form a relationship with while it is created in our hands.

The collection of soil from different places is reminiscent of a mapping process. Archaeological aspects and geography is of importance. Aspects associated with identity and belonging are not coincidental in this respect, but also reflects Lilleengen’s interests when she produces pieces of soil and sews them together into a large textile work, a map of Trondheim under development, visible in the exhibition space.

* Lilleengen shares her understanding of art with a number of other artists, following a paradigm shift based on an expanded concept of art established by J. Beuys in the 1960s. 30 years later, the concept of “relational aesthetics” was established by N. Bourriaud, who examined relational tendencies among contemporary artists.


City Walks:

The city walk is a part of Veslemøy Lilleengen’s exhibition ‘Grunntanker’ at BABEL visningsrom for kunst and will be held in Norwegian. The artist says: “When you share something, be it a work task, a meal or an experience, this “something” makes us closer to each other. I experienced this at the farm back home, how work creates community. It is the idea of this community ‘Grunntanker’ is founded on. With a desire to create this communal experience I have invited four artists to do separate city walks.”

13.02. Heimdal – Turid Kvålsvoll
“Artist Turid Kvålsvoll loves Heimdal Kunstforening. I actually think it was one of the first things she told me. She has shown this love through being a driving force for a long line of projects in connection to the art association. One example is the project ‘Tatt av Heimdal’ (2014-2017). Turid is at the moment the Britannia Hotel artist. On Saturday she will show us her Heimdal. Meet up at Heimdal Kunstforening.”

Veslemøy Lilleengen

14.02. Lerkendal – Lisa Størseth Pettersen
“Artist Lisa Størseth Pettersen lives at Risvollan. I would describe Lisas works like this: Being present at one of Lisa’s stagings is like watching a poem unfold in front of you. She once made excavators and lawn mowers dance with each other as the local radio played a well thought out playlist. I will never forget it. Lisa invites you to join her for a skiing trip under the stars. Bring you skis and meet up at the bus stop ‘Asbjørn Øverås veg’.”

Veslemøy Lilleengen

20.02. Midtbyen – Guri Simone Øveraas
“Guri Simone Øveraas often deals with place and identity in her art. Through performance and sculptural works she tells stories both from reality and her own dreams. The artworks often consist of several elements all treated with the same craftsmanship quality and given equal value. She has a distinctive aesthetic style and use of color, but even though this may serve as a signature, Øveraas’ work never ceases to surprise and touch us. The artist will meet us at the city side of the railway bridge (‘Sjøgangen’) at Trondheim S. She asks you: Bring a round thing you can hold in your hands, with or without holes.”

Veslemøy Lilleengen

21.02. Østbyen – Trond Wiger
“Trond Wiger will give us a tour in his Østbyen. For a number of years, Wiger has literally been Østbyen’s voice. He has made us laugh and cry, taken us generously and honestly into his story of growing up and life in “The Trond Wiger Fucking Life Show”. Trond Wiger is so present on stage that he once made my professor cry, even though she is Canadian and did not speak a word of Norwegian. We will take a walk with Trond on ‘Lamon’, dress warm.”

Veslemøy Lilleengen


Photo: Susann Jamtøy/BABEL visningsrom for kunst